One Police Plaza

The NYPD's Reward, and Price, for Loyalty

July 31, 2006

Today as you read this column, Michael Collins — who, with recently retired chief Thomas Fahey, has been the face of the New York City police department for more than a decade — will be promoted to Assistant Chief.

Not only that but Collins will remain the commanding officer of DCPI, as the department’s Office of Public Information is known.

Collins’ promotion [in the NYPD, Assistant Chief is a rank above Deputy Chief and one below its three-star super-chiefs] is part morality tale, part a reflection of the vicissitudes of NYPD politics.

His remaining at DCPI reflects the importance Police Commissioner Ray Kelly attaches to public relations — i.e., his image.

[Just think. Two decades ago, before crime and terrorism became political issues, DCPI was commanded by a captain.]

Like Fahey, Collins bleeds NYPD blue. No matter how friendly or forthcoming he may appear to reporters, there is no question where his loyalty lies — to the police department.

When Chief of Detectives William Allee retired in 2003 and sought to disinvite this reporter to his retirement dinner, it was to Collins that Allee turned.

“The former chief of detectives asked me to tell you not to attend his dinner," Collins said, although Newsday [where Your Humble Servant then hung his hat] had purchased a $125 ticket.

"The chief says you might make some people uncomfortable," Collins added by way of explanation.

Like Fahey, Collins has also suffered for his loyalty to the department.

The 6-foot-five-inch Collins, 50, joined DCPI under former Commissioner Howard Safir in 1996. He was a natural — laid-back, savvy, wry, and self-schooled. He received little help from his civilian boss, Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Marilyn Mode, Safir’s longtime friend, who was herself struggling in her position.

But with Safir’s deliberate misleading of the media or worse, distrust between him and reporters grew so intense that something had to give. Since Mode was Safir’s longtime friend, that something was Collins.

Following DCPI’s annual Christmas party in 1999 — which Collins hosted and which virtually the city’s entire press corps attended [along with two of Collins’ brothers, who are even larger than he] Collins was sacked. Though his body language reflected his shock and hurt, he never uttered a word of complaint. He never bad-mouthed Mode or anyone else in the department.

Instead, he moved to Manhattan Detectives, replaced at DCPI by Fahey, who had commanded the office under Safir’s predecessor, William Bratton. Fahey himself had been sacked when then Mayor Rudolph Giuliani fired Fahey’s civilian boss, John Miller, presumably because Bratton’s press was better than his.

When Bernard Kerik succeeded Safir, Kerik promoted Fahey to Assistant Chief. Then, after an abortive attempt to have him replace Allee as Chief of Detectives, which Giuliani vetoed, Kerik did the next best thing by Fahey, making him Chief of Manhattan Detectives.

When Kelly returned as police commissioner in 2002, he turned to Collins — not Fahey — to head DCPI. when Allee retired the following year, Kelly refused to promote Fahey to Chief of Detectives or to any other spot, presumably because of his closeness to Kerik.

Meanwhile, under Kelly’s first Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Michael O’Looney, Collins seemed his old self, serving as the police reporters’ go-to guy. But when Kelly’s longtime factotum Paul Browne succeeded O’Looney, Collins’ large shadow shrank.

As a member of DCPI put it, “The focus changed. It was a whole different workload. E-mails became more important. There was a lot more national and international coverage that took away from the influence of the in-house police reporters.”

A month ago, Collins met with Kelly but the substance of their meeting is unknown. “Since then,” says a DCPI staffer, “he has been spending lots of time in Browne’s office. Until then, he and Browne rarely talked.”

Pete and Mike. Then, there is Collins’ friendship with Lieut. Pete Martin, who also works at DCPI.

At 2:30 P.M., on Oct. 10, 2000, when Collins and Martin were assigned to Manhattan Detectives, they were in a department car that was rear-ended at a light outside 909 Third Avenue at 55th Street by Jaswinder Singh of 86-41 139th St., Jamaica. Collins filed a notice of claim for $2 million for unspecified injuries. Martin did the same. Neither, however, followed through with a law suit, according to the Comptroller’s office.

At 1 A.M. on Sept 3, 2004, during the Republican National Convention, outside Madison Square Garden at 8th Avenue and 34th Street, Collins suffered a trip and fall injury. “Aided was on duty and injured while performing assigned duties,” the line-of-duty injury report reads. “Recommended LOD.”[LOD stands for Line of Duty Disability, which if approved, results in a three-quarters, tax-free pension.]

Sole witness to Collins’ trip and fall: Lieut. Pete Martin.

NYPD Blue [Con’t] Turns out the personal indiscretions of the recently retired chief who impregnated his detective sergeant girlfriend weren’t merely personal. They were also job-related.

A reader writes that the detective sergeant, who is based in Queens, visited the chief at his office in Manhattan two to three times a week.

“RDO [Regular Day Off] overtime was given to supervisors fairly in each borough,” he writes. “She was the only detective sergeant that would fly in from an outer borough and be assigned to TCD [Traffic Control Division] for RDO overtime and she would not stand a traffic post like other sergeants but would ride around with [the chief] and his lieutenant in [the chief’s] department SUV while others looked on in disgust.”

Lil. This column regrets to report the death on June 16 of Lil, the wee white dog of former deputy commissioner Marilyn Mode.

A mix of Bichon and Wheaten, Lil had been rescued by Mode from a Canoga Park, Cal. dog pound. She was either 14- or 15-years-old and is believed to have suffered a brain tumor, Mode said. Mode added that Lil loved New York, Central Park in particular.