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In Ray Kelly's NYPD, Some Are More Equal Than Others

November 15, 2010

“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

George Orwell’s line seems to fit the NYPD’s Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

His $12,000 in Harvard Club freebies [an amount covering eight years of annual dues and God only knows much more for meals and drinks] and his use of a tony publicist would be more than enough to get any cop fired.

Kelly apparently has no problem accepting these handouts and services from the Police Foundation, a non-profit that seems to have been turned into his personal charity.

Nor is the commissioner shy about using these services to cultivate his image of a man who moves in exclusive circles.

The work of his de facto publicist, Hamilton South — paid $96,000 a year by the Police Foundation to promote Kelly with the swells and in the media — can apparently be seen on Page162 of this month’s Vanity Fair magazine. There’s Kelly, sandwiched between photos of Barbara Walters and Eliot Spitzer and his wife Silda.

Small wonder, then, that Kelly’s pride and joy — his revamped Intelligence Division — is also more equal than other units in the NYPD.

Intel — on which Kelly has staked his terrorism-fighting bona fides — operates by its own rules, or, rather, with no rules.

Led by the former CIA man, David Cohen, its detectives’ activities [as well as its budget] are top-secret, supposedly for the country’s good.

Such secrecy has allowed shenanigans and scandals to fester, suggesting that those entrusted with keeping us safe from Al Qaeda can’t manage themselves or their subordinates.

Take the recent retirement of Intel detective Jeff Stella, who happened to be the president of the NYPD’s Hispanic Society — great fans of Kelly.

“Prior to 2002, no other police commissioner has been as dedicated as Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly regarding the advancement and promotion of Hispanics,” the Society announced in 2009.

Meanwhile, the commissioner has been a great fan of the Hispanic Society.

Its top three officials have landed cushy jobs as Intel detectives.

Besides Stella, the Society’s first vice-president, Daniel Coats, has a coveted spot on Kelly’s security detail.

The Society’s second vice-president, Dennis Gonzalez, had been Stella’s Intel partner.

Stella, who for the past year has been living in Connecticut, said he retired because “it was time to go.” He says he wants to spend more time with his family.

He denied he left because the Internal Affairs Bureau was investigating allegations that he had been AWOL from the job. [No response from Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne or Inspector Kim Royster on that one.]

“Not true,” says Stella of the IAB issue. “If I was under investigation, they wouldn’t have let me retire.”

That may be true for the rest of the NYPD, but not necessarily for the Intelligence Division.

Two years ago, another Intel detective was allowed to retire and keep his pension after he was caught spying on a woman who turned out to be his girlfriend.

The detective had convinced prosecutors in the Queens DA’s counter-terrorism unit to subpoena the woman’s phone records, saying the information was crucial to a terrorism investigation.

Intel Deputy Inspector Vincent Marra was also allowed to retire with his pension intact after this column reported in 2007 that he had used a $1,000 donation from a firemen’s fund for 9/11 victims to pay for cosmetic surgery. [His insurance company wouldn’t pay for removing a benign cyst from his chest by operating through his back to avoid scars.]

If fleecing the firemen’s fund wasn’t enough, Marra also forced Intel subordinates to cough up for his surgery.

There’s also Lieu. Eddie Maldonado, who heads Intel’s Dignitary and Threat Assessment Unit, and who has been under investigation for the past year — with no charges filed.

Maldonado claimed to be on duty while, allegedly, out of town, moonlighting. His outside work includes security for both Major League Baseball and for Jennifer Lopez and her husband Marc Anthony.

Guess who appeared as Kelly’s special guests at this year’s annual Police Foundation fundraiser at the Waldorf Astoria? Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony.

But Intel’s missteps are attracting attention outside New York.

Jeff Stein’s Washington Post column “Spy Talk” questions the effectiveness of what Kelly considers, in the words of the former head of the FBI’s New York office Mark Mershon, his “signature accomplishment” — stationing Intel detectives in 11 foreign capitals to fight terrorism.

Stein writes that these detectives “operate outside the authority of top U.S. officials abroad, including the American ambassador and the CIA station chief, who is the nominal head of the U.S. Intelligence in foreign countries.”

Stein quotes retired FBI agent Thomas Fuentes, who headed the Bureau’s Office of International Operations from 2004 until 2008, saying that the detectives’ “out-of-channel status makes them virtually useless to other intelligence or police agencies.”

Kelly’s program, says Fuentes, “looks great, looks really terrific,” but is “a complete waste of money.”

Rather than working with law enforcement officials, Stein says, the NYPD detectives are “virtually impersonating U.S. counter-terrorism agents and leaving local security officials confused, or worse, fuming.”

He cites two London-based incidents.

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The first, as this column has previously documented, enraged the FBI and terrified the wife of a detective on the Joint Terrorism Task Force, who feared for her family’s safety.

Kelly was so eager to claim credit for the arrest of a radical Muslim cleric in London in 2004 that he released the name and picture of the detective who had helped capture him.

Kelly’s actions so upset the feds that Pat D’Amuro, then the head of the FBI’s New York office, did something virtually unheard of among the country’s top law enforcement officials. He publicly criticized Kelly.

Meanwhile, Kelly’s security lapse so alarmed the detective’s wife that the detective was whisked home from London before he could testify against the cleric.

The second incident occurred in 2005, after terrorists bombed the London subway, killing 52 people and injuring 700.

Stein reveals that, minutes after the bombs exploded, “several New York City police officers ran into the tunnel and showed their ‘badges’ as if they had official approval to participate in the investigation.”

They then called home, Stein writes, and Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a news conference, trumpeting what they had learned.

The British, writes Stein, were furious.

According to Fuentes, the Brits threatened “to kick everyone out, including the FBI.

“The American ambassador is calling the FBI — ‘What’s the story? Who are these guys? Are they with you?’ ‘No, they’re independent.’

“Scotland Yard, Special Branch and other British officials, held their tongues,” Fuentes tells Stein, because “they didn’t want to create a diplomatic incident with Kelly and Bloomberg and New York City.”

Perhaps this explains why the British government last year awarded the honorary title of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, not to Kelly, but to another American police chief.

Citing his “counter-terrorism efforts,” the Brits honored Kelly’s rival, former NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton.

In announcing the award, Bob Peirce, Britain’s Consul-General in Los Angeles, where Bratton was then Chief of the LAPD, called him “the most outstanding police chief in the United States and, frankly, the world.”

Perhaps the British were being ironic in presenting the award to Bratton at a ceremony at the British Embassy in Washington on Sept. 11, a day on which neither man played an official role, but one on which Kelly has staked his legacy.

This column may have been the first to mention the 13 per cent increase in this year’s homicide rate [See NYPD Confidential of Oct. 18] and now there’s a hue and cry throughout the media about the spike [which is now being reported as 15 per cent.]

While this column yields to none in exposing the police department’s flaws, the homicide increase may not be one of them. Whether it is a harbinger or a statistical blip remains to be seen.

The fact remains that New York’s murder rate is but one-quarter of what it was 20 years ago, before Rudy Giuliani and Bratton instituted systems that led to the dramatic crime drops.

Subsequent commissioners have all lowered the homicide rate, Kelly accomplishing this despite a better than 10 per cent manpower reduction.

The media might do better to focus on the misleading and unchallenged statements the department issues about crime statistics. A recent AP story on the homicide rise misses this, stating: “Officials also take comfort in the fact that reports of all serious crime, including assaults, robberies and rapes are down 1.3 per cent this year.”

That ignores the increasingly disturbing reports — most recently by former 81st precinct cop Adrian Schoolcraft — that police throughout the city systemically downgrade felonies to misdemeanors, and are reluctant to take citizens complaints of serious crimes.

One shop that has caught on is the New York Times.

Reporters Al Baker and Ray Rivera recently discovered that the department hasn’t been releasing statistics on misdemeanors — such as thefts, assaults and sex offenses other than rape — ever since Kelly became commissioner in 2002.

Spokesman Browne — known to readers of this column as Mr. Truth — blamed the failure on a computer glitch. That’s rich.

This in a department that’s home to Compstat, and whose commissioner prides himself on other computer-savvy innovations.

THE RESTRAINED NYPD? The police department is trumpeting the fact that cops fired fewer bullets at suspects last year than at any time in the 39 years since the department began keeping in-depth shooting statistics.

The 2009 Annual Firearms Discharge Report showed the police were involved in 105 shooting incidents in which 130 officers fired a total of 296 bullets, about 19 per cent fewer than the previous year.

Let’s see how those figures stack up against this year’s, considering the 46 shots cops fired during a Harlem melee last Augus,t after a gunman shot at a cop and four officers returned fire.

The officers shot and killed the man with whom the gunman had been feuding and also shot more than 20 bullets into the gunman himself. [He survived.] Two officers were also wounded, one when friendly fire struck his bullet-proof vest. Three passers-by suffered minor gunshot wounds, one of whom has already filed a lawsuit against the police.

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