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A Mighty Tree Down, Another Still Growing

February 4, 2008

A mighty tree has toppled. Rudy Giuliani — the NYPD’s de facto commissioner from 1994-2001 — has fallen in his bid for the presidency.

The reasons are many, from his faulty political strategy to the lack of resonance in his anti-terrorism message as “America’s Mayor” following his leadership after 9/11.

Don’t forget his personal baggage — his two divorces, his children who don’t speak to him, and his laughable claim that, as he wrote in his best-selling book “Leadership,” he appointed leaders.

Oh, who would that be? Bernie Kerik, on trial for income tax evasion? Kerik’s predecessor and former fire commissioner Howard Safir who, so far as this reporter can remember, did not attend one funeral of a police officer or fire fighter who died in 9/11.

The true leader he did select, he fired; then with Safir, spent the next six years bad-mouthing. Remember Safir’s calling him “some airport cop from Boston?” That, of course, was Bill Bratton, who reformed the police department’s reactive culture and won the fight against crime. Rudy and Safir tried to say that the genius who deserved the credit was not Bratton but his top aide, Jack Maple. They deliberately ignored the fact that, without Bratton, there would have been no Maple.

The Times beat Rudy up pretty good during the campaign, in the last days, citing his spite and meanness in releasing the criminal records of whistle-blower James Schillaci and shooting victim Patrick Dorismond.

But they failed to cite his successes, which every New Yorker must respect and remember. Bratton may have changed the NYPD, but Giuliani changed New York City. We all take it for granted now, forgetting what the city was like before Rudy arrived, with 2,000 murders a year and people afraid to go out at night. Rudy stopped that.

Let’s not write him off just yet. Should John McCain win the Republican nomination, there’s a chance — admittedly slight — that Rudy may resurface as his running mate. There’s also the future governorship and even, coming up in 2009, a vacancy at his old job.

Now let’s turn to the city’s current version of Giuliani — police commissioner Ray Kelly, who harbors his own mayoral ambitions. He, too, has his problems.

There’s a growing steroid scandal in Brooklyn. Last week, the pharmacist who supplied the drugs to cops and others committed suicide.

The crime lab is in turmoil. [Typical Kelly solution: bring in an outside consultant.]

An even wider corruption scandal involves narcotics officers in Brooklyn South. Hundreds of cases may be dropped. There’s been a shake-up of top police officials. Anthony Izzo, the three-star chief who heads the unit, remains in place. [Hey, isn’t Izzo the same guy in charge of the unit that fired those 50 shots at Sean Bell?] Kelly, though, doesn’t like removing three-star chiefs. Makes him look like he’s picked poor people.

Two more cops were indicted last week for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine. One of them is an Internal Affairs Bureau sergeant. Arrests again made by the feds. Memo to IAB Chief Charles Campisi: What’s the story, Charlie?

Put this all together and you might think the NYPD under Kelly is listing badly. You’d never know that from what you read. That’s the difference between Giuliani and Kelly. Kelly has hoodwinked the city’s media, except for the Post, which has been taking on Kelly ever since it broke a front-page corruption story last year that upset the commissioner.

Just look at the Times. While it no longer fears attacking Giuliani, it sounds in awe of Kelly.

Last week, Kelly announced that, with money from a $153 million grant from Homeland Security, six teams of cops armed with automatic sub-machine guns and bomb-sniffing dogs would begin patrolling the subways to fight terrorism.

The Times wrote: “In the first counterterrorism strategy of its kind in the nation, roving teams of New York City police officers armed with automatic rifles and accompanied by bomb-sniffing dogs will patrol the city’s subway system daily….”

Just two questions. One: all this money going for just six teams of officers? Might the money be better spent, not on heavy weapons, but on more overtime so that more cops could patrol the subways?

Two: Isn’t Kelly the same guy who a decade before opposed cops using .9-millimeter weapons because he didn’t trust them to use them properly and feared they might mistakenly hit civilians?

Burning With Bernie [Con’t] First, Bernie Kerik lied to his lawyer Joe Tacopina, saying he paid for the renovations to his Bronx apartment. Tacopina passed on this lie to the Bronx District Attorney and to the city’s Department of Investigation. Tacopina also told the feds Kerik had repeated the same lie to his second lawyer, Kenneth Breen. Last week, federal judge Stephen Robinson disqualified Breen as Kerik’s attorney. Tacopina may end up as a government witness against Kerik. So now may Breen.

Who will Bernie’s next lawyer be? How can he believe anything Bernie tells him?

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Copyright © 2008 Leonard Levitt