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Bill Bratton: Beyond the Horizon

October 27, 2008

His dream apparently denied, former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton seemed to be looking beyond the NYPD on his latest visit to town.

It looks like Bratton — who has never hidden his desire to return as NYPD commissioner — is adjusting his sights. Instead, last week, he plunged into national politics, recording an automated telephone message supporting Barack Obama.and blasting John McCain.

Bratton did so, he said, to rebut his old nemesis, Rudy Giuliani, whose own recent telephone message supported McCain and blasted Obama.

Bratton is currently Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, where there are apparently no strictures about endorsing political candidates.

It does appear as though Bratton is angling for a job in Washington now that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pulled the rug out from under him with his third-term power grab.

Last summer, after six years in Los Angeles, Bratton seemed so excited about returning to New York as police commissioner that he called the Big Apple “home” and said he’d “be crazy not to” want to run the NYPD again, even if that meant taking a 50 per cent cut from his current LAPD salary to the $165,000 the commissioner’s job pays here.

By last summer, he had met with potential mayoral candidates Congressman Anthony Weiner and City Comptroller William Thompson. There were rumors he was even searching for an apartment in Manhattan.

Unfortunately for him, Bratton has proved better at running police departments than at choosing successful political candidates, at least here in New York City.

In 1997, he considered running for mayor against Giuliani but abandoned that soon afterward. In 2001 he endorsed front-runner Mark Green. The deal was that Green would reappoint Bratton P.C., making him the first top cop in New York City history to serve twice. When Green tanked, Bratton moved to L.A.

Ray Kelly, on the other hand, has proved a better political prognosticator than Bratton. In 2001, he supported Bloomberg. After some political posturing that concerned reappointing Bernie Kerik, Bloomberg reappointed Kelly police commissioner, making him the first top cop in New York City to serve in that position twice.

Bratton’s bad political luck in New York has continued to the present when Mayor Mike announced he wanted to run for a third term and used his wallet to overturn term limits. His almost certain guaranteed victory, now that he has bought off the City Council, could mean four more years of Kelly, who has been his police commissioner since his 2001 election.

Perhaps that’s why Bratton is now seeking a wider horizon. While visiting New York City last week, he wrote an article in the Daily News about terrorism and the presidential election. He then hop-scotched down to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore to speak about urban crime-fighting. While in the D.C. area, he warned the next president in a speech at George Washington University to appoint qualified people to Homeland Security positions.

The Leader. Meanwhile, last Wednesday Bratton spoke about leadership at John Jay College, whose president, Jeremy Travis, introduced him as “bringing accountability” to the NYPD, “thinking outside the box,” providing “external accountability” to the public, and fighting international terrorism that “shows him at the top of his game.”

Travis’ effusive praise of Mr. Bill indicates he is not concerned about being shunned at Police Plaza by Commissioner Kelly, who has made it clear that New York City is not big enough for both Bratton and himself.

Readers of Bratton’s Daily News piece may have noticed his joint by-line with one R.P. Eddy, the Manhattan Institute’s senior fellow for counter-terrorism. There has been a literal disconnect between the Manhattan Institute and Kelly. In 2006, it co-sponsored a terrorism conference with the NYPD to mark the fifth anniversary of 9/11.

At the last minute, Kelly dropped out after learning that Bratton would be a key participant. He then threw together a rival terrorism conference and held it the same day at Police Plaza.

In his talk at John Jay, Bratton stressed the importance of leaders projecting optimism and change. He also cited the importance of “risk-takers,” “inclusion,” “transparency,” and selecting the right people for top jobs and allowing them to work unhindered. Except for the risks Kelly has undertaken in fighting terrorism, those other leadership qualities are absent these days at Police Plaza.

While Bratton developed a corps of subordinates who have gone on lead police departments around the country, One Police Plaza today is Kelly and only Kelly.

Such is the state of affairs that this column will refrain from publishing the name of the lone top NYPD official brave enough to have attended Bratton’s talk.

Louima Redux?
Because a claim of police torture made 11 years ago by Haitian immigrant Abner Louima only sounded unbelievable, we cannot dismiss similar charges leveled this week by ex-con Michael Mineo, unbelievable as they may appear.

Eleven years ago, much of 70th precinct as well as some officials of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association either saw or heard about the sodomizing of Louima by police officer Justin Volpe in the precinct’s bathroom. However they did nothing either to prevent it or to help bring the guilty officers to justice.

Today, 11 years later, we still don’t know the full story.

Today we’re here again with Mineo’s allegation that cops sodomized him at a subway station while arresting him for smoking marijuana.

Already, the vultures are circling — i.e. attorney Stephen Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Jackson represented C. Vernon Mason, who was found guilty of slandering prosecutor Steven Pagones in the Tawana Brawley case. Sharpton is Sharpton.

The police department has denied Mineo’s claims. By keeping the cops on full duty, Kelly would seem to be sticking his neck out, something he does for no one.

He’s also been uncharacteristically silent. Does he know something he’s not revealing?

All we will say here about the reports of a tear to Mineo’s rectum is that he was seen running with his pants down and that marijuana is now packaged in small, hard, cube-shaped plastic containers.

You Don’t Always Get What You Want.
And apologies to Mick Jagger, you don’t always want what you get.

That’s what Mayor Mike may soon be singing after his successful third-term power grab.

Maybe he should check with his friend Ed Koch, whose third-term became a nightmare, blighted by political scandal and racial upheaval that forever tarnished his legacy.

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Copyright © 2008 Leonard Levitt