One Police Plaza

Singing for de Blasio

February 17, 2014

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was not notified of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s midnight call to a black deputy chief, inquiring about the arrest of a prominent black minister and supporter, until 6:30 the following morning.

That means nearly seven hours passed from the time de Blasio called Kim Royster, the commanding officer of the Public Information Office, asking about the arrest of Bishop Orlando Findlayter, before anyone told Bratton.

Royster has a terrific singing voice. During Bratton’s first term as commissioner, she was called on regularly to belt out The Star Spangled Banner at police ceremonies. She has also sung before presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and at Yankee Stadium after 9/11.

Now she is one of the NYPD’s few female, black chiefs. She is also a board member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives [NOBLE], and the wife of Gregory Thomas, the liaison to the NYPD of Brooklyn’s newly elected black District Attorney, Ken Thompson.

The department line is that, after de Blasio called her, Royster called the 67th precinct in Brooklyn, where Findlayter had been arrested and was being held on two outstanding warrants. She reported back that the precinct’s deputy inspector, Kenneth Lehr, had, on his own, released the bishop, sparing him a night in jail.

Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Steve Davis — to whom Royster reports — said she then alerted him and that it was he who decided not to awaken Bratton because he felt the matter had already been resolved.

“I felt it was not necessary to bring it to the police commissioner’s attention at that time,” Davis said.

Although people with outstanding warrants are normally jailed until a judge hears their case, Davis added that Lehr had acted within his authority and that his actions would not be reviewed.

“It’s a plausible explanation,” said a former deputy commissioner. “There is no way to prove or disprove it.”

Recently retired Chief of Department Joe Esposito described Lehr as “one of our best,” and said that, in releasing Findlayter, Lehr had “acted with common sense.”

“This happens more often than people realize,” Esposito added.

What isn’t plausible is de Blasio’s explanation and his claim that he acted appropriately.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, a professor at John Jay College, or a member of a good government group to appreciate that a mayor has no business intervening before or after an arrest.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who, while mayor, also considered himself de facto police commissioner, got it right — [something this reporter never believed he could say about him] — when he stated last week that if he’d intervened à la de Blasio, he wouldn’t have contacted a subaltern like Royster. Rather, he’d have called his police commissioner.

De Blasio’s call to Royster also placed her and Lehr in a potentially compromising situation,” said the former deputy commissioner.

“He placed the precinct commander in a terrible situation. He placed an African-American woman with a promising career in a situation that could have ruined her.”

What would Lehr have done after speaking with Royster, had he been disinclined to release Findlayter? What would Royster have done if Lehr had told her he wasn’t releasing him?

De Blasio’s phone call to Royster also presented the police commissioner as disengaged and out of the loop. As another former top NYPD official put it: “What does this say about the mayor’s relationship to Bratton right out of the box?”

What makes this situation more difficult for de Blasio is his own rhetoric.

David Dinkins may have been the city’s first black mayor, but de Blasio is the first mayor to openly espouse what appears to be a pro-black agenda — one that some might even construe as anti-white.

Intertwined with this is an anti-police agenda, which goes beyond past Stop and Frisk.

Consider, for example, de Blasio’s signature program of taxing the rich [mostly white] to support free preschool education [mostly black].

Consider de Blasio’s willingness to settle with the five “minority” teenagers, convicted of the 1989 rape and beating of a white female jogger in Central Park. They are suing the city for $250 million, following the discovery that another man had actually raped her.

While none of the five admitted raping her, their videotaped statements to police that led to their convictions implicated one another, both in the jogger’s rape and beating and as part of a larger group that had assaulted others that night in the park.

Lastly, consider de Blasio’s embrace of the race-baiting Al Sharpton, who has yet to apologize for his lies in the Tawana Brawley case or for his anti-Semitic words and deeds during the Crown Heights riots — two events that brought him to prominence.

Last month de Blasio hired Sharpton’s longtime spokeswoman, Rachael Noerdlinger, as the $170,000-a-year chief of staff to de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray.

Sharpton, de Blasio, and Findlayter were together at a clergy breakfast the morning of Findlayter’s release. More recently, Sharpton termed de Blasio’s call to Royster on Findlayter’s behalf “no big deal.”

So when instead of calling his police commissioner about the arrest of a black supporter, de Blasio calls a politically connected black chief, New Yorkers may be forgiven for drawing sinister conclusions.

JUST UNDER A DOZEN. That's the number of detectives in Kelly's security detail who are protecting him from threats, real or imagined, since leaving office.

Police sources say they are first- and second-graders, which means the estimated annual cost to city taxpayers is over $1 million.

Kelly is not the first police commissioner to warrant a detective detail after leaving office. Howard Safir had a detail that was said to number well over a dozen. Their primary function was to pick up his laundry.

Giuliani, too, had a post-mayoral detail that protected not just him but his ex-wife, his two children, his mother and his then girlfriend. The detail lasted well over a year and accompanied him to Mexico City, where he had landed a $4.3 million consulting contract.

Recently, Kelly made two speeches in Sarasota, Florida, substituting for CBS reporter Lara Logan. Unclear if his detail accompanied him there.

Whether the threats against him are as serious, or as frivolous, as those against Giuliani is also unclear.

In 2006 Kelly barred this reporter from Police Plaza as one of those threats, placing Your Humble Servant’s mug shot at Police Plaza's security desk, alongside those of people who had threatened Kelly’s life.

This column may have been tough on Kelly but it wasn't that tough.

Commissioner Bratton announced last week that two key chiefs — Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski and Chief of the Internal Affairs Bureau, Charles Campisi — were out.

Pulaski was regarded as a brilliant hard-charger. Bratton, who is close to the leadership of the detectives’ union felt that Pulaski’s martinet-like leadership had broken the detectives’ spirits.

Campisi, a 41-year department veteran and believed to be IAB’s longest-serving chief [17 years] was known to arrive at his office at Police Plaza every day at 5 A.M.

Under him, IAB’s mantra was that there was no corruption scandal IAB did not investigate, cover, or solve. The problem was that Kelly, Campisi’s boss for the past 12 years, wanted no major scandals. As a result, many of IAB’s cases involved investigating cops for such minor infractions as their misuse of parking placards.

IAB aggressively investigated former Deputy Commissioner Garry McCarthy’s dust-up with a Palisades Parkway cop over his daughter’s parking ticket, but Kelly didn’t want the case pursued. [See NYPD Confidential, Feb. 25, 2005.]

That ended the story in New York. McCarthy went on to head police departments in Newark and Chicago.

Campisi was perhaps best known for pursuing the city-wide ticket-fixing scandal, which was discovered through a narcotics investigation wiretap. Ironically, that case may have prompted his dismissal, Bratton concluding that the ticket-fixing scandal caused more harm than good.

Police sources say that, on his last day, Campisi treated his staff to a farewell lunch, refused his celebratory “walkout” from Police Plaza, and announced he wanted no retirement party.


Copyright © 2014 Leonard Levitt