One Police Plaza

More Tall Tales From NYPD’s “Mister Truth”

April 6, 2009

The NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Public Information, Paul Browne, was surely joking when he said, "No police department in America devotes more personnel to internal investigations, disciplinary oversight, and prosecutions than the NYPD, and none has more external oversight.”

Brown — known to readers of this column as “Mister Truth” — said this last Friday in response to the resignation of Franklin Stone, chairwoman of the Civilian Complaint Review Board. This agency is supposed to exercise external oversight of the police department but, according to The New York Times, has “fallen short of its mission.”

Fallen short of its mission? That’s an understatement. The CCRB, founded to investigate allegations of minor police misconduct, has been a Dead Board Walking for virtually the last seven years, ever since Mayor Michael Bloomberg was elected mayor and appointed Browne’s boss, Ray Kelly, police commissioner.

The numbers tell the story. In 2003, the department brought charges in 47 percent of police misconduct cases sent to it by the CCRB. In 2007, the number was 7 percent.

Not only have Bloomberg and Kelly ignored the CCRB. One could also argue that they have sabotaged it.

While civilian review boards have been around in New York in one form or another since the 1960s, the CCRB’s most recent incarnation began in 1993 under former mayor David N. Dinkins. That July, Section 440 of Chapter 18A was added to the city charter. It states: “The police commissioner shall ensure that officers and employees of the Police Department appear before or respond to inquiries of the board and its civilian investigators in connection with the investigation of complaints … provided that such inquiries are conducted in accordance with the department procedures for interrogation of members.”

It sounded so promising. When Rudy Giuliani ordered the police department to re-investigate all CCRB-substantiated complaints, he was pressured into dropping these second looks because they undermined the board.

Not so Mayor Mike. Following CCRB investigations into police misconduct towards protestors at the Republican National Convention in 2004, the department refused to cooperate with the Board, barring captains, inspectors and chiefs from testifying, a violation of Chapter 18A.

Bloomberg said and did nothing.

Kelly also formed a police panel to review CCRB-substantiated cases involving the RNC protestors.

Bloomberg said and did nothing about that either.

Stone’s predecessor at the CCRB, Hector Gonzalez, was so afraid of Kelly that when Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, asked about the standoff over the RNC cases at a public board meeting, Gonzalez refused to answer.

It was left to board member William Kuntz, who said: “The board knows the answer. … It should be perfectly obvious… If the Police Department were cooperating, wouldn’t we tell you that?”

Now to another of Browne’s “external oversight” bodies. This one is the Mayor’s Commission to Investigate Police Misconduct, a toothless body Giuliani formed after rejecting the more forceful agency envisioned by the groundbreaking Mollen Commission in 1994. That commission had uncovered the “Dirty Thirty” scandal in West Harlem’s 30th precinct, resulting in 33 cops charged with drug-related crimes.

Mollen had recommended a permanent outside agency to investigate police corruption, with subpoena powers to enforce its reach. That was not to be.

In 2005 the chairman of this watered-down watchdog agency, Mark Pomerantz, sought department records to investigate police commanders’ alleged downgrading of crimes. Kelly refused to provide them.

As the head of a mayoral agency lacking subpoena power, Pomerantz, a former federal prosecutor, relied on the mayor’s support. When Bloomberg again said and did nothing, Pomerantz resigned.

To succeed him, Bloomberg appointed Michael Armstrong, who has stated publicly there is no need to investigate the police department under Kelly.

One last point: to succeed Stone as chairman of the CCRB, did Bloomberg appoint someone with a law enforcement background, like a former prosecutor, defense attorney, or retired police chief or commissioner?

He chose Ernest Hart, a hospital administrator.

GIVE HIM THE MAX. That’s what the Rev. Al Sharpton said about police officer Raphael Lora, whom a Bronx judge found guilty of second-degree manslaughter last week for fatally shooting drunk driver Fermin Arzu. In Lora’s case, the max is 15 years.

Arzu had crashed his van in front of Lora’s Bronx home. When Lora raced outside, he testified, he was forced to fire at Arzu after Arzu’s van dragged him.

Sharpton, who never appeared at the trial, has, under Kelly and Bloomberg, lately become something of a poster boy for responsible citizenship. He’s become so respectable that Vice President Joe Biden addressed the Rev’s National Action Network last week.

Meanwhile, Mayor Mike has praised the Rev. as a moderating influence. And indeed he has been when it suits him.

However, as vocal as Sharpton was about Lora, he has been silent about another case where a police officer was murdered. He has said nothing about the max for the convicted killers of white police officer Russel Timoshenko, who was fatally shot after stopping a stolen car in Brooklyn, carrying three black men.

Juries found two of them guilty of killing Timoshenko. The world is still waiting to hear Sharpton’s call for justice for Timoshenko’s killers.

MY DREAM OR WHY I LOVE THE NY POST. The story so far: Your Humble Servants awakens on Feb. 22 to discover that a book review the Post asked him to write appears as a news story under the byline of Cynthia R. Fagan. He wonders whether he is dreaming.

The Post’s book editor, Abby Wisse Schacter, suggests she knows nothing about how this occurred and says my review will appear closer to the book’s release date, March 17.

The next day, Post Sunday editor Stephen Lynch emails an apology and promises “to pay your fee for the story.” He adds, “If you’re interested in altering the review for publication closer to the release date, I’d be happy to print it and pay for that piece as well.” Your Humble Servant is now certain he is dreaming.

He accepts Lynch’s apology and alters his review. Seven weeks later, having written two reviews, one of which appeared as a news story under Cynthia R. Fagan’s byline, Your Humble Servant has received not a dime from the Post.

That, readers, is no dream.