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

Bernie Kerik: Tragedy Or Farce?

January 26, 2009

Facing about 150 years in the slammer for tax fraud and other crimes, Bernie Kerik seems caught in a time warp, in that sliver of renown when he served as police commissioner during that most terrible day for our nation — 9/11.

He still imagines himself a hero, the defender of liberty and patriotism. Perhaps this is his way of denying a painful truth — that his own government, which he professes to revere, accuses of him of being a tax cheat and a liar and of betraying the public trust to line his pocket. Make that plural — pockets.

On his website, he clings to his opinion — some might say his delusion. In a recent posting, he detailed his efforts to make a suburban store show proper respect for the American flag.

“Yesterday afternoon I had to run to the store for a few things and took my eight-year-old daughter Celine with me,” he wrote on January 18th. “As we pulled into the parking lot of a Sports Authority in Paramus, New Jersey, Celine quickly brought to my attention an American flag that was ripped to shreds, waving in the wind — literally in two separate pieces. She said, ‘That’s terrible, maybe we should tell someone to take it down.’”

The rest of Kerik’s post concerned his attempts to persuade Sports Authority officials to replace the tattered flag — what Kerik called “the shredded symbol of hope that was hoisted above their store.”

After — wrote Kerik — getting no satisfaction from a salesman, a cashier and the store’s apparel manager, he contacted the store manager, saying, “Sir, there is an American flag flying in the parking lot that is shredded to pieces that needs to be taken down. …

“As calmly as I could, not to upset Celine,” he continued, “I reminded him that leaving the flag as it is is disrespectful; it dishonors not only the flag, or the symbol it represents, but also our country and the hundreds of thousands of men and women that have died defending it and the principles of liberty and equality that that flag represent.”

He concluded his article as follows: “If you don’t have the common sense and patriotism to honor our flag, our country, and the men and women in our armed forces, past and present — you can’t have the benefit of my business.”

Kerik’s most recent posting, on Jan. 24th, about President Obama’s national security team, further indicates that he is stuck in the past, in the days before his fall from grace. In his mind, everything is 9/11.

“I didn’t watch the events of that day on television or hear about it on the radio. I witnessed first-hand, the sights and sounds of the second jet air liner slamming through Tower II of the World Trade Center. I remember the screams of witnesses stunned by the horror and the smells of the burning buildings. Even today, seven years later, I can close my eyes and replay the visuals of innocents jumping from the top floors of the buildings to their death. And by day’s end of what started out as a beautiful September morning, I re-live constantly the gut-wrenching walk into a conference room in New York City Police Headquarters to tell twenty-three different families that their loved ones were missing.”

Back then, nobody knew what corners Kerik was allegedly cutting, what rules and moral codes he was apparently breaking — from his sexual misadventures to his acceptance of free apartment renovations from a company with supposed mob ties that did business with the city, to the free use of an Upper East Side apartment that he never reported in his city financial disclosure form.

David Cardona, special agent in charge of the FBI’s New York Criminal Division, made it clear at Kerik’s 16-count indictment in 2007. “Moral relativism is not an appropriate yardstick for our public officials,” he said. “The only acceptable level of corruption in a trusted government office is zero. A beat cop accepting a free cup of coffee or a meal ‘on the arm’ is properly viewed by the public as wrongdoing. If the free cup of coffee is wrong, Kerik’s long list of alleged crimes is repugnant.”

Kerik turned down a plea deal a couple of years ago that would have sent him to prison for six months. Now if convicted he faces 146 years. His next trial date is in a couple of weeks. Maybe he’ll get lucky. Maybe he’ll find a sympathetic juror. Maybe a juror will believe he was a hero of 9/11.

Full Circle.
It was just a small article, buried on page 31 of the Daily News, but it was a bombshell: Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had decreed that borough commanders must obtain Kelly’s approval for routine transfers of police officers between precincts.

The article, by News Police Bureau Chief Alison Gendar, also pointed out that Kelly’s order followed another decree two weeks previously, instructing precinct commanders to obtain approval from Chief of Patrol Robert Giannelli before changing cops’ tours within a precinct.

With these edicts, the department has come full circle — back to the pre-Bill Bratton/ Rudy Giuliani days of Kelly’s first term as a micro-manager between 1992 and 1993 when all responsibility resided at Police Plaza, not with borough and precinct commanders out in the field.

Remember the mantra of Bratton’s deputy commissioner Jack Maple about “accurate and timely intelligence” and “rapid deployment of forces,” which enabled the NYPD to become proactive when it came to fighting crime? As a former deputy commissioner put it, “If you are to wait days and weeks to make changes in your command, it is all going to fall apart.”

Gone is the ability to demand accountability from precinct commanders at COMPSTAT meetings when they know they can’t even make personnel decisions without the approval of the police commissioner.

At the same time, Kelly’s decrees appear to be yet another slap at Chief of Department Joe Esposito, whose office seems to have been bypassed in this process.

It is the latest step in centralizing all power in the 36,000-man force in Kelly’s hands, another example of his personal control of every facet of the department — and of his distrust of the men and women beneath him.

With no oversight of the NYPD — the state of affairs since 2002 and Mayor Michael Bloomberg — this new wave of micro-managing means only one thing: trouble.

The Hottest P.I. In Town [Con’t]
Your Humble Servant was surprised to find himself cited on the website of Mr. Nicholas Casale, the former first-grade detective under Chief of Department Louis Anemone and the now-famous muscle for alleged Ponzi schemer, Bernie Madoff.

Casale’s website is touting a recent NYPD Confidential item about his new high-profile assignment. “Say good-bye to Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso. Move over Beau Deitl,” the column read. “There’s a new boy in town.”

In the interests of full disclosure we should note that, in the same item, NYPD Confidential also said: “Not that the charming, roguish and modest Nick hasn’t had issues. He and Anemone left the MTA under bizarre circumstances, stemming from allegations that Casale had concocted a phony informant in a self-generated corruption probe, then lied about it to the Queens and Manhattan District Attorneys’ offices.”

« Back to top