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Medals Are For Heroes

June 11, 2012

The NYPD annual Medal Day is traditionally reserved for heroes — officers who have risked their lives to protect New Yorkers.

This Tuesday when medals are given to 42 officers — 15 posthumously — two questionable unit citations will also be awarded.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is recognizing the department’s Intelligence Division and the office of Deputy Commissioner for Public Information.

These units have been other than heroic.

The Intelligence Division has been roiled in controversy, and last week was hit with a lawsuit over its pervasive spying on area Muslims.

The Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, Paul Browne, has violated the basic tenet of his job: to tell the truth.

He has been caught twice in recent months lying to reporters, and by extension to the public.

He denied that Kelly had participated in a controversial training film about Muslims, and insisted to the Associated Press that the NYPD did not have a Demographics Unit in its Intelligence Division, even though police documents showed that such a unit existed and had been tracking Muslims communities based on their religion.

Is Kelly praising Intel and DCPI to hide their flaws? If so, that’s like putting lip gloss on a dragon.

Except for the Neanderthals who comprise the editorial board of the New York Post, Browne also appears to be the last man standing next to Kelly in defense of his exponentially accelerated Stop and Frisk policy.

Allegedly pursuing the laudable goal of taking guns off the street, the policy under Kelly has instead targeted virtually all young black and Hispanic men in New York, perhaps illegally detaining thousands of innocent people.

Last Thursday, Browne engaged in a five-minute rant to NY1’s “The Call,” continuing to maintain that the policy saves lives.

Kelly’s six-fold increase in Stop and Frisk since returning as commissioner in 2002 is reminiscent of former police commissioner Howard Safir’s three-fold expansion of the Street Crime Unit, whose goal was also to get guns off the street. Safir’s expansion culminated in the fatal police shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed immigrant who Street Crime Unit cops mistakenly thought was reaching for a gun. One of Kelly’s first acts when he returned as commissioner was to abolish the unit.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that there was "overwhelming evidence" that Kelly’s expanded Stop and Frisk policy was unconstitutional and has led to thousands of illegal stops.

This week black leaders tramped off to Washington to pressure U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the program for targeting minorities.

Not that Holder is likely to do more than listen. President Obama seems uncomfortable taking on issues with racial overtones.

Until now, the city’s black political class has also seemed uncomfortable taking on Kelly over racial issues, such as Stop and Frisk.

That they haven’t is testament to the political skills of both Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Recall the words of Public Advocate Bill DiBlasio’s assistant, Kirsten John Foy, after he was handcuffed and detained during last year’s West Indian Parade. While charging the department with racism, he stated specifically that he was not accusing Kelly.

The most we’ve heard on Stop and Frisk from the former racial firebrand, Al Sharpton, is his promise to march in a Father’s Day protest. Quite a contrast from the Rev of old, who, following the Diallo shooting, led month-long demonstrations outside Police Plaza.

Still silent on Stop and Frisk is former Mayor David Dinkins, who first appointed Kelly police commissioner in 1992.

As criticism mounts, Bloomberg seems to be hedging on his and the police department’s oft-stated yet unsubstantiated claim that Stop and Frisk has saved 5,600 lives in the past decade.

Even Bloomberg, a moderate kind of guy, probably realizes is that the policy has ballooned out of all reasonable proportions, stopping a whopping 685,724 people last year.

Poor Mayor Mike. Having granted Kelly more power than any police commissioner in the history of the city, Bloomberg now seems unable to rein Kelly in while the mayor tries unconvincingly to defend the indefensible.

A national Muslim organization has filed a federal lawsuit, seeking to force the NYPD to end its spying on Muslims in New Jersey.

Unlike Stop and Frisk, their cause has failed to gain traction. Other than Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams, the city’s black officials, who should be natural allies, have said virtually nothing about the NYPD’s spying.

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.

One reason is that New Yorkers are still scared to death about another 9/ll.

As Kelly loves to reiterate, two of the recent plots against the city — the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and a subsequent conspiracy to blow up city landmarks — were hatched in New Jersey mosques.

A second reason is that the New Jersey attorney general has said that the NYPD, while infiltrating Muslim mosques, has broken no laws.

Third, it is clear there are radical Muslims out there — [Check out “Inspire,”an on-line screed] — whose designs on this country are frightening.

The question, however, is whether Kelly’s spying on Muslims in New Jersey and elsewhere has thwarted any terrorist plots.

Can Kelly or Paul Browne or anyone else explain why the NYPD’s Intelligence Division sent detectives to upstate Buffalo in 2008 and 2009 to spy on the that city’s Somali community by standing outside a mosque and writing down license plate numbers when the department’s own liaison in the area told them there were no indications of crime among the Somalis?

In New Jersey, according to the Intelligence Division’s 2006 Strategic Posture document, the NYPD listed 56 “ethnic hotspots,” broken down by country of origin, in Paterson, Edison and Jersey City; six “primary mosques” in Paterson and Union City and Jersey City; and mosques in Paterson and Jersey City where the NYPD placed two undercovers.

Other than offending many Muslims and creating years of distrust between Muslim communities and the police, what has any of this has accomplished?

The head of the FBI’s Newark office called the spying “counter-productive,” arguing that, to fight terrorism, law enforcement needs the support of Muslims communities.

Meanwhile, Mitchell Silber, the NYPD’s recently retired head of “Intel Analysis” is still yakking to CNN that the NYPD’s aggressive anti-terrorist stance “helped prevent” 14 plots against the city.

Note that Silber now says “helped prevent.” Until NYPD Confidential called him on it, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Browne had been claiming that the NYPD had “prevented” all 14.

In fact, the FBI was instrumental in stopping all but one of these plots.

That’s title of a wrenching self-published memoir by retired NYPD Captain William F. Dement, Jr. and his wife Barbara Mulcahy Dement. They detail the captain’s depression, pulmonary and respiratory illnesses as well as other ailments affecting his kidneys, heart and memory — which, he says, all developed from his year at Ground Zero and the Staten Island landfill.

His book comes as the department honors 13 cops on Medal Day who died from post 9/11 illnesses.

And, last week, the Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health accepted a federal panel’s recommendation to add 14 broad categories of cancer — covering 50 specific types — to the list of ailments covered by the fund for 9/11 first responders and other city workers and volunteers. The decision clears the way for thousands of Ground Zero first-responders to receive treatment and compensation.

NYPD 2020.
Commissioner Kelly has commissioned McKinsey consultants to determine what the NYPD should look like in 2020.

Maybe this is so that New Yorkers will forget what Kelly looked, or rather, sounded like in 2010 when he announced a blue-ribbon commission to determine whether the department systemically downgraded crimes statistics across the city. That report is now 711 days late.

After critics of Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-soda crusade took out a full-page ad in the New York Times, portraying him as a nanny in a dress, Mayor Mike whined: "Would I wear a dress like that? “No! It was one of the more unflattering dresses."

He didn’t object to wearing a dress — just not that dress.

Guess that’s not what they’re wearing in Bermuda these days.

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Copyright © 2012 Leonard Levitt