One Police Plaza

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Hiding the Truth at John Jay?

August 30, 2010

Public discourse and community outreach are hallmarks of higher education. That’s how academia spreads knowledge beyond its walls.

Instead last Friday, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice became The Forbidden City.

The college barred reporters from hearing criminologists John Eterno and Eli Silverman detail an inconvenient truth: the NYPD is low-balling crime statistics.

The two professors had invited the media to their presentation, based on their survey of nearly 500 former high-ranking police officials. [Eterno is himself a former NYPD captain.] Some 25 per cent said the NYPD under-reported crimes to make the city seem safer than it is.

Eterno and Silverman both maintain that a conference organizer, John Jay Public Management Department Professor Marilyn Rubin, had okayed the invitation to reporters.

“We inquired weeks ago,” said Eterno. “We checked with conference organizers. She was one of them. We were told media could come.”

John Jay spokeswoman Doreen Vinas said, however, that Rubin told her it was a closed conference and that no permission had been granted.

Perhaps publicity in the form of a Daily News article the day of the conference spooked John Jay into abandoning its mission to educate and inform.

The News merely reported the truth: “Two academics at an FBI-sponsored conference Friday will accuse the NYPD of cooking the books to make the city appear safer.”

But apparently that was too much truth for John Jay, a school dependent on its relationship with police departments, especially the NYPD.

Long-standing police ties (the president of John Jay, Jeremy Travis, is a former NYPD Deputy Commissioner) apparently trumped the public’s right to know, and higher education’s role to inform them.

Then there was the problem of possibly antagonizing Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

When the Eterno-Silverman study was reported last February in the Times, the police department disputed its findings. Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne, Kelly’s closest aide, said that two more comprehensive studies analyzing the integrity of the city’s crime statistics had found them to be reliable and sound.

The timing of John Jay’s about-face is also suspect because recent events have bolstered the conclusion that the police are indeed cooking the books.

Most notable are allegations by police officer Adrian Schoolcraft, who secretly tape-recorded roll call meetings at the 81st precinct, where officers were told to downgrade felonies to misdemeanors to make crime appear less than it actually is.

Adil Polanco of the 41st precinct in the Bronx has made similar allegations, including the fact that cops were instructed to arrest innocent people to make their quotas.

After he made his claims, Polanco was suspended.

Schoolcraft was taken by police in handcuffs to Jamaica Hospital, where he was kept in the psychiatric ward against his will for six days.

Yes, Commissioner Kelly does play hardball.

This is the department’s modus operandi these days under Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. [Whatever happened to Mayor Mike’s promise of “more transparency than existed under Rudy Giuliani?” Probably the same as his pledge not to seek a third term.]

“Yes, the trend in crime is down,” said Eterno, in a telephone interview after his presentation Friday. “But the question is by how much. There is a perception by commanders that integrity is not as important as it was years ago. There is an unrelenting demand for the numbers to go down. That has led to manipulation of crime statistics.

“You fight crime by using timely and accurate statistics,” he continued. “You investigate immediately. You don’t tell people that, if they don’t go to the detective squad, we won’t take a report.

“Even a blind man can see it. It is so patently obvious but the mainstream media just doesn’t get it.”

Well, the mainstream media is starting to get it.

And, despite their denials that anything is amiss, Kelly and Bloomberg get it too. And, by hiding information, they are trying to keep the public from getting it.

Kelly recently transferred the commander of the 81st precinct, Steven Mauriello, although spokesman Browne said the move was unrelated to Schoolcraft’s allegations. Mauriello is now said to be under investigation, although the department has not publicly acknowledged it.

Deputy Chief Michael Marino, who led the police posse that dragged Schoolcraft to Jamaica hospital in handcuffs, is also said to be under investigation, although the department hasn’t acknowledged that either.

No doubt Kelly’s concern that the public might catch on explains the department’s bizarre attempt by a Bronx captain to offer a sweetheart deal to Schoolcraft.

According to Schoolcraft’s lawyer Jon Norinsberg, who rejected the deal as “ridiculous,” the offer conveyed to him by Captain Brandon del Pozo of the 50th precinct in the Bronx, emanated from the office of Deputy Commissioner Michael Farrell.

Farrell is the character who came up with the FBI statistics [which the FBI has disavowed] that describe New York as America’s Safest Large City.

Equally bizarre was del Pozo’s description of Farrell to Norinsberg in explaining the origins of Schoocraft’s so-called deal.

According to Norinsberg, del Pozo described Farrell as “Kelly’s civilian equivalent.”

Just for the record, Kelly is a civilian.

No matter how you feel about the mosque that may or may not be built near Ground Zero, one thing is becoming clear to this reporter. It is time for the Anti-Defamation League to go out of business.

The organization — begun a century ago after a Jewish factory worker, falsely accused of raping a white woman, was lynched in Georgia — has lost his way.

After the Georgia incident, in 1913, the ADL vowed “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people. To secure justice and fair treatment for all.”

And for well over half a century it did — most visibly during the 1950s and ‘60s in fighting racial discrimination against blacks in the South.

But as American Jews prospered and anti-Semitism lessened, the ADL began to change. Sometimes it seemed that the ADL identified more with the prosperous than with the oppressed.

Take the Crown Heights riot of August 1991.

After a crowd of blacks fatally stabbed Yankel Rosenbaum, a young Jewish scholar, solely because he was Jewish, the ADL said nothing.

When it finally commented three weeks later, the ADL made no specific mention of Rosenbaum’s murder, saying only that it opposed “all violence.”

Only belatedly — years later — did the organization become a champion of pursuing charges against Rosenbaum’s killer.

The reason for their initial hesitation — which has never been stated publicly by any Jewish organization — is that Rosenbaum’s stabbing occurred in the midst of the Lubavitcher sect of the ultra-orthodox Hasidim.

Some mainstream Jewish organizations feel uncomfortable and embarrassed by the Hasidim. [Those are the guys in the long black coats and dangling sideburns, many of whom have limited educations, live near the poverty line, and occasionally fight with the police.]

Contrast the ADL’s initial silence on Rosenbaum’s stabbing with its lobbying for a pardon for the fugitive millionaire Marc Rich.

In December 2000, Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, wrote to President Bill Clinton, seeking clemency for Rich, who, years before, had fled to Switzerland and renounced his U.S. citizenship to avoid standing trial on big-time fraud and tax charges.

Explaining his support of Rich, Foxman wrote at the time: “I did so because I believed, along with many others whom I respect, that Mr. Rich deserved a second chance. A generous and philanthropic man whom I knew for 15 years, he had worked tirelessly for the good of others.”

Foxman forgot to mention that, in 1999, Rich had given the ADL $250,000.

Clinton granted Rich clemency after a recommendation from then deputy attorney general Eric Holder on Clinton’s last day in office.

A year later, in 2001, Foxman acknowledged he had made a mistake about Rich.

“On further reflection, as this unique case unfolded, I began to question whether a person’s good deeds should overshadow other aspects of his behavior. In hindsight this case probably should not have had my involvement.” Duh.

Now let’s turn to the mosque near Ground Zero.

On July 28, the ADL issued a statement opposing the building of the mosque a few blocks from the World Trade Center site.

Next, Foxman told the Times it should be built “a mile away.”

Explaining his position, he cited sympathy for the families who were victims of 9/11 and compared them to the relatives of Holocaust survivors.

“Survivors of the Holocaust are entitled to feelings that are irrational,” he told the Times.

The Times continued: “Referring to the loved ones of September 11 victims, he [Foxman] said, ‘Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.’”

Well, maybe in a year or so, Foxman will issue another statement, saying he made a mistake about the mosque.

Here’s what he might say. “On further reflection, as this unique case unfolded, I began to question whether irrationality and bigotry are legitimate justifications for Anti-Defamation League policies.

“I can’t recall now why or how I came up with the idea of moving the mosque ‘one mile’ from Ground Zero, especially since another mosque has been operating for years without incident just a few blocks from the World Trade Center site.

“I also don’t know what I can say that makes sense to the family of those Muslims who also died at Ground Zero.

“While not seeking to slight the pain of those whose families who suffered loss on 9/11, I now realize that there are families of victims of 9/11 who do not object to the mosque’s being built near the site. Their voices are not as loud as those who oppose the mosque.

“In hindsight, I wonder if I allowed my own irrational prejudices to cloud my reasoning.”


Copyright © 2010 Leonard Levitt