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Ray Kelly Can’t Explain? We’ll Try To.

August 4, 2008

So Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says he “can’t explain” why 22-year-old police officer Patrick Pogan — three weeks out of the academy and from a respected police family — knocked down a bicyclist, then apparently lied about it in a criminal complaint, claiming the rider deliberately drove into him.

A bystander’s videotape caught Pogan in action on July 25 in Times Square against the bicyclist, Christopher Long, who had been on the monthly ride sponsored by the often obnoxious and confrontational group, Critical Mass.

While Kelly could offer no explanation for Pogan’s attack, maybe we can. It starts with you, Ray.

Maybe, we can also offer an explanation to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who called Pogan’s attack “totally over the top and inappropriate.” That’s what comes, Mayor Mike, of allowing your police commissioner to flaunt the law, as he has done at his whim, while you act deaf, dumb and blind.

Alas, Pogan’s actions — beating on a civilian, then allegedly lying about it — are hardly isolated instances, especially when it comes to Critical Mass.

In March 2007, rider Richard Vazquez says a police sergeant knocked him to the ground. Last month, the Civilian Complaint Review Board — which investigates low-level police misconduct like its skirmishes with Critical Mass — recommended disciplinary action against the sergeant and stated that he “intentionally made false official statements to the CCRB.”

Adrienne Wheeler, riding as a legal observer with Critical Mass in February 2006, won a $37,000 settlement from the city because Assistant Chief Bruce Smolka threw her to the ground by grabbing the bicycle chain around her waist.

Videotapes have also unmasked police officers as liars in other confrontations with the public. Recall the 2004 Republican National Convention when the police arrested 1,806 people and held many of them for three days at a West Side detention center. Not one was convicted of a felony.

Hundreds of cases collapsed when videotaped evidence surfaced that either contradicted police accounts or raised questions about their reliability.

Top police dog at the convention was guess, who? — Smolka, who retired last year after another video surfaced of him kicking a woman in the head while trying to arrest her during a 2003 Lower Manhattan rally protesting immigration policies. The city paid the woman, Cynthia Greenberg, $150,000.

When the Civilian Complaint Review Board sought to question Deputy Chiefs Terence Monahan and Stephen Paragallo for ordering mass arrests at the convention, Kelly, who viewed the RNC as his showcase event, wouldn’t let them be interviewed.

In fact, the RNC flap didn’t hurt either chief. Earlier this year, Kelly promoted Paragallo to Staten Island borough commander.

But Kelly’s stance against the CCRB violated section 440 of the Chapter 18A of the city charter, which states: “The police commissioner shall ensure that officers and employees of the Police Department appear before or respond to inquiries of the Board and its civilian investigators in connection with the investigation of complaints.”

Kelly so cowed the CCRB that its then-chairman, Hector Gonzalez, refused to speak out about Kelly’s NYPD’s illegal non-cooperation. As Chris Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said after a board meeting in 2005, “They’re all afraid of the police department.”

And with reason. When the board wrote to Kelly, criticizing Monahan and Paragallo for ordering the mass arrests, Kelly responded that the CCRB had exploited the RNC issue “seemingly in an attempt to get media attention.” His 1,000-word letter was printed in its entirety in the New York Post.

Speaking of the Post, here are excepts from its editorial last week on Pogan’s actions during the Critical Mass ride:

“One of those cycling anarchists apparently was shoved off his bike by a cop. …“Such a display of temper is, of course, improper. But — given Critical Mass’s casual provocations over the years — it was hardly surprising.”

The editorial concluded: “It’s hard to root against the cops.”

The News echoed the Post’s pro-police, anti-Critical Mass sentiment the same day. “Oh, how gleeful Critical Mass must be. On Friday evening during its monthly annoyance of fellow New Yorkers, its members managed to run into [figuratively speaking] one unfortunately irked police officer.”

Classic Bill.
This column would be remiss in its responsibilities if it failed to mention last week’s words of wisdom from a somewhat well-known former New York City Police Commissioner who has been known to break out in beads of excitement at the approach of photographers and television cameras. Currently the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Bill Bratton opposed stricter laws against paparazzi with this assessment: “If you notice, since Britney started wearing clothes and behaving; Paris is out of town, not bothering anybody, thank God; and, evidently, Lindsay Lohan has gone gay, we don’t seem to have much of an issue.”

Boob of the Month Award.
To City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, cited in the Sun as saying that Kelly had “never received proper credit for steep declines in violent crime that began when he first led the department in the early 1990s under Mayor Dinkins.”

The truth: While Dinkins’ “Safe Streets” program added money for 5,000 extra cops, and crime started to fall under Kelly I, the impressively steep declines began later, under Bratton and Rudy Giuliani.

(Former Boob of the Month winners include stockmarket honcho Richard Grasso and Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin.)

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Copyright © 2008 Leonard Levitt