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Kelly and Sharpton: Old Friends or Amnesia?

August 27, 2007

Are Ray Kelly and Al Sharpton really old friends, as the police commissioner says? Or is Kelly suffering from amnesia?

Ten days ago, Kelly paid court to Sharpton at his National Action Network and announced the two had been buddies since Kelly walked a beat in Manhattan’s 20th precinct on the West Side of Manhattan nearly 40 years ago.

That’s rich, since Sharpton was then about 14 years old and a high school student in Brooklyn. Other than cutting classes, what do you suppose the Rev. was doing all that time on the West Side of Manhattan while making friends with Patrolman Kelly?

Then, there’s Kelly’s spokesman, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne — known to readers of this column as “Mr. Truth” — who’s been peddling the tale that Kelly was so smart he rose to the rank of sergeant so swiftly he never walked a beat.

Next time Browne tells anyone that Kelly graduated first in his class at the Police Academy, someone should ask him what year that was and demand to see Kelly’s transcript.

All this foolishness becomes even more amusing with the e-mail Your Humble Servant received last week from Jimmy Hargrove. Hargrove is the long-retired Assistant Commissioner for Community Affairs and a President Emeritus of the Guardians Association, the fraternal group of African-American police officers.

From 1986-92, he worked in the Personnel Bureau under Benjamin Ward, the city’s first black police commissioner, whom Kelly credits as his mentor. Kelly was then in OMAP, the Office of Management and Programs.

In early 1987, Ward came up with the idea of using some heavy African-American critics of the department to help spur black recruitment. The department selected four black clergymen, produced 22,000 posters with their pictures on them, and distributed them around the city.

They were: the Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the House of the Lord Pentacostal Church in Brooklyn; the Rev. Lawrence Lucas of the Roman Catholic Church of the Resurrection in Harlem; the Rev. Calvin Butts, executive minister of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem; and the Rev. Wendell Foster, a City Councilman from the Bronx.

How critical were these men of the police department? Well, three of the four publicly called the department racist.

Four years before, in 1983, Butts and Daughtry had pushed for Congressional hearings into police brutality, which were held by Michigan Congressman John Conyers. Those hearings were so damning they led to Mayor Ed Koch’s appointment of Ward as police commissioner.

In 1985, Daughtry and Foster were on the daily picket line outside the Bronx County Courthouse when police officer Stephen Sullivan went on trial for the shooting death of black grandmother Eleanor Bumpers. Sullivan shot and killed her after she attacked an officer with a 10-inch carving knife while the police were trying to evict her from her apartment. A judge acquitted Sullivan. Ward also backed him up.

As for Lucas, in 1986 he spoke up for Larry Davis, who had shot six police officers in his sister’s apartment, sparking a city-wide man-hunt. During Davis’s trial, Lucas brought his students to the courtroom and bear-hugged Davis’s attorney, William Kunstler. A jury acquitted Davis of shooting the officers although he was subsequently convicted of murdering a drug dealer. [After the verdict was read, his lawyer, Michael Warren, publicly blamed Your Humble Servant for Davis’ conviction because of a series of articles about how Davis obtained the home addresses of jurors from an IRS official who visited him in jail.

Needless to say, Ward’s posters with pictures of Daughtry, Foster, Butts and Lucas so upset the rank-and-file that the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association condemned them. PBA spokesman Dennis Sheehan said it was “outrageous that anybody who’s made volatile statements in the past should be utilized in any kind of recruitment drive.”

According to Hargrove, whose commands in the Personnel Bureau included the Cadet Corps and the Applicant Processing Division and Recruitment, Ward had wanted to include a fifth clergyman on the posters: the Rev. Sharpton.

Sharpton was then in the midst of defending Tawana Brawley, the black teenager who claimed she had been raped by a group of hooded white men, a la the Ku Klux Klan. The case was revealed to be a hoax, although Sharpton has never apologized for his role or his actions.

Sharpton, however, never appeared as the fifth face on the department’s posters.

According to Hargrove, Ward was dissuaded from using Sharpton by none other than Kelly, who was then assigned to headquarters in the Office of Management and Planning, known as OMAP.

“He argued to Ben Ward that Sharpton was no more than a ‘con man’ and a ‘poverty pimp,’” Hargrove said of Kelly.

Ward, Hargrove added, “went along with Ray.”

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Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt