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The True Terror Threat … Inside the NYPD

February 26, 2007

The NYPD has begun an investigation into the royal treatment of Deputy Commissioner for Counter-Terrorism Richard [The Young Prince] Falkenrath.

The investigation follows this column’s reports concerning Falkenrath’s $12,000 junket to Singapore and London, and his two department-leased luxury cars at an annual cost of $20,000.

The investigation is not about the appropriateness of flying the Young Prince last month halfway around the globe, business-class, to give the “Distinguished Dinner Lecture” in Singapore on the topic of “Protecting the City: Observations and Lessons from New York,” or outfitting him with a 2007 Ford Expedition and 2007 Chrysler 300 Touring car, each with leather upholstery, a GPS navigational system and the full lights and sirens package.

No, the investigation is about how such profligacy became public knowledge — specifically, how Your Humble Servant learned of it.

This is the New York City police department, post 9/11 under Commissioner Ray Kelly. Kelly wants the public to believe the NYPD is the nation’s premier force in fighting terrorism. A truer terror lies within the department.

Pity the poor top brass who are suspected of talking to or, worse, being seen with a reporter. This reporter bumped into Assistant Chief Mike Collins on the elevator not too long ago, then tagged along after him to the 9th floor cafeteria. Poor Big Mike, he looked as though he were suffering from apoplexy.

The heart of the Kelly propaganda — nurtured by his spokesman, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne, known in this column as “Mr. Truth” — is that Kelly is the only person in the nation able to protect New York from terrorists. If you believe that demeaning every major and local law enforcement entity and potential terror-fighting ally — i.e., the FBI, the NYFD, Port Authority, Metro North and MTA police – is helpful in fighting terrorists, maybe Kelly is.

The terrorism threat has also allowed Kelly the cover of doing virtually anything and everything he pleases with no public scrutiny. Most obvious is his hiring a Deputy Commissioner for Counter-Terrorism who views his job as a career opportunity rather than an opportunity to serve the public.

Contrary to Kelly’s and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s promises of “greater transparency” in the NYPD than existed during the Dark Years of former mayor Rudy Giuliani, no one now knows what is going on inside the department — starting with Bloomberg. Billionaire that he may be, but he doesn’t have a clue. Worse, he doesn’t want to know.

Three weeks ago, this column reported that Kelly’s protective detail of detectives spent from 2002 through the fall of 2006 chauffeuring Mrs. Kelly about town. Deputy Commissioner Browne — “Mr. Truth” — denied it and said this column regularly spoke “untruths.”

Well, someone isn’t telling the truth. Wouldn’t Mayor Mike like to know who? Apparently not. Perhaps that’s why the city’s Department of Investigation hasn’t subpoenaed any of the detail’s detectives.

Newsday’s Rocco Parascandola also reported two weeks ago that the department had stopped providing basic information about officers’ departmental trials.

For years, its Public Information Office provided a weekly listing of officers due to appear at the fourth floor Trial Room on serious misconduct charges. A few months ago, the NYPD stopped making the docket available, but said the Public Information office would alert reporters if they asked. Then ten days ago, the Public Information office announced without explanation that it would no longer provide even that.

City Hall’s response: No other agency provides such information. Why should the NYPD be different? [Memo to Mayor Mike: the NYPD is different. What do you think the Sean Bell shooting is about?]

In short, the so-called fight against terrorism has allowed the department to avoid scrutiny on matters other than terrorism — such as how it disciplines its own. This column has previously described the lengths to which Kelly has gone to avoid disciplining his top brass: former Inspector Robert Wheeler, who disappeared for two days after shooting someone in Washington D.C; or former Deputy Commissioner Garry McCarthy who had a post-two-glasses-of-wine fracas with the Palisades Parkway Police over a parking ticket.

Earlier this year, this column also reported on how the department refused to discipline two cops who lied about their roles in the beating of Aaron Wong, a black Staten Island man, by a retired white cop. Internal Affairs investigators recommended the charges of lying. The Department Advocate — i.e., Kelly — refused to implement them because a conviction for lying means automatic dismissal.

An unintended victim of the NYPD’s internal terror? IAD Chief Charlie Campisi. Not only has the work of his detectives been diminished. [Besides the Wong case, IAD had the goods on both Wheeler and McCarthy.] Each week for past seven or eight years, this reporter would call Campisi up and ask, “Chief, what do I need to know?” Each week Campisi say no comment and hang up.

Now he’s so scared, he won’t pick up the phone.

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Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt