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Meet “Commissioner” Ward

May 2, 2011

With all the talk of insiders and ticket-fixing, it might be nice to reacquaint ourselves with an old friend, “Commissioner” Reggie Ward, as he calls himself.

From his apartment at 480 Park Avenue, Ward runs the New York Law Enforcement Foundation, one of those shadowy police-buff organizations hovering about the fringes of the department.

No relation to the former police commissioner, Ward, nonetheless, has connections throughout the inner recesses of the department that the public rarely sees.

Consider the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, some of whose delegates are reportedly at the heart of the Ticket-gate scandal.

Every summer, Ward sits on the PBA’s dais at its annual convention — and brings a check.

A union official says it’s for $10,000.

In return, says a police official, “Reggie receives boxes of PBA cards that he passes out to members of his foundation.”

Then there’s the backwater known as the Transportation Bureau, which is hardly on the front lines of crime-fighting.

Two of Ward’s best friends are Transportation Bureau Chief James Tuller and the civilian director of its Parking Enforcement District, John Valles.

Valles joined the NYPD from the city’s Department of Transportation — where he was in charge of all traffic agents assigned to writing tickets, towing and directing traffic — in 1996 when the two agencies merged.

When Kelly became police commissioner, he placed a deputy inspector as the commanding officer of Valles’s office, and Valles reported to him.

When Kelly appointed Tuller Chief of Transportation in 2009, Tuller moved Valles into his own office on the 11th floor of Police Plaza. Valles now reports directly to him.

Police sources say that Tuller and Valles chauffeur and/or accompany Ward to various police functions.

Just last Friday night, Valles accompanied Ward to the NYPD’s Pulaski Association’s annual dinner at Leonard’s catering hall in Great Neck, and the two sat next to each other at the same table.

“They were attached like glue,” said a person at the dinner.

Valles and Tuller did not return this reporter’s phone calls to their offices asking about their relationship with Ward. Ward did not return a phone call and two emails, asking about his relationship with them.

Then, there’s Ward’s relationship with Ray Kelly. When Kelly returned as police commissioner in 2001, he clipped the wings of many police buff organizations, which abused their police connections by seeking inappropriate insider perks, such as installing lights and sirens in their personal vehicles.

But for reasons nobody has ever explained, Kelly did not clip Ward.

After Kelly received a smattering of boos at a PBA convention five years ago, it was Ward to whom he lamented after leaving the convention. According to a person familiar with their conversation, Ward told Kelly not to worry about it.

Kelly has also attended Ward’s annual July barbecues — perhaps the only police- buff foundation event that Kelly participates in.

In 2006, Ward gave Kelly the New York Law Enforcement’s “Leadership Award” at a $350-a-head dinner. The event was held at the Hyatt Hotel. Hyatt’s Senior Vice President Jerry B. Lewin is the New York Law Enforcement Foundation’s president.

A couple of years ago, Kelly gave Ward a highly prized NYPD parking placard.

According to a police official who asked for anonymity, Ward traveled to Police Plaza to pick it up with his driver from the Mount Vernon Police department, where Ward serves as a dollar-a-year deputy commissioner.

Ward told associates that when Kelly issued him the placard, Kelly placed his fingers to his lips and mouthed, “Shhhhh.”

Neither Kelly’s spokesman, Paul Browne, nor the commanding officer of the Public Information office, Inspector Kim Royster, responded to an email asking whether Kelly did in fact provide Ward with a parking placard and, if so, why.

When this reporter visited the Public Information office on the 13th floor of Police Plaza Friday to ask Inspector Royster whether Ward still has the placard, she busied herself inside her office for the next half-hour and did not respond.

Why Kelly is enamored of Ward remains a mystery, considering his baggage.

As this column has previously reported, Ward’s position on the Mount Vernon police department as a dollar-a-year deputy commissioner has been a source of controversy — to say the least.

He brought in two retired NYPD officials to head the police department, but they both ran afoul of him and were forced to resign.

Leonard Levitt's new book, NYPD Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Country's Greatest Police Force, will be out in stores July 21. Preorder it today by clicking on the book at right.

Gertrude LaForgia, a retired two-star NYPD Chief, whom Ward recruited in 1998, was forced out three years later, explaining at the time that she had refused to promote Ward’s deputy, whom she considered unqualified.

Retired NYPD Captain Gerald Mines, whom Ward recruited in 2006, lasted just 15 days.

Another person Ward recruited as a computer consultant for the department was Stephen Alster, who was found guilty in a civil suit of sexually harassing Mt. Vernon police officer, Karyn Anderson. Ward was found guilty of not protecting her. She was awarded $75,000.

Alster was subsequently convicted for detonating a pipe bomb outside the Brooklyn Heights apartment building of rookie NYPD cop Yensey Thomas, and is serving 20 years to life in prison.

Kelly’s embrace of Ward is emblematic of how his concerns as police commissioner appear to have changed over the past ten years.

When he returned as commissioner, Kelly was sensitive to the company he kept.

In 2003 he refused to attend the annual dinner of another group of police buffs, The Finest Foundation, because it offered a table of ten as a $50,000 “Commissioner’s Package.” At the time Kelly said this implied that access to him could be purchased. He cancelled at the last minute, costing the foundation its $40,000 down-payment.

Kelly also distanced the department from the other police-buff foundations.

At the time, Kelly’s actions were viewed as anti-corruption measures.

But, as Kelly has settled into his job over the past decade, with no supervision or accountability by the mayor or anyone else, it appears that these moves were directed not to fight corruption but to hurt those organizations that retained a modicum of independence.

Perhaps this explains his embrace of the department’s largest support group, the Police Foundation, where Kelly dictates policy and personnel. The foundation has paid $30,000 for his membership and expenses at the Harvard Club, where he wines and dines guests he refuses to identify. The foundation also paid $400,000 to consultant Hamilton South, who morphed into Kelly’s public relations man around 2008 as Kelly considered a run for mayor the following year.

Even Kelly’s predecessor, Bernard Kerik — now serving four years in prison on corruption charges — refused to meet with Ward when he was commissioner.

His snub caused Ward to throw a near-tantrum in Kerik’s outer office, according to a police official who witnessed it.

Kerik’s chief of staff, John Picciano, said in a telephone interview last week, “Kerik wanted no part of him.”

By the time you read this column, the NYPD’s former Deputy Commissioner Garry McCarthy may have been announced as the next head of the nation’s second-largest police force — Chicago’s. McCarthy sure seems to have the inside track — and appears above and beyond his other competitors. Since leaving the NYPD in 2006, he has headed the Newark Police Department to largely favorable reviews. He’s also mellowed over the 2005 L’affaire Palisades, when Palisades Parkway police arrested him and his wife Regina over a parking ticket. At a Citizens Crime Commission function last winter, he actually discussed the incident with this reporter without blowing his stack.

It isn’t easy being a black guy in this town, even a prominent black guy — especially in Queens, as Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott can testify. Police stopped Walcott last Thursday night around midnight as he returned to his home in Cambria Heights, supposedly because he failed to signal a left turn.

Back in the Giuliani administration, people seemed shocked when Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington, who, like Walcott, is black, said that white officers had harassed him more than once, presumably because of his race. One incident, which occurred near his home in southeast Queens, he said, brought his wife to tears.

Then there’s former NYPD Chief of Department Dave Scott. During the Dinkins administration, Scott, also black, transferred the white precinct commander and white desk officer of the 103rd precinct in Queens after they treated him disrespectfully when he appeared at the precinct in civilian clothes and they apparently didn’t recognize him. When Scott related the story at a dinner dance of black law enforcement officials, he received a standing ovation.

While Washington’s and Scott’s alleged abusers were white, no one has mentioned whether the cops who stopped Walcott were black, white or other.

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Copyright © 2011 Leonard Levitt