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The Post Gets Action

July 21, 2008

Congratulations to the New York Post.

Not just for righting a wrong but for exposing Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s flawed leadership and the lack of common sense displayed by one of his top chiefs.

That’s what you get when a police commissioner bullies his subordinates and [unless it concerns terrorism], makes all decisions himself.

Just in case anyone slept through last week’s events, here’s the story. Off-duty detective Ivan Davison broke up a beat-down outside a Queens nightclub at 2 a.m. Sunday, July 13th. A thug, with a rap sheet, shot at him, thankfully missing. Davison shot back, wounding him.

Davison, 44, who has high blood pressure, then went to the hospital, where owing to a misguided rule Kelly instituted after the Sean Bell tragedy, the detective underwent a mandatory sobriety test. Davison — who’d been out on his own time with friends on a weekend night — tested a tad above the legal limit.

According to the Post, Internal Affairs Bureau Chief Charles Campisi ordered Davison to leave the hospital against medical advice for a more sophisticated sobriety test at a police facility. When Davison and his union representatives objected, Campisi suspended him without pay and stripped him of his gun and badge. The charge: being unfit for duty.

Huh? Maybe it was Charlie who had been drinking.

A day later, Kelly upgraded Davison to modified assignment, ensuring he got paid but still treating him as though he had done something wrong.

The following day, Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke up. Usually, Mayor Mike takes little notice of what goes on inside the police department, unless something horrific happens. When that occurs — such as the 50-shot Bell killing — he express astonishment and outrage.

This time, he stated that it appeared that Davison had “acted correctly.”

“He was off-duty, he was enjoying himself, he has a right to do that. He, by accident, saw something where people’s lives were threatened and he took appropriate police action to stop that. … I clearly think the officer did the right thing.”

The mayor then cited Kelly’s “great judgment,” and, as The Times put it, added that Bloomberg “believed he [Kelly] would interpret the facts in this case correctly.”

The Post in a front-page editorial the next day was more succinct.

Under the headline. “HE DESERVED A HERO’S MEDAL, NOT A LASHING,” it began, “THIS is nuts. A cop risks his life to do his duty — and the NYPD punishes him for it.”

Kelly, who is a lot of things but not dumb and blind, took the hint. That same day, he reversed himself and called Davison a “hero.”

“At grave personal risk,” Kelly intoned, “Detective Ivan Davison took appropriate and courageous police action to end an imminent threat of death or serious injury to himself and others.”

Kelly’s one-eighty suggested something was amiss with his mandatory sobriety testing rule.

In fact, the rule’s purpose is questionable. Kelly initiated it after the Bell shooting as a media misdirection to make it seem like a meaningful reform. Ditto, his Rand Corporation study of “contagious shooting,” which produced the nonsensical recommendation to use more stun guns.

If Kelly can explain how instituting a sobriety test every time a police officer shoots a civilian or how using Tasers is relevant to the Bell shooting, let him explain it now.

Still, Kelly has his believers — most notably The Times.

Once the gold standard of objective and critical reporting, The Times stated the day after Kelly reversed himself and pronounced Davison a hero: “At a news conference in Brooklyn on Wednesday, Mr. Kelly said that his decision was influenced not by public opinion but by the facts of the case.”

The article then quoted someone named Dick Dadey, the executive director of Citizens Union, who called Kelly’s sobriety-testing a “good policy he has adopted in the interest of public safety.”

The Times concluded by quoting, for no apparent reason that Your Humble Servant could comprehend, former mayor Edward I. Koch, who said, “I have total confidence in Ray Kelly’s judgment,” and adding: “Mr. Koch also said he hoped Mr. Kelly would run for mayor next year …’If he were to run, I would be immediately supportive.’”

Seen Friday evening in Point Pleasant, N.J.: former police commissioner Bernie Kerik, jogging in a long-sleeve blue fleece with three-inch letters in a lighter-color blue on the back, reading “NYPD.”

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Copyright © 2008 Leonard Levitt