One Police Plaza

PBA, Kelly Failing To Communicate

September 3, 2002

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly did not attend last week's Patrolmen's Benevolent Association convention. He was not on the original guest list, although it's not clear if that was an oversight.

When PBA president Patrick Lynch got around to personally inviting the commissioner two weeks ago, Kelly said he had other plans.

Also unclear is whether Lynch has legitimate grievances with Kelly concerning access to him or whether he is posturing over the still-unresolved contract talks.

The knock on Kelly - not just from the union but from top cops - is that he is aloof, concerned foremost with his image and that despite his NYPD background, his confidants are not police officials. Not for nothing has One Police Plaza referred to perhaps Kelly's closest adviser Paul Browne as Deputy Commissioner of Image.

Lynch's spokesman, Al O'Leary, said part of the problem is a lack of communication.

"Pat has said many times there was better communication between the previous administration than there is today," O'Leary said. "If the commissioner wants to encourage a dialogue, he is in a position to do that. [Former Police Commissioner Bernard] Kerik took advantage of it. That doesn't seem to be the case today."

Referring to the contract and pay raises for officers, O'Leary added: "Unless he is pressed to speak up, you don't hear the police commissioner on behalf of the people that make this department work. You never hear him offering to stand up for his men and women."

Kelly's spokesman, Michael O'Looney, disputed that last week. "Kelly's door is always open to Pat. They talk all the time."

O'Looney added: "Kelly has consistently said that police officers deserve a substantial raise."

Flipping Al-Qaida. A top police official says NYPD detectives have been instrumental in eliciting information from al-Qaida prisoners in Afghanistan and in Cuba. The official said that the detectives - working in teams of four with their FBI counterparts in the Joint Terrorism Task Force - are credited by senior FBI officials with having turned a number of al-Qaida operatives in debriefing sessions in Kandahar and Guantanamo Bay.

"It's been a significant success story," said the police official who asked for anonymity, "and senior FBI officials acknowledge it. They [the NYPD detectives] have the ability to get people to flip. They talk to people over a four-to-five-day period of time with very positive results."

The official said that the detectives are flown in, in groups of 30 to 40 at a time and spend four or five days debriefing prisoners.

"These guys are mature and seasoned guys. Some are in their 50s. They have terrific interpersonal skills. They are a tremendous resource."

The official said that the FBI "is good at things like white-collar crime that the NYPD is not so good at. But the FBI is not a people organization. What they [the NYPD] excel in are people skills. You take someone whose first job is on a foot post interacting with all sorts of people. These guys are very good street detectives. The FBI would be the first to agree."

No one from the NYPD would talk on the record for this article.

Through a spokesman, Kevin Donovan, who heads the FBI's New York office, said detectives "have done a terrific job of eliciting valuable information" - along with the FBI.

The End of Camelot. Some say the Bill Bratton era ended six years ago when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani fired him. Others say it had ended the year before when Giuliani decimated the Police Department's Public Information Office after Giuliani's counsel Dennison Young forced the resignation of Bratton's spokesman, John Miller. Still others feel the end only happened with the death last year of Bratton's crime strategist, Jack Maple.

But if there is any doubt that Bratton's Camelot lives no more, that ended last week with the announcement that Bratton's first deputy, John Timoney, had entered the Los Angeles police commissioner sweepstakes - against Bratton.

Timoney's name surfaced after both he and Bratton made the first cut, winnowing the list of candidates to 13. All the others - some of whom sound like the obligatory political choices: i.e., gay, female, Hispanic, blah, blah, blah - have past or present LAPD credentials.

Bratton, who has been bored in the private sector since leaving government, played down any rivalry between him and Timoney. "This is not a competition as such. I encouraged John," he said.

Asked to elaborate, he said, "I encouraged him in terms of that I let him know I was applying."

Timoney, who since leaving as police commissioner of Philadelphia for the private sector, where he seems equally bored, said: "The LAPD is now the biggest challenge in all of law enforcement. Who can resist a challenge?"

©2002 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.