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The NYPD Bigs' Disconnect

November 12, 2018

What’s with Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea and Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Phil Walzak? They don’t seem to be communicating.

Take the drug-overdose death of Lyric McHenry, the pregnant daughter of movie producer Doug McHenry, whose body was found in the Bronx on Aug. 14. Although detectives arrested a man on Oct. 15 and charged him with the illegal dumping of her body so people would not know where she overdosed, they never notified the department’s Public Information Office, known as DCPI.

Instead, the Post broke the story of the arrest 15 days later, citing “newly revealed court papers.” The NYPD did not announce the arrest.

After Susan Trott, a 70-year advertising executive, was found murdered in her apartment on Oct. 21, reporters repeatedly asked for updates: specifically whether detectives had made an arrest. They were continually told the case was “under investigation.”

Citing these and other cases, reporters at Police Plaza, who work on the second floor in what is known as The Shack, met with Walzak on Oct. 31 to complain that the Detective Bureau is not providing timely information on investigations and arrests.

Moments after the reporters returned to their offices, they received a tweet from Shea. “With recognition to the skill and tireless efforts of the @NYPD24Pct Detective Sqd, Manhattan North Homicide Sqd, the NYPD Crime Scene Unit & the @manhattan DA, I’m pleased to announce an arrest has been made in the murder of Susan Trott.” DCPI had not been told of the arrest.

Tina Moore, the New York Post’s bureau chief, responded to Shea’s tweet with her own tweet, “Nice end run.”

So is Shea end running around DCPI? “There’s a fundamental problem,” says an insider. “These are not secrets he’s holding back. These are basic facts.”

This ill-conceived end run matters because, when the police department provides little or no official information, media outlets, relying on their own sources, can get it wrong.

Police insiders offer no definitive answer to the disconnect. Both Walzak, who was Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary and ran the 2013 mayoral campaign, and Shea, who performed masterfully in his last positon as chief of crime strategies, have been in their current positions only seven months. Maybe this is part of their learning curve.

Walzak declined to speak publicly about the situation, Shea did not return a phone call.

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialBut what exactly is the problem? Some say Shea has an inner distrust of the media, as do his two subordinates, Deputy Chief Paul Deentremont and Lieu. Juan Duque. But that’s personalities. More common speculation has to do with the department’s internal dynamics and institutional distrust of outsiders, including City Hall. Some top brass view Walzak as representing a mayor they hold in low regard.

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittYet former DCPIs who came from City Hall have managed quite well inside the department. Tom Kelly, who replaced John Miller after Mayor Rudy Giuliani fired him to retaliate against Bill Bratton, maneuvered successfully between the interests of the mayor and the police commissioner. Alice T. McGillion, the longtime NYPD spokesperson under Mayor Ed Koch, became a force for transparency within the department. She also knew she could count on the police commissioner to back her if there was a problem with a top chief such as Shea.

It’s not clear whether Walzak, who colleagues describe as smart, personable and hardworking, feels he has such backing as he lacks long-term relationships within the department. Shea, on the other hand, is close to Commissioner Jim O’Neill.

THE FEDS’ DIRTY POOL? OR MARILYN, HOW COULD YOU? Det. Marilyn Ozuna, secretary to former Chief of Department Phil Banks, testified at the corruption trial of Dept. Inspector James Grant and Hasidic fixer Jeremy Reichberg that Banks cursed her for asking why Reichberg and his fixer pal Jonah Rechnitz were continually in his office.

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialShe also described how an email from Rechnitz, who is now a government witness, was sent to Banks’s office with two Nets basketball tickets, valued at $3,000.

But according to a person in Banks’s office, those two Nets tickets were emailed not to Banks but to Ozuna for her and her son. And that in his email, Rechnitz wrote, “Marilyn, Enjoy the game.”

According to this person, Banks in fact did curse Ozuna. But it wasn’t because she asked about Rechnitz and Reichberg. It was for ordering a diamond bracelet from Rechnitz for her son, which Banks prevented her from accepting.

So why did Ozuna testify as she did? Did the feds become aware of those two Nets tickets and Ozuna’s email exchange with Rechnitz in which she thanked him for the tickets and added that she and her son “enjoyed the game?”

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