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Port Authority Police: More Than Joe Dunne

October 29, 2012

There is more than one story-line to the appointment of former NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Joe Dunne to the newly created position of Chief Security Officer of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

There’s law enforcement rivalry. There’s Port Authority politics. There’s politics that goes beyond the Port Authority. And at the heart of it all is a mystery.

Dunne, a 32-year NYPD veteran, was appointed last week to take over all the Port Authority’s security and public safety issues, including its 1,700-man police department. [PAPD]

His job supersedes that of the current PAPD head, Superintendent Michael Fedorko, who’s on the ropes over his handling of an officer cheating scandal. Sources say he’ll depart.

With his appointment, Dunne becomes a visible, high-profile candidate to succeed Ray Kelly as NYPD Commissioner when Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s term expires in 2013.

Dunne’s greatest strength in that regard is that, like Kelly, he commands the respect of the rank and file. Unlike Kelly, he is eminently likeable.

Anyone who attended his swearing in as Chief of Department in 1999 will recall how the audience — comprised of police officers and civilians, black and white — broke into spontaneous, full-throated applause as Dunne’s name was announced and he strode to the podium.

In 2000, after Mayor Rudy Giuliani passed him over as police commissioner for Bernie Kerik — a decision which Rudy will, no doubt, kick himself for into old age — Dunne accepted a promotion to First Deputy.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed,” Dunne said at the time. “But I’m a cop. I would have stayed on if they made me dog-catcher.”

Some dog-catcher. A year later, on 9/11, while nursing a torn Achilles tendon, he was, shortly after the planes struck the Twin Towers, hobbling around Ground Zero on crutches.

The Port Authority’s press release announcing his appointment cited praise from former NYPD commissioner, Bill Bratton, despite Bratton’s own ambitions to return as NYPD commissioner. That was a classy move.

Kelly, on the other hand, has said nothing.

For reasons best known to himself, he has for the past decade viewed Dunne as an enemy.

After Kelly returned as commissioner in 2002, he sabotaged Dunne’s attempt to land a top law enforcement position with the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Officials in Cuomo’s administration may have listened to Kelly then. But they are apparently not listening now.

Law enforcement sources say Cuomo’s support was crucial for Dunne’s appointment with the Port Authority.

In the Port Authority’s convoluted world, politics rules. Both Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have veto power over Port Authority appointments.

Ten years ago, when he was at the height of his influence, Kelly successfully lobbied New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey to appoint Kelly’s friend, retired NYPD Inspector Charlie DiRienzo, to head the Port Authority Police. Poor Charlie. He lasted only two years before Kelly had to take him back as Deputy Commissioner of Administration, a spot reserved for a friend of the commissioner. [See NYPD Confidential Apr. 2, 2004.]

Dunne’s job opened up after the Authority hired a private security firm, headed by former Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff, to study its numerous terrorism-related security lapses.

The Authority sole-sourced the contract to Chertoff because its initial price tag was under $500,000. As might have been predicted, overruns brought it in at over a million. So much for sole-sourcing.

The study was conducted by, of all people, our old friend, Richard Falkenrath, the NYPD’s former Deputy Commissioner of Counter-Terrorism.

As readers of this column may recall, upon joining the NYPD in 2007, Falkenrath insisted that the department provide him with two top-of-the-line cars and two department chauffeurs, then took off on a first-class, Far East, supposedly terrorism-related junket. The cars, drivers and junket were all paid for by city tax-payers. [See NYPD Confidential Feb. 12, 2007 and Feb. 19, 2007.]

Now here is where things get interesting. Here is where the mystery begins.

Over 100 people applied for Dunne’s job. But Dunne wasn’t one of them.

“He [Dunne] wasn’t part of the process,” said a person familiar with his hiring.

Falkenrath helped whittle the list down to two people. Both were law enforcement heavyweights with terrorist-fighting credentials that, at least on paper, Dunne lacks.

The two were NYPD Assistant Chief Mike Tiffany and the former head of the FBI’s New York office, Pat D’Amuro.

Tiffany was commanding officer of the NYPD’s Intelligence Division under Deputy Commissioner David Cohen.

Sources say his chances were doomed from the start for reasons having nothing to do with his credentials or his abilities.

One was that both Cuomo and Christie sought to pay back Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the NYPD’s nominal boss, for limiting their roles at last year’s 10th anniversary 9/11 memorial service.

In addition, Christie remains furious at Cohen and Kelly over the NYPD’s covert spying across New Jersey without informing Jersey officials.

Port Authority officials are also no fans of Kelly, and not just because of Charlie DiRienzo.

Kelly has repeatedly squared off against the Port Authority Police — most notably in 2006 when he stationed NYPD cops outside the entrances to Ground Zero, which the PAPD regards as an iconic part of its domain. [The PAPD lost 37 officers on 9/11, nearly double the number of NYPD cops.]

For months, NYDP patrol cars sat outside Ground Zero’s locked gates. Port Authority cops sat just inside, facing each other in a kind of urban Mexican stand-off.

D’Amuro, too, in 2004, had a dust-up with Kelly over a terror-related incident.

Following the capture of the radical Muslim preacher, Hamza Al Masri, in London by the Joint [FBI and NYPD] Terrorist Task Force, Kelly held a separate news conference to praise an NYPD detective without citing his FBI counterparts. Kelly’s naming the detective panicked his wife into calling police headquarters, leading to the detective’s recall from London.

D’Amuro then issued a memo critical of Kelly, which he leaked to the media, stating, “This not how we do business.”

Leaving the Bureau, D’Amuro went to work for Giuliani Partners.

Is it a law enforcement coincidence that, after publicly dissing Kelly, D’Amuro took up with Rudy, who had fired Kelly as police commissioner in 1993 when Rudy became mayor and whom Kelly has never forgiven?

Sources say Giuliani lobbied both Cuomo and Christie for D’Amuro.

You might think that Giuliani and Christie — both Republicans, both former United States Attorneys — were professional and ideological soul mates.

You might also think that Cuomo owed Giuliani for his having bucked his own Republican party in 1994 to support Andrew’s pop Mario for a fourth term for governor. [Mario lost to George Pataki.]

But D’Amuro didn’t get the job at the Port Authority. Dunne did. That’s the mystery.

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Copyright © 2012 Leonard Levitt