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Kelly’s Micro-Managing: Trouble Ahead?

February 2, 2009

Police Commissioner Ray W. Kelly’s recent directive that he must approve all precinct transfers and tour changes — until now, routine duties handled by local commanders — contrasts with the policies of his best-known predecessor, William Bratton — a seminal figure, like Kelly, of the modern NYPD.

Kelly’s edict reinforces the sad and potentially harmful fact that he is a micro-manager, demanding control over every departmental decision, no matter how small.

This insistence suggests a distrust of all those who work for him.

That’s a dangerous attitude, especially in these tough economic times, when borough and precinct commanders are the very people Kelly is now asking to do more with less to hold the line on crime. Will these officers walk the extra mile for a boss who doesn't respect them?

Now contrast Kelly to Bratton, who was collegial. He delegated responsibilities and empowered not only his top chiefs but borough and precinct commanders.

In short, he involved the force at every level in meetings and in focus groups so that they bought into his ambitious plan to transform the NYPD from a reactive to a proactive force, able to cut crime dramatically.

This inclusive approach produced those early-morning, testosterone-filled sessions at One Police Plaza, known as COMPSTAT, a new accountability process that literally changed the culture of the department — and cut crime to levels not seen in Kelly’s first term.

And yet, Bratton lasted only two years as commissioner, while Kelly has remained for seven, and perhaps five more.

The reason for Bratton’s swift departure was his inability, or refusal, to eat his boss’s crow, which is part of the ritual of serving as police commissioner.

Despite his visionary success as police commissioner, Bratton was myopic when it came to dealing with his boss, Rudy Giuliani. He sought equal billing with the mayor as the progenitor of the city’s declining crime numbers, and refused to succumb to the mayor’s desire that Rudy be known as the city’s Number One Crime Fighter.

Kelly, on the other hand, micro-manager that he may be, has proved both astute and disciplined while eating crow from his boss, Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

When Bloomberg termed the 50-shot barrage that killed Sean Bell “inexplicable,” Kelly never uttered a word of dissent, saying only that he couldn’t comment while the shooting was under investigation.

When Bloomberg questioned Kelly’s suspension of an off-duty detective who fired his gun to save an innocent man but then failed a sobriety test, Kelly backed off the suspension. Echoing public sentiment, he called the detective a hero.

When Kelly seemed interested in running for mayor, Bloomberg never offered a word or gesture of support. Kelly never uttered a word of protest — at least not publicly.

Kelly ate his final dish of crow when Bloomberg announced that he himself would run again for a third term.

The New Line.
In a recent op-ed article for the New York Post, Commissioner Kelly offered his own selective analysis for crime-fighting success.

“Crime in New York began to fall under Mayor David Dinkins and continued to drop under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani — to the point that in 2002 many thought it had nowhere to go but up,” he wrote. “Instead, under Mayor Bloomberg, new record lows were posted, year after year: Crime fell nearly 30 percent from 2001 to 2008, while quality of life improved and the city was spared another terrorist attack.”

No mention of Bratton, who succeeded him in 1994 and began the city’s record crime declines. No mention of COMPSTAT, which revolutionized the department. No mention of empowering borough and precinct commanders.

And, of course, no mention of Kelly’s latest misguided directive, detailed above: taking power away from those same commanders by mandating he approve every precinct transfer and tour change.

Does Anybody Care?
The NYPD has apparently stopped disciplining cops with substantiated complaints from the Civilian Complaint Review Board. The number of cases of NYPD wrongdoing substantiated by the CCRB fell to seven per cent last year. Meanwhile, the NYPD has declared it was “unable to prosecute” nearly 35 percent of CCRB-referred cases last year, compared to only one percent in 2003.

Result: three paragraphs in the Post. Not a word in the Times.

. No longer will we be able to see former first-grade detective Nick Casale walking up and down the courthouse steps alongside Bernie Madoff. No longer will we see his stocky frame and the back of his balding pate as he escorts the alleged Ponzi scammer in and out of his luxurious apartment building.

Casale is out as Madoff’s bodyguard. Why is anyone’s guess.

But it appears as though Nick’s firm lacks the capabilities to perform the worldwide inventory of Madoff’s possessions that a federal judge has ordered. Instead, a former FBI agent is taking over the job.

Here’s Nick’s explanation. “Casale Associates has fulfilled the initial stages of our retention as government-approved and court-accepted security for Bernard L. Madoff’s bail modification agreement. Our primary services in this regard were to develop a comprehensive security plan to insure compliance with the bail conditions ordered by the federal court. However, it now appears that the scope of what is required has changed. Casale Associates is primarily an investigative firm structured to provide clients and their attorneys with litigation intelligence by conducting interviews and studying evidence. We appreciate the opportunity to have worked on the Madoff case and will transfer day to day security operations to the new government-approved and court-accepted security company. This seamless transfer will be mutually beneficial to all.”

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