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Thee Rant Turns Ugly

September 3, 2012

Some anti-Semitic postings have recently appeared on Thee Rant, a web-site forum of police candor that is also home to scoundrels and malcontents.

The postings follow the firing last June of NYPD recruit Fishel Litzman, a Hasidic Jew who refused to trim his beard as NYPD rules require.

Here are some of them:

“More than just the beard. Add to it the high water pants, ring around the collar shirt, white socks , pee stains, broken fly and 5 dog-eared bank books in his pocket, plus green teeth and wax in his ears.”

“Go back to the diamond district, Moishe, and leave the policing to people who can work on a Friday night.”

“The ‘chosen people’ have always been ‘more equal than others.’”

“Let him go, he would have been useless on patrol, just waiting until he joins the other yid in community affairs.”

Cops, like anyone else, should be free to express themselves. They are often so constricted by the department that Thee Rant is often their only outlet. That’s good, until it isn’t.

Until it turns into stereotypical innuendos, to say nothing of downright offensiveness, reflecting the NYPD of yesteryear: “the other yid in community affairs.”

Were these postings by cops? If so, they might expect trouble from the department.

Thankfully, the department can’t shut down the website. Thankfully, it can discipline officers for posting messages that affect job performance as well as The Job itself.

That’s what happened after cops posted comments on Facebook, calling last year’s revelers at the West Indian American Day parade “savages” and “animals.” One posting said, “Let them kill each other.”

Recently, the department announced it had disciplined 17 employees for those comments. Four of the 17 are police officers who will be tried departmentally on charges of “conduct prejudicial to the good order of the Police Department.”

“The department has given out little information,” says Chris Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “But dismissal is a possible outcome.”

MONEY CAN TALK. Who is NYPD employee Jessica Tisch? And how is she able to do what is forbidden to such senior police officials as Chief of Department Joe Esposito, Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski, Chief of Internal Affairs Charlie Campisi and First Deputy Commissioner Raphael Pinero: talk to the media?

Maybe the answer is that money talks.

Ms. Tisch comes from a rich and socially prominent New York family. Her grandfather was Laurence Tisch, owner of a hotel empire, co-chairman of the Loews movie chain, CEO of CBS, Chairman of the Board of NYU and God knows what else. Her mother, Meryl Tisch, is friends with Mayor Bloomberg. She herself is said to be friends with Emma, one of Mayor Bloomberg’s daughters.

Ms. Tisch, who is in her early 30s, is also the NYPD’s Director of Planning and Policy in the NYPD’s Counter-Terrorism Division, one of five civilian directors, operating under the civilian Deputy Commissioner Richard Daddario.

So far as is known, she does not have a background in law enforcement. Rather, she is a graduate of Harvard College and of its law and business schools.

She is another example of how Kelly empowers civilians at the expense of NYPD chiefs and inspectors.

The head of the Counter-Terrorism Division, Richard Daddario, is a civilian. His Directors of Intelligence Analysis, Fiscal Affairs, Planning and Policy and Counter-Terrorism programs are all civilians. [Also see NYPD Confidential, Feb. 6, 2012 on Kelly’s appointment of Arnold Wechsler, an obscure, though highly competent civilian, as Deputy Commissioner of Personnel, a job traditionally held by a three-star chief.]

Ms. Tisch first came to this reporter’s notice last year, when she appeared with Kelly on CBS’s 60 Minutes. That was the program in which Kelly maintained the NYPD had the capacity to shoot down an aircraft over the city. To some, Kelly’s comment indicated that his decade as commissioner had left him slightly unhinged.

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And there was Ms. Tisch, describing on national television the super-secret surveillance spy cameras that the NYPD has installed in the Wall Street area. Known as the Domain Awareness System and/or the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, it allows police to monitor thousands of surveillance cameras across the city. Ms. Tisch herself reportedly devised its privacy guidelines.

CBS interviewer Scott Pelly: Tisch showed us how the system can search for a suspicious person based on a description — a red shirt for example.

Tisch: And I can call up in real time all instances where a camera caught someone wearing a red shirt.

Pelley: So the computer looks essentially through all the video, finds the red shirts and puts it together for you.

Tisch: Video canvasses that used to take days and weeks to do, you’ll now be able to do with the snap of a finger.

She did not return a telephone call from NYPD Confidential. Police spokesman Paul Browne did not return an email.

Ray Kelly did last Thursday what police commissioners often do when it comes to attending the PBA’s annual convention. He stayed as far away as possible.

Kelly also ensured that his chiefs would not attend by scheduling a promotion ceremony — usually held on Fridays — on the Thursday of the convention. [Whether he pushed the ceremony up a day to conflict with the convention or because of the Labor Day weekend holiday is unclear.]

Whatever his reason, the top police official in attendance was a nonentity: Deputy Commissioner of Labor Relations John Beirne.

Kelly’s dis of the convention, while perhaps more pronounced than other commissioners’, is in keeping with NYPD tradition.

“The police commissioner’s attendance at the PBA convention is spotty at best,” says a former top NYPD official. “Most commissioners attend one convention, then try to avoid them.”

This was certainly true in the past when the convention was a wild and wooly affair and the union itself was but a step away from being considered an organized crime entity.

In one famed instance, the convention’s frat-house atmosphere so infected Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward in 1984 that he urinated on the side of the police helicopter on which he was about to depart.

In another, delegates showed the film “Zulu,” in which South African warriors attacked a contingent of Brits. As the Brits fought them off, union members began singing, “I Love New York.”

Current president Pat Lynch has cleansed the union of its worst excesses. He has also made the convention a more sedate affair. Delegates and trustees now wear ties and jackets.

As for Kelly, he attended the convention in his first term as police commissioner two decades ago. Since returning as commissioner in 2002, he has appeared only once.

His introduction was met with a smattering of boos that emanated from a trustee’s table and he never returned.

SEEN AT THE CONVENTION: Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. At 80, the judge is still out there. The question is why?

ALSO SEEN: Honorary union delegate Larry Celona, whose day job is a police reporter for the New York Post. Although 30 pounds slimmer, his personality hasn’t gotten any lighter.

UNSEEN: The Prince of Buffland, Master Reggie Ward, who heads the New York Law Enforcement Foundation, which he runs from his home on Park Avenue and where he answers the phone, “Commissioner Ward.”

Even in his absence, his foundation managed to turn over a $12,000 check to the union.

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Copyright © 2012 Leonard Levitt