NYPD Confidential - An Inside Look at the New York Police Department
Home Page
All Columns
Contact Leonard Levitt
Search this site
Printable versionSend to a friendEmail Leonard Levitt

Talk of NYPD-FBI Harmony? Just Talk.

April 14, 2008

All that talk of a new harmony between the NYPD and the FBI appears to be just that — all talk.

Let’s start with the bank robbery spree of NYPD cop Christian Torres, who is accused of stealing $113,000 from a Pennsylvania bank.

Federal officials — that is, the FBI and federal prosecutors in Manhattan’s Southern District — are said to be furious at Kelly for running his mouth to the media that Torres had committed two prior bank jobs in New York City — before he has even been charged with those crimes.

Torres apparently told authorities in Pennsylvania of his New York heists. As Kelly told reporters, “He made certain admissions.”

By sharing this, Kelly seems to have broken the feds’ golden rule: you don’t talk about admissions of crimes until a suspect is charged.

Especially galling to the feds is that, by going solo with his remarks, Kelly again snubbed the FBI-led body in place for such investigations — in this case, the Bank Robbery Task Force. That’s a joint operation of NYPD officers and FBI agents, which works out of Federal Plaza where the FBI is headquartered. It has been in place since 1979.

This is hardly aberrant behavior for Kelly. Just two weeks ago, he held another solo news conference about last month’s Times Square bombing of an army recruiting station, again snubbing the FBI, the nominal lead in that investigation.

Whether the terrorists are international or home-grown, the bombing was a terrorist act. That means it’s supposed to be investigated jointly by the NYPD and FBI through the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force, which has been in place since 1980.

Instead, Kelly bypassed the JTTF, using the NYPD’s Arson and Explosion Squad. That unit investigated terrorist bombings before the JTTF was started.

Then, at his news conference two weeks ago, Kelly released a picture of a bicycle found near the scene that authorities believe the bomber may have used. Although other evidence found at the crime scene — including remnants of the container in which the bomb was placed — had been sent to the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Virginia on the day of the bombing, the bicycle remains in NYPD custody for reasons nobody has explained.

This is cooperation?

And if that weren’t bad enough, there’s a new area of tension between the two agencies — the city’s precious parking placards, which are placed on cars’ dashboards.The placards are 98 per cent replicas of the NYPD’s: same color, same lamination and same expiration date. The only difference is that instead of saying “NYPD,” they say “Federal Law Enforcement.”

Some law enforcement sources say Kelly is using the placard issue to spy on the Bureau. Sources say that federal officials are concerned over what they view as Kelly’s attempt to create a data base of all federal vehicles and what they are doing daily.

Here’s the deal. With the city cutting back on the number of placards, Mayor Michael Bloomberg placed the police department in charge of distributing them to the feds.

Kelly, though, seems to have another agenda.

Instead of merely giving a designated number of placards to the Bureau and other federal agencies, sources say Kelly is demanding that the feds identify which agent from which squad is assigned to which federal vehicle with a placard.

Mark Mershon, the head of the FBI’s office, has been designated as the feds’ representative on the placard issue. Three years into his tenure as the head of the FBI’s New York office, it remains unclear whether he now realizes what people initially told him about partnering with Kelly: Kelly partners with nobody.

Clean Up or Cover Up? Some people think Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is planning a through investigation of state police political abuses. Think again.

Take the appointments of the two senior advisers to his probe, Robert Fiske and Michael Armstrong.

Fiske was the first investigator of the “Whitewater” scandal involving former President Bill Clinton. The principled Fiske felt his mandate was limited and acted accordingly. Result: the overly aggressive Kenneth Starr superceded him. Result of that: Monica Lewinsky and near impeachment for Clinton

Armstrong was, of course, the counsel to the Knapp Commission on Police Corruption in the early 1970s. He, too, is principled. A statement he made at the time in support of the Palestinians might have derailed whatever political future he had.

Instead, after a quickie appointment as Queens District Attorney, he became a high-priced defender of well-known reprobates. Perhaps most prominent was the corrupt Queens borough president Donald Manes, who committed suicide after his misdeeds were discovered. Armstrong told people at the time that Manes was a victim.

Armstrong now serves as the chairman of the Mayor’s Commission to Combat Police Corruption. He has told people there’s nothing to investigate because Ray Kelly is police commissioner.

O.K., so why did Cuomo put these lamb-like lawyers on the tail of the state police? Maybe because Cuomo, more than anyone, appreciates that a governor needs the state police to cover up a mess. It happened with his own grandfather — and Andrew was around for it.

In May 1984, two robbers in East New York severely beat Cuomo’s grandfather, then 79-year-old Charles Raffa, who was rumored to have been in that rough-and-tumble neighborhood because he owned buildings there.

Sources back then said that just hours after Raffa’s beating, an NYPD detective who worked as a bodyguard for Cuomo’s father, then Gov. Mario Cuomo, pulled Raffa’s car from the 75th precinct station house and had it cleaned before police examined it.

According to the New York Times, the detective, Sebastian [Benny] Pipitone, who was off-duty, went to the precinct “after being told by the state police about the robbery.”

The Times article depicted Raffa as a victim with selective amnesia. Said the Times: “Police reports on the inquiry indicated that Mr. Raffa was questioned six times over a two-month period and that on each occasion he gave conflicting accounts of the assault and varying descriptions of the man or men who attacked him. Andrew Cuomo was present at three of the sessions…”

« Back to top

Copyright © 2008 Leonard Levitt