One Police Plaza

Kelly and Bloomberg: Dispute or Charade?

May 28, 2007

Are Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg in dispute over the city’s labor practice of “pattern bargaining,” or is theirs an orchestrated charade?

In an extraordinary moment at a city council hearing this week, Kelly suggested the city end its most cherished, century-old labor practice — through which it has kept its municipal unions hitched to each other by forcing them all to accept similar contract terms.

Bloomberg immediately scotched Kelly’s idea.

Undeterred, Kelly days later allowed the NYPD’s Chief of Personnel Rafael Pineiro to announce that the next recruiting class numbered 800 — two-thirds short of the department’s goal of 2,400 officers.

Everyone in New York City agrees on the reason for this shortfall: the failure of the city and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association to come to a contract agreement. The result was an arbitration panel that cut rookie salaries 27 per cent to $25,100.

Unless the stalemate is resolved in a new contract, Pineiro said, the following class will be even smaller.

Would Pineiro — who hasn’t been seen or heard from in years — have made such remarks without Kelly’s blessing? Any more than Kelly would have called for an end to pattern bargaining without the mayor’s blessing?

Those who know Kelly say he is too canny and disciplined to publicly disagree with the mayor — who has literally allowed him to run the department with no accountability — unless the disagreement is pre-arranged.

(The sole exception has been Kelly’s criticism of Rudy Giuliani for his role in 9/11, which Bloomberg also immediately scotched. But considering Bloomberg’s apparent presidential ambitions, one might dare to think that even Kelly’s criticism of Rudy was pre-arranged.)

So why is Kelly doing this? Is he trying to curry favor with the police unions because — guess what? — he really may want to run for mayor? Which he cannot do without Bloomberg’s backing, financial and otherwise.

Is he protecting his legacy, should crime spike, by pointing to the lack of cops — and not the lack of his own policies?

Finally, there are whispers Bloomberg may offer a rookie bonus so that the mayor, not Lynch, gets the credit, because the bonus would be paid outside the collective bargaining process.

That means the PBA will have to sue to rescind it. Think about that: the PBA suing the city to take money out of cops’ pockets. If that doesn’t put PBA President Pat Lynch behind the eight-ball, what will?

Life Is Unfair Department.
Now, a personal example to show the randomness in pay scale differences between city cops and their Long Island brethren, who earn nearly twice as much.

In 1983, New York Newsday opened its police bureau at One Police Plaza. The year before — over this same Memorial Day weekend — five black men from Brooklyn drove out to Long Island, and in two separate incidents — first, in a diner in Old Westbury, second, inside a home in Plainview — raped and terrorized a score of women at gun-point as their husbands and boyfriends stood helplessly by.

The men were captured and, in response to this true suburban nightmare, Newsday began a year-long investigation into crime on Long Island. When the project was ready, the editors sought to include a comparable story on crime in New York City.

With the assistance of Inspector Robert Burke of the Public Information Office, Lieut. Herbie Hohmann, Det. Frank Shea, and Your Humble Servant spent a revelatory week in the 75th precinct in Brownsville/ East New York. It turned out there was more crime in that precinct in one month than there was on Long Island for the entire year.

Unjustified? Last week, the city agreed to pay $2 million to the parents of Timothy Stansbury, an unarmed black teenager shot three years ago in the middle of the night on the rooftop of his Brooklyn housing project by police officer Richard Neri.

Just hours after the shooting, before the department had completed its investigation, Kelly said publicly that Neri’s shooting appeared to be “unjustified.”

While every editorial writer in the city fell all over himself, praising Kelly for his forthrightness, every law enforcement official in the city and beyond said Kelly had pre-judged the case. The PBA issued Kelly vote of no confidence.

A Brooklyn grand jury ruled the shooting accidental and did not indict Neri, who was subsequently elected a PBA delegate. He now works in the Property Clerk’s office without a gun.

In last week’s $2 million settlement, Neri was not obliged to pay anything, a further indication that, at least legally, he bore no responsibility.

As for Kelly, he has never again used the term “unjustified” in a fatal shooting – not even after the 50-bullet barrage that killed Sean Bell.

The Departing Dades. Nobody seemed more pleased at Tommy Dades’s sudden departure from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office than the Internal Affairs Bureau’s Group 33, which has been investigating Dades’s fatal beating of his buddy Jimmy Coletta last December.

Although witnesses said Dades stomped Coletta, an ex-heroin addict, while he was on the ground and although the medical examiner ruled Coletta’s death a homicide,

Dades was not indicted. A Staten Island grand jury apparently believed he had acted in self-defense as Coletta was with a group of men — two of whom were disgraced ex-cops — who had reportedly threatened Dades.

Kelly ordered IAB to conduct an investigation, which was separate from the Staten Island District Attorney’s.

But when IAB attempted to question Dades’s boss, Brooklyn ADA Mike Vecchione, who had testified on Dades’s behalf before the S.I. grand jury — Vecchione refused to cooperate.

According to a law enforcement source familiar with the case, Vecchione told IAB Captain Dan Carione, “I don’t report to you guys and I don’t have to talk to you.”

How Dades’s departure will affect the Brooklyn District Attorney’s case against indicted ex-FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio, who is accused of being a mole for the mob, remains to be seen. Dades played a key role in that investigation.

Dades gave no specific reason for his departure, telling Gangland’s Jerry Capeci only that he was “packing it in.”

DA spokesman Jerry Schmetterer said Dades had “nothing to pack it in from as he works as a consultant and is paid on a case by case basis.

“As of this moment he is not being paid by the DA’s office,” Schmetterer added. “It’s a strange thing. It’s a self-imposed resignation, if true. He hasn’t indicated to us there is any problem. We haven’t indicated to him we no longer want him to work here.”

And Vecchione, who Schmetterer confirmed had refused to cooperate with IAB?

Said Schmetterer: “He’s not packing it in.”