One Police Plaza

Those Playboy Nudes and Bill Bratton

January 21, 2008

If you can get past those centerfold nudes, check out the cover story in this month’s Playboy, “The Country’s Smartest Cop.” Who is that? Why, none other than former NYPD Commissioner and current LAPD Chief, Bill Bratton.

Although it’s a puff piece, the article provides intriguing details that could affect the future — his and his rival’s, current NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Specifically, the article carries quotes from Bratton, gushing over his relationship with Bill and Hillary Clinton. [Sounds like someone lining up his next gig.]

After recalling that he worked for Hillary in her Senate race against Rudy Giuliani, Bratton says, “I’m a big fan of President Clinton and Hillary. They’ve done wonderful things. Bill Clinton did more about crime during the 1990s than any other president in history.”

Pointing to the walls of his office, Bratton says, “You can see pictures of him and me all over here.”

Is it any wonder, says the article, that Bratton is rumored to be on the short list to head the Department of Homeland Security or the FBI in a Hillary Clinton administration?

Which leads to the Kelly question. If Bratton joins a Clinton administration, what of Kelly? Remember, he, too, worked for Bill Clinton in the 1990s, as Under Secretary of the Treasury and then as Commissioner of Customs. He, too, has been mentioned as a candidate to head Homeland Security or the FBI.

But it’s not clear whether Hillary’s administration, or anyone else’s, can accommodate both him and Bratton, who have been going at each other for the past 15 years.

It began in the early 1990s when Kelly served as First Deputy Police Commissioner under Mayor David Dinkins and Bratton headed the Transit Police. Their first public spat was over the use of .9-millimeter weapons. Bratton supported them, wanting the extra fire power against perps. Kelly opposed them, believing they were too dangerous.

When Kelly became police commissioner in 1992, beating Bratton out for the job, the first thing he did was to flip-flop over the .9 millimeters and authorize their use.

When Bratton succeeded him as police commissioner in 1994, both men took credit for ridding the city of squeegee-men in particular and crime in general. Bratton won that battle in the court of public opinion.

Since returning as police commissioner in 2002, Kelly has gone out of his way to dis Bratton, from not taking his phone calls to dropping out of the Manhattan Institute’s 9/11 anti-terrorism seminar in 2005 at the last minute when he learned Bratton was participating, then holding a rival seminar the same day at Police Plaza.

But how strong is the Bratton-Clinton bond? It may depend on the length of the Clintons’ memories or on their powers of forgiveness. Bratton’s pictures of Bill Clinton on his office wall notwithstanding, he snubbed President Clinton in 1994 when Clinton visited a Brooklyn precinct and, apparently on Giuliani’s orders, said he was too busy walking his dog to accompany the president. His actions prompted the Great James Breslin to promise to forever dub Bratton “Commissioner Alpo.”

On the other hand, both Bratton and Kelly may have other plans that do not involve the Clintons. Kelly may run for mayor. As for Bratton, he has said in the past that he likes to keep his options open.

In fact, in the Playboy article, he sounded forgiving towards Rudy Giuliani, who, as all the world knows, fired Bratton in 1996 and who, as the article put it, “twice made pilgrimages to L.A. last year in thinly veiled attempts to neutralize Bratton.”

“He talked about how he felt he was a changed person, having survived prostate cancer and 9/11, and since having a new wife,” the article quotes Bratton saying of him. “He didn’t seem like the angry, combative, confrontational man he once presented himself to be.”

Now that sounds like Bratton is keeping all his options open.

That Intel Affair. Here’s an e-mail about Intel’s cancelled Christmas party, which was held last week because not enough people signed up for the original one.

“I didn't make the party. The guys said it was the usual, too crowded, food sucked… I went to a more meaningful party, the 10-13 party for Det. Richards of the Bomb Squad who has cancer, which was held at Floyd Bennett Field. That was another issue with the Intel Party. They booked it the same day as a benefit party for a sick detective. The 13 party was booked months in advance and was advertised just as long. And guys in Intel wonder why the rest of the job looks at them like asses.”

Crooked Cops of the Week. Two city narcotics officers were arrested and suspended from the force last week after they rewarded their informant with seized cash and drugs. It is yet another black eye of the corruption-plagued Brooklyn South narcotics unit.

Sgt. Michael R. Arenella, a member of the NYPD since 1999, and Officer Jerry Bowens, a city cop since 1995, were suspended without pay.

They were arrested Friday on a half-dozen felony and misdemeanor charges, including larceny, drug sale, falsifying a report and official misconduct.

They join NYPD sergeant Roosevelt Green, charged in federal court on Long Island last week with using a police computer to run license plate checks for an alleged drug king in exchange for a pair of sneakers.

That brings to nearly two dozen the number of officers arrested in drug-related crimes over the past year.

Someday, in the not too distant future, someone is going to connect those dots and realize that the NYPD has a corruption problem. For better or worse, this discovery won’t be made under the image-conscious Commissioner Kelly.

Leonard Levitt will be on vacation next week, January 28.