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Shining Some Light on Terror

February 12, 2007

When Police Commissioner Ray Kelly introduced Richard Falkenrath as the Deputy Commissioner of Counter-Terrorism, he cited Falkenrath’s “outstanding and impressive academic credentials.”

Kelly was probably unaware of something equally important in Falkenrath’s life: his love of top-of-the-line luxury cars.

Now eight months into his signing on with the NYPD, the department has accommodated him in the luxury car line.

Falkenrath has been assigned not one but two such cars — a 2007 Chrysler 300 Touring car and a 2007 Ford SUV Expedition. Both are leased by the NYPD, at an annual cost to the taxpayer of about $20,000.

Usually, when the NYPD leases cars, they are used for undercover purposes. Most are plain and nondescript so they can’t be easily “made,” or identified.

Or, if infiltrating a higher criminal class — say, drug or arms smugglers — undercovers use vehicles so high-end they could never be perceived as police cars.

In his eight months in the NYPD, Falkenrath is not known to have performed undercover work. Nonetheless, his Chrysler 300 and Ford Expedition each have leather upholstery, a GPS navigational system and, at a cost of another $2,000 per car, the full lights and sirens package.

And guess what? Last month, Falkenrath was spotted roaring around town in his Expedition, lights and sirens blazing. The spotter, who works for a local television station, caught the license plate number and ran it.

It came back to Vehicle Leasing Associates [VLA] of North Haven, Connecticut, which leases dozens of cars to the NYPD. At least 40 of them — Ford Explorers, Nissan Altimas, Toyota Camrys, Dodge Durangos, Chevy Suburbans, even a Cadillac DeVille as well as the Chrysler 300 and the Ford Expedition — are assigned to its Counter-Terrorism Bureau.

VLA refused to tell the TV station that the NYPD had leased the Expedition. Instead, it alerted the NYPD about the call.

Readers may recall that a few years back, the NYPD’s other top terrorism maven — the former CIA man, David [007] Cohen, now the Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence — was spotted tooling along the West Side Highway with his lights and sirens ablaze. That spotter was none other than our own Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mayor Mike doesn’t go in for show-boating. To help remove the egg from Cohen’s face, Cohen and Kelly said 007 was on official department business.

Of course, neither specified just what that business was. It was left hanging, the implication being that it was somehow related to “national security.” That’s the NYPD’s black cloak under which the department buries all sorts of things it doesn’t want the public to see.

Fast-forward now to Falkenrath and his lights and sirens. Alerted to the TV station’s interest, what action was taken by the Counter-Terrorism Bureau?

First off, did Falkenrath own up to Kelly? Doesn’t sound like it.

Instead, police sources say that, the Friday before last, the Bureau’s Great Minds held a hush-hush meeting at One Police Plaza. There, Falkenrath’s enablers — most prominently, Counter-Terrorism’s commanding officer, Assistant Chief John Colgan — made the decision: dump the Expedition, and get Falkenrath a less flashy Dodge Charger from the vehicle pool in Brooklyn.

So one of Falkenrath’s drivers — he has two, one apparently for each car — drove the Expedition out to the Bureau’s Brooklyn lot, and parked it alongside all those Explorers, Camrys, Altimas, Durangos and Suburbans. That’s where the Expedition was sitting last week when Your Humble Servant found it.

No response on the matter from Falkenrath, Colgan, or Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne.

And to think, this is how top officials of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau spend their time these days — plotting how to hide a vehicle to protect their boss from scrutiny.

And you thought they were protecting us from Al-Qaeda.

The Whole Truth. Deputy Commissioner Browne — the NYPD’s “Mr. Truth” — denied last week that detectives ever drove the wife of Commissioner Kelly on personal errands, as this column reported last week.

“It’s simply not true,” Browne told Sarah Ferguson of the Village Voice.

“Occasionally the police commissioner, when he is invited to appear at events as police commissioner, has asked that his spouse be picked up to join him,” Browne said. “But the description of some sort of regular assignment or frequent trips is untrue.”

The Voice added that Brown “scoffed at claims that Mrs. Kelly had ever requested flashing lights or that she’d ever been driven to the airport on personal trips,” which this column also reported.

It quoted Browne as saying, “‘I’m not in the business of disproving falsehoods. This is someone who publishes untruths every week.’”

Well, it should be pretty simple to determine who’s telling the truth. Here are three little steps from Prosecution 101.

…. [1] Get the names of all detectives and supervisors who have worked in the Police Commissioner’s detail since 2002.

… [2] Question them under oath.

… [3] Then question Commissioner Kelly and Mrs. Kelly under oath.

To paraphrase what was said of Watergate, the cover-up is often worse [or better] than the crime.

Of course, the way things work in New York City these days, don’t expect anyone from any monitoring agency to ask any of these questions.
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Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt