One Police Plaza

Hey Abbott, Hey Costello, Who's on First? What's on Second?

November 25, 2013

If you can figure out what is going on between Bill Bratton and mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, you know more than I do.

Last Tuesday, Bratton, who’s been campaigning for the job of police commissioner ever since he returned to the city from Los Angeles four years ago [and even before that — remember 2001 and Mark Green?] announced he had not yet met with de Blasio.

“I have not had the opportunity to meet with the mayor or his people at this time,” he said. I’m not applying for the job,” he added. “If asked, I’ll certainly consider it.”

The next day de Blasio announced he had met with Bratton [as well as with candidates Phil Banks, the NYPD’s Chief of Department and Rafael Pineiro, the NYPD’s First Deputy Commissioner.]

“It's well-known I have sought the advice and input of Commissioner Bratton in the last year or two, so I know him pretty well already,” de Blasio said. He cited “a great deal of agreement on core issues,” and added, “As I say, it's the first meeting and I look forward to further discussion."

So what does this two-step suggest?

Is Bratton trying to lock de Blasio in to appointing him by going public?

Have they already come to a deal?

Is de Blasio hinting that this is just the beginning of a process that has to play out?

Or is this Bratton’s fist-bump moment, reminiscent of what Vice President Joe Biden did to Ray Kelly on TV when Kelly was reportedly under consideration for Homeland Security Director. In fact, he was probably never considered at all. Or if he was, President Obama rejected him.

At the same time, de Blasio has pointedly not interviewed a blue-chip alternative to Bratton — Joe Dunne, a former top NYPD cop and currently the head of the Port Authority Police, who is available for the NYPD job.

Why is this significant? Because Dunne had been recommended to de Blasio’s transition team by at least three knowledgeable law enforcement people in this town, one of whom is a former police commissioner.

So was de Blasio’s decision not to interview Dunne an indication that he is reluctant to irritate Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who put Dunne in the Port Authority spot and wants to keep him there?

Or is it that de Blasio regards Dunne, like Bratton, as Old Guard? And that, with his campaign message of reforming the NYPD together with his strong electoral mandate, he wants to take the NYPD in a new direction with a new face of leadership?

Ironically, that was the calculation 20 years ago of former mayor Rudy Giuliani when he appointed Bratton and rejected Kelly, who had served as police commissioner under Giuliani’s predecessor David Dinkins.

Like de Blasio, Giuliani had run on an anti-police platform — that is, the police department as it was run under Mayor David Dinkins, and which, Bratton maintained, had literally given up on reducing crime.

Kelly, who had served as police commissioner during the last 14 months of Dinkins’s administration — and by virtually everyone’s account had done an excellent job — was publicly on Giuliani’s short list of candidates. But he but couldn’t get an interview with Giuliani.

He finally arranged it through his friend, then Staten Island borough president Guy Molinari, who had won the borough for Giuliani.

Bratton, meanwhile, was pushed by Herman Badillo, a leading Hispanic figure and one-time Democratic mayoral candidate, who became an advisor to Giuliani.

Badillo argued to Giuliani that retaining Kelly would be anchoring Giuliani to the Dinkins administration of the past, from which the mayor-elect had promised a clean break.

Or, as Badillo told this reporter for the book “NYPD Confidential, “I told the mayor-elect, ‘How can you promise change to people if you keep the same police commissioner?’”

God knows, Bratton is not Kelly. The two men despise each other and are institutional rivals.

The one thing they have in common is that they are both of the Old Guard.

Here’s the week’s legal round-up on Stop and Frisk.

l. Judge Shira Scheindlin’s ruling that Stop and Frisk is unconstitutional, precipitating a federal monitor, stands. The three-man federal Appeals Court that threw her off the case rejected, at least for now, the city’s motion to overturn her decision. Mayor-elect de Blasio can file a motion to overturn when he becomes mayor. But he has said he will withdraw the city’s appeal.

2. Meanwhile the Stop and Frisk numbers continue to fall. From 120,000 stops a year ago, third-quarter numbers are down to 21,000.

3. The startling reductions are a sign that the department under Kelly has already made Stop and Frisk tactical reforms. The irony is that Kelly won’t acknowledge this. To do so would be to admit that reforms were needed.

Instead, the department acts as though nothing has changed. Their rhetoric remains unapologetic. Spokesman John McCarthy gave no explanation for the reduced numbers: “Just as is the case with arrests, there is no predetermined or correct number of stops,” he said.

Which suggests that the Stop and Frisk sinkhole in which Kelly finds himself he dug himself.

POOR OLD JOE. You wouldn’t imagine that poor old Joe Hynes could sink any lower. He loses the Democratic primary and announces his support for winner Ken Thompson. Then old Joe decides to run as a Republican and loses again — by a larger margin.

Meanwhile, the Daily News editorializes that he leaves an office replete with scandal, starting with accusations that his top dog Michael Vecchione railroaded Jabbar Collins for a rabbi’s murder and that a detective may have hyped evidence to win numerous other convictions. There is also the demotion of two veteran prosecutors who nearly came to blows with Vecchione over a case involving a Hasidic whistle-blower, over which Hynes’s office has done a 180 degree turnabout.

More recently, the NY Times reported that a first-year assistant DA was fired after embarrassing emails about Hynes’s inner circle appeared on the internet. Meanwhile federal officials are investigating whether the assistant was pressured by higher ups to lie in the Collins case.

Perhaps it’s not too far-fetched to suggest that someone reexamine another controversial case — that of the murder of Mark Fisher, a Fairfield Conn. University football player, who was shot dead in Flatbush in 2003 after a night of drinking. Hynes’s office convicted John Giuca, 22, whose mother Doreen Giuliano then dolled herself up as a red hot mama and conned a juror into acknowledging that he knew some of the people in the case, a fact he did not reveal when he was selected as a juror. A judge ruled that the omission did not justify a new trial but Mrs. G. hasn’t quit. She says she has newly discovered evidence that her son is innocent.

With poor old Joe, anything seems possible.

Edited by Donald Forst


Copyright © 2013 Leonard Levitt