One Police Plaza

Mayor Mike: Poor Little Rich Boy

June 23, 2008

Pity Michael Bloomberg. Despite being a billionaire and being elected to two terms as New York City’s mayor, he doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up.

He considered running for President. He failed. He has tried to stoke interest as someone’s vice president. He seems to be failing there. He inquired about ending the city’s two-term limit to allow him another four years at City Hall. The public wasn’t buying. His name has been out there for governor but so has Rudy Giuliani’s. Mayor Mike may fear squaring off against the former mayor, a scrapper far tougher than Mark Green or Freddy Ferrer.

Most recently, Bloomberg’s been down in Florida, assuring Jewish voters that presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is not anti-Israel. No doubt, he’ll soon turn up with Republican candidate John McCain. The Post’s editorial page called him, “Mayor Look-At-Me.”

So how does Bloomberg’s fear of mid-life, lame-duck status impact on the police department, in particular its commissioner Ray Kelly, who’s been talked up as a mayoral candidate? Well, our self-absorbed mayor has said nary a supportive word for Kelly lately. [If he has, we missed it.]

Contrast Bloomberg’s silence now with his constant praise for Kelly in his first term. Back then, the mayor was forever touting Kelly, whose endorsement helped elect him.

Come to think of it, Giuliani also endorsed Bloomberg. His endorsement was even more important than Kelly’s. But when Giuliani ran for president, where was the mayor? He failed to support Rudy publicly.

That’s the thing with billionaires. Their money allows them shorter memories than ordinary folk.

As the late, great NYPD philosopher Jack Maple might have said: “How sad!”

The Numbers. Bloomberg’s polling numbers remain sky high in New York City, although few can cite a single overriding achievement.

If there is one, it’s the performance of the police department under Kelly. In his six years as commissioner, crime has continued to fall. [At least that’s what he tells us.] Last year, homicides reached a 40-year low, although there’s a 5 per cent spike so far in 2008.

Furthermore, there’s been no terrorist attack. [Forget the guy on the bicycle who exploded a small bomb at a Times Square recruiting station and who is suspected of two other blasts, none of which caused loss of life.]

Of course, there hasn’t been a terrorist attack anyplace else on U.S. turf since 9/11 either.

Even in the wake of the 50-shot barrage of police bullets that killed the unarmed Sean Bell in November, 2006, Bloomberg’s polling numbers remain high. So how does he do it?

In contrast to Giuliani, his greatest asset seems to be in combining sincerity with compassion. Just recall his first reaction to the Bell shooting: “inexplicable and unacceptable.” That’s sincerity.

The city’s highest elected black official, Comptroller William Thompson, echoed the feelings of many when he contrasted Giuliani’s iron fist with Bloomberg’s kumbaya. Said Thompson: “Just the simple fact of meeting or discussion or expressing concern and outrage on the part of this administration was different.” That’s compassion.

Kelly’s polling numbers also remain high, even after the Bell shooting. He maintains his popularity in a different manner, with a time-tested method that public relations experts call “spin.”

After the Bell shooting, he announced a series of bold-sounding reforms. They were actually diversions that did not address the underlying problems of police oversight and training that led to Bell’s killing and the wounding of his two friends.

His first move was to order breathalyzer tests for any cop who fires his weapon and hits someone. Well, in the Bell shooting, at least one undercover who fired at the unarmed Bell and his friends had permission to drink because he was inside the Club Kalua, a strip club considered a harmful nuisance, which the department was attempting to shut down.

True reform might have included a review of why the police were in the club in the first place when a civil action might have safely shut it down.

Or take Kelly’s decision to hire outsiders from the Rand Corporation to examine the phenomenon of “contagious shooting” – presumably the reason the cops fired their 50 shots.

Months later, they produce a report that says nothing about contagious shootings but recommends using Taser stun guns for sergeants. Will someone please explain how Tasers relate to the Bell shooting?

The Times, which these days seems more gullible and/or intimidated than the city’s other newspapers in covering Kelly, spent thousands of words reporting this nonsense without asking the seemingly obvious question. That’s spin.

Meanwhile, there’s been no public discussion about the rules allowing undercovers to drink on certain assignments. Or the command decisions that led to sending an undercover unit to try and close down the Club Kalua.

The club was closed last week but not because of any action by the police department. The Health Department closed because of unsanitary conditions: mice.

Cop of the Week. Yet another story of a corrupt cop, this one in the 109th precinct in Queens. As the Daily News reported, ex-NYPD officer Dennis Kim and his partner admitted accepting cash and sexual favors in return for protecting a pimp’s brothel. Meanwhile an informant says that Kim and other 109th precinct cops planted drugs on suspects and stole cash during gambling raids. And, just think, Kelly had praised Kim’s unit in 2004 for its arrest activity.

Contrast this case of serious corruption with Internal Affairs' full-blown investigation over minor mistakes involving paperwork. That’s what IAB found in scrutinizing two teams of undercovers in the Organized Crime Control Bureau’s Manhattan South vice enforcement squad that operated out of the 7th precinct. IAB charged three police officers, five detectives, and two sergeants with violating the vice manual. Their crime: instead of the undercovers writing down their UC numbers on a supporting deposition involving prostitution, another officer, seated next to them, wrote them.

For this, they are facing 30-day rips and a year's dismissal probation. They were tossed out of the unit. At least one of them, police officer Doris Garcia, a 12-year veteran with a master’s degree, had received top evaluations. She was en route to a promotion to detective. She’s now on patrol in the Bronx.

Memo to Internal Affairs Chief Campisi: You’re doing a heckuva job, Charlie.