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Joe, Once Again, It’s Time To Go

December 15, 2008

If anyone doubts the sorry state of law enforcement in New York City, consider how Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes announced the indictments last week of three cops in the alleged subway sodomy of Michael Mineo two months ago.

On a day of shame for the NYPD, Hynes sugar-coated the news with the false claim that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly aggressively roots out corruption.

That was not true in the past. It certainly is not true in this latest mess.

For the past decade or so, NYPD Confidential has concluded that Hynes can best serve the citizens of New York City by resigning because his every action is colored by either publicity or politics — from hiring former Brooklyn borough president Howard Golden for $125,000 a year to charging former FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio with helping the mob commit murders. That dubious claim fell apart over Hynes’ key accuser’s credibility.

The same concern for publicity and politics permeated his Mineo news conference, along with hints that Hynes suffers from a form of law enforcement amnesia.

How else to explain why he cited “the effectiveness” of the 1992 Mollen Commission on police corruption, and praised Kelly for “reacting swiftly” to its recommendations?

Was Joe forgetting or purposely rewriting history? In fact, until the last minute Kelly resisted the reforms the Mollen Commission had recommended for Internal Affairs. Instead, he stuck with his reputed buddy, Chief Robert Beatty, who presided over botched cases and apparent cover-ups during his brief turn as the Internal Affairs head.

Not until the fall of 1993, when the Mollen Commission’s public hearings spotlighted Beatty’s failings, did Kelly remove Beatty. Beatty’s recently retired boss, Daniel Sullivan, testified that Beatty had failed to inform prosecutors of 250 cases of serious corruption, and that 40 serious corruption cases in the past five years had not been entered in Internal Affairs’ files.

And only when the Mollen Commission was about to issue its final report, proposing a permanent outside monitor to police the department, did Kelly run from the rear of the anti-corruption line to lead the reform parade. To head off the outside monitor, he took the unprecedented step of hiring a civilian, a former federal prosecutor, Walter Mack, to oversee Internal Affairs.

Meanwhile, Kelly proved he was as sensitive to criticism then as he is today. After transferring Beatty, he attempted to cleanse his own reputation, down to the smallest detail. “Kelly phoned me last Friday to protest that I had maligned him in my column on police corruption,” wrote columnist Sydney Schanberg, in New York Newsday. “He insisted he was not a ‘close friend’ of Beatty as I had written, and knew him ‘only in a professional way.’”

O.K, that’s just for openers. At his news conference, Hynes also said that, after the Mollen Commission, “Internal Affairs was revamped and a design created.…Subsequent police commissioners followed the Mollen protocol.”

Whatever design or protocol Hynes imagined evaporated pretty quickly. Walter Mack lasted but a year. Kelly’s successor, William Bratton, sacked him in early 1995.

As for the outside monitor — the Mollen Commission’s key recommendation — both Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg rejected it.

Today, no outside monitor of the police department exists. There is a powerless body called the Mayor’s Commission to Combat Police Corruption. But its first chairman, Michael Pomerantz, resigned after Kelly refused to turn over requested documents and Bloomberg failed to intercede.

Pomerantz’s successor and current chairman, Michael Armstrong, was, nearly 40 years before, counsel to the famed Knapp Commission on Police Corruption, which did succeed in combating systemic graft in the NYPD. Today, however, Armstrong sees no reason to monitor the NYPD.

As he told the now-defunct New York Sun, “The best formula for a corruption-free police department is to have a tough, knowledgeable, hands-on police commissioner, and we have one now.”

Hynes’ greatest falsehood at his Mineo news conference was giving Kelly partial credit for the three cops’ indictments, ignoring the NYPD’s initial support for the officers and its skepticism of Mineo’s claims.

“In a real sense,” he said, “Police Commissioner Kelly's commitment is one reason we can announce the actions of the Kings County grand jury this morning."

That is truly rich. It confirms that Hynes is either so afraid of Kelly that he has lost all objectivity or that he takes his information from Police Department press releases.

Here’s what that release — issued by Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne (known in these parts as Mr. Truth) — said about the Mineo indictments.

“Contrary to some critics, the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau, after locating two witnesses in close proximity to the incident who said they did not see the alleged sodomy, continued its aggressive investigation of the allegations. IAB located and interviewed additional witnesses, reviewed hours of videotape, secured officers’ lockers and retained equipment for DNA and other testing…”

Now the truth. IAB was apparently so impressed by those two witnesses that Browne’s initial statement said the police did not believe Mineo’s claims. That’s why the department kept the three cops on full duty for more than two weeks after the incident was reported.

In addition, I.A.B. initially secured only one of the three cops’ lockers while searching for DNA evidence that a police baton or another instrument had been used to penetrate Mineo. Such evidence was linked to another cop — whose locker IAB had not initially searched.

Contrast IAB’s actions under Kelly with those under Giuliani and then Police Commissioner Howard Safir, following the sodomy of Abner Louima a decade before.

Whatever their faults — and this column has documented them ad nauseum — Giuliani and Safir ordered an aggressive IAB investigation that led to the conviction of police officer Justin Volpe.

Chief Charles Campisi, who headed that investigation, still heads IAB, indicating that he acts in accordance with what he believes the police commissioner wants. When the boss wants results, he is relentless. When the boss wants no scandal, he sees no evil.

The Mollen commission foresaw this inconsistency. As they wrote in their final report in July 1994, “The Department allowed its systems for fighting corruption virtually to collapse. It had become more concerned about the bad publicity that corruption disclosures generate than the devastating consequences of corruption itself.”

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Copyright © 2008 Leonard Levitt