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The Importance of Being Reggie

May 9, 2011

Reggie Ward, the NYPD’s buff supremo, also has his claws inside the Mount Vernon police department, where he likes to feel very important.

In Mount Vernon, where for two decades he’s been a dollar-a-year deputy commissioner with nebulous duties, Ward goes bonkers if officers don’t properly recognize him.

Police sources said that, a couple of years ago, Highway Officer Neil Rosenberg was working overtime in uniform on a Con Ed detail in freezing weather at 7:30 A.M.. Suddenly Ward appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, in his unmarked patrol car, a city-funded Ford Explorer with a custom chrome grill and the full lights and sirens package.

In front of the Con Ed workers, Ward began screaming at Rosenberg: “You will salute me! You will respect me.”

Rosenberg stared at him in fury, then saluted Ward, who drove off.

Police sources said that Rosenberg notified a high-ranking police official that he wanted to make a “hostile work environment” complaint against Ward, but backed off. Now retired, he declined comment.

While few of the NYPD’s 35,000 officers know Ward — a friend of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, top PBA officials and NYPD brass, including James Tuller, Chief of the Transportation Bureau and John Valles, the civilian director of its Parking Enforcement District — many of Mount Vernon’s 45 police officers do know Ward.

And many don’t like him.

He’s infamous up in Mount Vernon for recruiting two high-ranking former NYPD officers as police commissioners — only to dump them when they refused to follow his orders, which included hiring a so-called computer expert, currently serving 20 years to life for setting off a pipe bomb outside the home of an NYPD officer.

At first, the folks in Mount Vernon welcomed the financial assistance Ward provided through his police support group, the Mount Vernon Police Foundation. The foundation created scholarships for the children of Mount Vernon police officers and also funded mounted and bike units.

But both the bike and mounted units were subsequently disbanded.

And over the years, Ward has been increasingly throwing his weight around.

For many years, he used a police lieutenant as his driver to run personal errands. The lieutenant drove him to friends’ and relatives’ auto dealerships in Queens to pick up foundation donations on police time.

The lieutenant also drove him to his home at night on Park Avenue in Manhattan.

Police sources said that the lieutenant/driver, Michael Zarrilli, also accompanied Ward to Police Plaza to pick up his NYPD parking placard, which they say was personally issued by Kelly.

The sources said that Zarrilli referred to himself as Ward’s “bagman.” He subsequently had a falling out with Ward and is no longer his driver. He could not be reached for comment.

Kelly’s spokespersons — Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, known to readers of this column as Mr. Truth, and the sweet Deputy Inspector Kim Royster — have refused to explain why Kelly issued Ward a parking permit.

Police sources say that Ward has also ordered on-duty Mount Vernon police officers to serve as security at his foundation dinners at tax-payers’ expense.

Ward has a second police support group, the New York Law Enforcement Foundation, which is run out of his Park Avenue home. Police sources say that, at a foundation dinner some years ago at the Hyatt hotel across from Grand Central Station, Ward brought three Mount Vernon Highway cops and three patrol officers in uniform to stand outside, greeting dinner guests. The foundation’s president, Jerry Lewin, is a top Hyatt executive.

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Police sources also said that an NYPD commander chased away this security entourage — which also included an NYPD mounted unit — for blocking pedestrian traffic.

Mount Vernon Police Commissioner Carl Bell did not return a phone call from this reporter. Ward did not respond to an email and phone call.

Some people in Mount Vernon question why the city has continued to pay for Ward’s personal cars over the years.

They also question what has happened to the money for the bike and mounted units.

According to a former member of the Mount Vernon Police Foundation, which has been registered as a non-profit charity with the state’s attorney general’s office since 2005, members “have to meet their financial obligations.”

This includes a $1,000 up-front fee and a requirement to purchase a $1,500 table for four for an annual golf outing. In return members are given a replica of a Mount Vernon detective shield and a Mount Vernon Police Foundation ID.

Sources said that, a year and a half ago, the board’s secretary was forced out after he questioned a $2,000 discrepancy in bills regarding the mounted unit. According to sources, Ward refused to explain it and became irate.

Later, at a foundation meeting, according to the source, “The secretary said, ‘We’re supposed to have a horse unit but I don’t see any horses.’” Ward then dressed him down in front of the members. But he never explained what had happened to the horses or to the money.

Said the source, “The unit is disbanded. The horses are gone. There is a trailer for the horses sitting in a garage across the street from police headquarters. Upwards of hundreds of thousand dollars are involved. Money is flying around with no real understanding. The bike patrol is also gone. We had brand new bikes. Then what happened? We get no answers.”

Here’s something that may raise certain eyebrows. Before Faisal Shahzad tried to plant a bomb in Times Square a year ago, he was living a middle-class American life in Connecticut. And one of his closest friends was a civilian analyst working for the NYPD’s Intelligence Division.

According to an anonymous email from a person who identified himself as an Intel officer, the analyst, of Pakistani descent, “came forward to her supervisors about her connection to this would-be terrorist.She stated in substance that, since she knew they would be doing a telephone records check, she wanted them to hear it from her that both her and her boyfriend’s telephone numbers would be listed making calls and receiving calls from him [Shahzad].

“Intel keeps information very compartmentalized,” read the email, “and I have no direct relation to the Unit Involved…. But at certain details like dignitary events and surveillance details,they take personnel from all units and wework together and that's when all the office talk comes into play.

“It is not known if Intel is watching her or if they notified the feds or if the feds know at all. I hope so! I'm very concerned on why the public hasn't heard about this.”

It sounds pretty scary. But according to a law enforcement source, there is no reason for concern.

“The matter,” he said, “was brought to the attention of the Joint [FBI/NYPFD] Terrorist Task Force in a timely manner and the situation was less nefarious than as described in the email you received.”

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Copyright © 2011 Leonard Levitt