One Police Plaza

Kelly's Playboy Interview: Near to Snow Angel

November 18, 2013

It is difficult to know how or where to begin in describing Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s cry-baby interview in Playboy magazine, which appears just before a color spread of a young woman frolicking nude in the outdoors amidst the title “Snow Angel.”

Beneath her, a Playboy caption reads: “These photos of adorable Ukrainian Olga Ogneva are enough to make a snowman blush.”

Well, Kelly’s interview in Playboy will certainly make New Yorkers blush.

And not merely with embarrassment for Kelly’s targets — the entire field of Democratic mayoral candidates, including mayor-elect Bill de Blasio — but for Kelly himself.

For the past 12 years, Kelly has been the longest serving and most powerful police commissioner in the history of New York City. While Mayor Michael Bloomberg played deaf, dumb and blind, Kelly said and did anything and everything he pleased.

Like telling “60 Minutes” that the NYPD could shoot down a jetliner.

Or making his own foreign policy by winging off to Abu Dhabi and returning to New York with a memorandum of understanding “to develop and boost co-operation between the two in areas of police work.”

Now, however, Kelly seems to be suffering separation anxiety.

Not only has de Blasio stated that he will not reappoint him, but there remains the possibility that Kelly’s worst nightmare could come true: that the mayor-elect might select Kelly’s archenemy and rival, Bill Bratton, as his successor.

Instead of his customary iron discipline, which intimidated politicians and law enforcement officials alike, Kelly’s Playboy interview made him appear bitter, petulant and confused.

“I thought they were my friends,” Kelly said of the Democratic candidates, all of whom attacked him in the primary over his Stop and Frisk tactics. “They’ll say or do anything to get elected. I know all these people. They all claimed to be friends of mine until their mayoral campaigns.”

Those Stop and Frisk tactics resulted in federal judge’s Shira Scheindlin’s condemnation that they were racist and violated the constitutional rights of some three million young black and Hispanic men the police had stopped, virtually all of whom were found to have committed no crime. An appeals court sacked her from the case and the city, under Bloomberg, is appealing her conclusions.

But it’s not just those Democratic pols who abandoned him. Even the Kelly-friendly Daily News has turned snarky.

Kelly told Playboy: “I could take you right up to 125th Street in Harlem and young men will stop me for my picture and give me a very favorable and friendly greeting.”

The News tested his claim by bringing a cardboard cutout of Kelly uptown. Its next day’s front-page headline read: “Sorry, Ray, they DON’T love you in Harlem.”

A caption inside the paper said: “Harlem puts the lie to Kelly’s boast. Resident stomps cardboard top cop.”

Its story quoted Gerry Louis, who the News described as a 41-year-old Harlem book vendor, saying: “Ray Kelly is part of a racist, white supremacy system. He continued to criminalize our community.”

Like most of the mainstream media, the News had swooned over Kelly for the past 12 years, trumpeting his two signature accomplishments: the city’s record-low crime rate and the failure of terrorists to launch a successful attack.

Now, because of Stop and Frisk, that record-low crime rate has become a narrative of racial abuse and discrimination.

And if you think there are problems with Stop and Frisk, wait until next year when the abuses of the Intelligence Division’s pervasive spying against Muslim New Yorkers are revealed in federal court.

While glimpses of this have been revealed in NYPD Confidential and in more detail and depth by the Associated Press, the NYPD’s spying abuses have gained no traction in New York. Not yet, anyway.

As he has done previously, Kelly attempted in Playboy to diminish the AP’s reporting, which won the Pulitzer Prize, saying, "Those AP writers received a lot of leaks from disgruntled people in the NYPD who had retired or didn't get promoted."

[Earth to Kelly: Just because someone is disgruntled or retired or didn’t get promoted doesn’t mean his information not accurate.]

People may have forgotten, but 20 years ago Kelly suffered similar separation anxieties after Mayor Rudy Giuliani fired him and replaced him with Bratton.

Kelly wasn’t as well known or as formidable then, so his petulance didn’t get the attention it does today. But, throughout 1994, he lashed out at both Giuliani and Bratton so angrily and so often that former Mayor Ed Koch, called him “Sour Grapes Kelly.”

Ironically, perhaps, Kelly’s greatest defender of Stop and Frisk today is Giuliani, who has asked to be heard as a “friend of the court” in hope of overturning Scheindlin’s rulings.

While mayor, Giuliani criticized Kelly’s attempts to bring the police and African-American New Yorkers closer through his policy of community policing. At the same time, Giuliani seemed to deliberately polarize the city along racial lines.

Although Kelly has never forgiven Giuliani for firing him, this column has often remarked on the two men’s similarities, noting that Kelly has become the man he hated.

Or, as the comic strip character Pogo put it, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

The outwardly mild First Deputy Commissioner Rafael Pineiro finally got to tout himself as the city’s first Hispanic police commissioner before mayor-elect Bill de Blasio.

Their brief meeting, which occurred at a conference of Hispanic legislators in Puerto Rico, followed a push from the NYPD’s three disparate Hispanic groups of police officers, who came together the first time in history over this ethnic issue.

Perhaps, in his 44-year wanderings through the police department, Pinerio discovered the Jewish philosopher, Hillel, who famously said, “If I am not for myself, who is for me?”

After meeting with de Blasio, Pineiro told the Daily News: “I have the leadership skills and the communication skills to be commissioner, to reduce crime and to protect our city from terrorism. I’ve spent 44 years in this department and I have all the credentials. I trust I’m going to be considered.’’

Considered, yes. Appointed? We’ll wait and see.

Was Kelly’s decision to choose Playboy as the venue for his exit interview an indication that the departure of his longtime acolyte, Paul Browne, has left Kelly somewhat unglued?

The interview started in Kelly’s “office bunker,” [whatever and wherever that is], continued over dinner at the Four Seasons [you can bet Kelly didn’t pay for it], and concluded with Kelly inviting interviewer Glenn Plaskin back to his Battery Park apartment with its panoramic views. [Did Christopher Dickey and Mike Lupica get this treatment?]

Browne abruptly left Kelly’s employ earlier this year amidst indications he and Kelly had fallen out.

Browne also left ace police reporter Murray Weiss fuming. Weiss had learned early on that Browne was leaving the NYPD to become a vice president at Notre Dame. Browne asked him to hold the story, saying that the “Is” and “Ts” hadn’t been crossed and that, if Weiss wrote about the Notre Dame job prematurely, his story might kill the deal.

Weiss held back. Browne then announced his departure to the world in a news release.

Edited by Donald Forst


Copyright © 2013 Leonard Levitt