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Not a Criminal Was Stirring ...

December 24, 2007

‘Twas the night before Christmas and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly decided to take a stroll to clear his mind and assess the chances of his becoming the city’s next mayor.

While previous commissioners had taken the Christmas Eve Stroll down Fifth Avenue, Kelly decided to wander towards City Hall to get the feel, so to speak, of his possible future home.

Accompanying him were his closest cronies, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne and Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen. Browne kept a few paces behind Kelly, the way Prince Philip does with Queen Elizabeth. Cohen urged Kelly to cancel the Stroll until after New Year’s because of security concerns.

Truth be told, Kelly was worried about Cohen because of the way he was running Intel. Kelly had recently read in this very column that a Deputy Inspector in the Criminal Intelligence Section had put the arm on his staff for $25,000 to pay for cosmetic surgery. Morale was so bad that Intel’s holiday party had been cancelled and rescheduled for Jan.10th because nobody wanted to attend.

Even as they walked to City Hall, Cohen was behaving oddly. He kept looking over his shoulder. When Kelly asked what he was doing, Cohen answered that he was on guard against terrorists.

What Cohen was really worried about was Kelly learning some of his secrets — an overseas-based officer who’d offended his hosts and was forced to return to New York and a detective who had been pulled off a departing overseas flight at Newark Airport because he was drunk and disorderly.

Browne, on the other hand, was happy merely to be in the commissioner’s presence. Walking some paces behind Kelly as they entered City Hall Plaza, Browne encountered a family from Ottumwa, Iowa and began telling them why the city was safer now than it had been under Rudy Giuliani, whom the family had met while he campaigned for the presidency.

“Paul!” shouted Kelly.

“Yes, commissioner,” Browne answered, racing to Kelly’s side. “I was just telling some people from Iowa that you, not Rudy Giuliani, are keeping New York City safe from terrorism.”

Browne knew Kelly hated Giuliani more than anyone on earth. He knew Kelly had never forgiven Giuliani for firing him in 1993. But then Kelly said something that astonished Browne. “Paul, I think it may be time for me to bury the hatchet with Giuliani.”

Browne was thunderstruck. “But, why?” he tried to ask but no words came. He turned to Cohen but, pragmatist that he was, Cohen was reluctant to commit himself until he was certain where Kelly stood on the issue.

“Paul, Rudy has done a lot for the city,” Kelly explained. “I think he can help me get elected.” When Browne hesitated, Kelly added, “Paul you’ve got to feel sorry for a man whose children don’t speak to him. I think it’s time we showed some compassion.”

Ohmygod, thought Browne. An epiphany. Only Kelly could have been so thoughtful, so sensitive. “Commissioner,” he said. “I never thought of it in that way. That’s absolutely brilliant.”

Ohmygod, Cohen thought. Making nice to Rudy is the dumbest idea I ever heard. No matter how nice Kelly is to him, Rudy will never do anything for Kelly. That's his nature. Besides, the blacks all hate him.

Kelly turned to Cohen. “Well, David, what do you think?” Kelly asked.

“Brilliant, Commissioner,” said Cohen. “Absolutely brilliant.”

They crossed City Hall Plaza and stood facing City Hall. Kelly took a deep breath. “I’ve also been thinking about Bratton,” he sighed.

Browne knew that, after Giuliani, Kelly hated Bratton more than anyone on earth. Kelly had never forgiven Bratton for taking his job as police commissioner in 1994 after Giuliani fired him. He also smarted whenever the media cited Bratton as having revolutionized the police department and drastically cut crime.

“I think I might go out to Los Angeles and see him, the way Rudy did,” Kelly said. Browne’s jaw dropped. A Kelly-Bratton rapproachment? Not in his lifetime.

“If Giuliani could persuade Bratton to keep his mouth shut about how Rudy fired him,” said Kelly, “maybe Bratton won’t mention how I pulled out of the terrorism conference at the Roosevelt Hotel when I learned Bratton would be participating, and held my rival terrorism conference at Police Plaza the same day.”

Brilliant, thought Brown. “Commissioner, I never thought of it in that way,” he said. “That’s absolutely brilliant.”

Cohen thought the idea preposterous. Why would Bratton do anything to help Kelly? He had heard through a mole in Los Angeles that Bratton’s goal was to return to New York City as police commissioner. Appointing Bratton would be the last thing Kelly would do as mayor, no matter how much Bratton had helped him get elected.

“You know, Paul,” Kelly continued, oblivious to Cohen’s thoughts, “Bill and I both have the interests of the city at heart. I see no reason why he and I can’t work together to help me get elected.”

Turning to Cohen, Kelly said, “So, David, what do you think of my idea?” “Brilliant, Commissioner,” Cohen said, “Absolutely brilliant.”

Kelly then said he’d seen enough of City Hall and wanted to head uptown. They walked towards the Municipal Building and walked north on Centre Street.

“Paul, said Kelly, “you don’t have walk behind me. I have some more ideas I want to discuss.” Browne raced up to Kelly’s side. “I want to discuss Howard Safir.”

Browne knew Kelly considered Safir the dumbest man on earth. When Safir became commissioner, Kelly had attended his swearing in. Then Safir had come to Kelly for personnel advice. Kelly had recommended his loyal sergeant John Clifford, who joined Safir’s staff. But Safir subsequently ignored Kelly. In his book “Security,” quite possibly probably the worst book ever written, Safir had zinged Kelly for ending the Street Crime Unit. Safir had omitted the fact that after the Amadou Diallo shooting he had ordered the Unit into uniform, in effect disbanding it. Members had flown the white flag of surrender from its headquarters on Randall’s Island.

But Kelly had gotten even. Cohen refused to take Safir’s phone calls. Just two weeks ago, a letter Safir had written to Cohen, lamenting the snub, had appeared in this very column.

“There was never a time when I was P.C. that I did not return the calls you made to me, nor did I ever fail to help you,” Safir had wailed to Cohen. “Friends do not treat friends this way.”

“Paul,” said Kelly, “I think it’s time to mend fences with Howard. He could help me get elected.”

Is this guy nuts or what? Cohen thought to himself. Howard Safir? The guy is a complete doofus, a total hoople. What possible good could he do anybody? Besides, the blacks hate him almost as much as they do Giuliani.

Again, Kelly seemed oblivious to Cohen’s thoughts. “David,” Kelly said, “why don’t you arrange a lunch with Howard?” To Browne he said, “Paul, Howard can’t help how dumb he is. We have to show some compassion.”

Browne brightened. It was as though a light bulb had been switched on. “I never thought of it in that way,” he said. “It’s brilliant, Commissioner. Absolutely brilliant.”

“What do you think, David?” said Kelly.

“Brilliant,” said Cohen. “Absolutely brilliant.”

Walking up Centre Street, Kelly led them past the Manhattan Criminal Court building to the Tombs. Browne immediately grasped Kelly’s intention. He marveled at Kelly’s sense of symbolism. They were standing before the building once named the Bernard B. Kerik Correction Complex.

“Now Paul,” said Kelly, “I know Kerik is a bum. I know he is a cheat. I know he is corrupt. I know he brought women to the P.C.’s office. Still…”

Browne’s mouth opened in wonder. He couldn’t imagine how a reprobate like Kerik could help Kelly’s election.

“Remember, Paul, there are those who still love him. No matter how much he may have stolen, no matter how many women he may he toyed with, there are people on Fox News, my son Greg’s station, who consider him a hero. Besides, Paul, you must have compassion. He had a hard childhood. He was, in his own words, a lost son.”

Ohmygod, Browne found himself thinking again. Somehow, the way Kelly explained it further convinced him that Kelly was a genius. What a brilliant stroke. Now Kelly would have all the city’s former police commissioners supporting his election for mayor.

“Brilliant, Commissioner,” he said. “Absolutely brilliant.”

“There’s something else I want to say to both of you,” Kelly continued. With that, Kelly placed his hand to his mouth and lowered his voice. “You see, by getting them all on board, I will make sure there are no secret agendas, no hidden loyalties. I want to make sure nobody promoted years before feels they owe one of them a favor. I want to make sure no one rats. I want to make sure no one provides information we don’t want released. For example, we all know there is a potential corruption scandal within the department. There have been a dozen cases of cops arrested in drug rings but nobody has put the dots together. I don’t want anyone coming forward with information.”

“Commissioner,” said Browne, that’s absolutely brilliant.”

“David, what do you think?”

Secret agendas. Hidden loyalties. To Cohen that could mean only one thing: sleeper cells. Sleeper cells of cops inside the department loyal to Giuliani, Bratton, Safir, Kerik or Bratton. Sleeper cells, waiting to be activated, not against Al Qaeda, though of course, one could never be sure of that, but against Kelly.

Kelly had understood the threat perfectly. It would be Cohen’s job as Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence to smoke them out.

“Commissioner, that’s brilliant,” Cohen said. “Absolutely brilliant.”

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Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt