One Police Plaza

Kelly's Detail: The Daily Almost Dozen

February 24, 2014

Just under a dozen detectives have been assigned to protect former police commissioner Ray Kelly since he left office last month.

Police sources say they are first- and second-grade detectives, which means the estimated annual cost to city taxpayers is somewhere between $1 million and $1.5 million.

The silver lining is that Kelly has fewer detectives on his 10-person security detail than did former mayor Rudy Giuliani when he left office in 2002. Giuliani’s detail — which lasted a year and a half — protected not just him but his ex-wife, Donna Hanover; his children, Andrew and Caroline; his mother, Helen; and his then-girlfriend Judith Nathan, whom Rudy subsequently married.

Giuliani’s detail even accompanied him to Mexico City, where his firm, Giuliani Partners, was the recipient of a $4.3 million consulting contract to reduce crime.

The former mayor also provided his favorite police commissioner, Howard Safir, with a security detail when Safir left office in 2000.

Safir, whom Giuliani called “the greatest police commissioner” in city history, succeeded Bill Bratton in his first tour as police commissioner. Giuliani wanted to make Safir feel and seem better than Bratton, whom Giuliani had dismissed with no credible explanation.

At the time, Giuliani said he provided protection to Safir because of threats to his life. Top police officials said at the time there were no credible threats.

Safir’s detail lasted 16 months and consisted of over a dozen detectives. Their primary function, it turned out, was to deliver Safir’s laundry.

Contrary to popular opinion, Intelligence Division chiefs say that police protection has less to do with security than with politics.

“With public officials, it comes with the territory,” said a former Intelligence Division chief who asked for anonymity. “If they never had a threat they still get it [protection].”

Another former Intelligence Chief, Danny Oates, now the chief of police in Aurora, Col., said in 2002 that he did not recall doing a formal threat assessment for Safir or any other city employee who was subsequently provided with a detail.

“The process wasn’t formalized,” he said then.

Until Michael Bloomberg became mayor, police sources said that the only public official in recent years to have received credible threats warranting protection was neither a mayor nor a police commissioner but former State Supreme Court Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder of Manhattan, whose life was threatened by a drug gang over whose trial she presided.

When he became commissioner, Kelly provided a one-man detective detail for Guy Molinari, the former Staten Island borough president and a longtime Kelly friend. In 1993, in Kelly’s first tour as police commissioner, he had sought Molinari’s help to arrange an interview with Giuliani to keep his job.

Molinari’s detail lasted only four months, until April, 2002. It ended the day this column, which then appeared in Newsday, asked both Molinari and Michael O’Looney, Kelly’s spokesman at the time, why Molinari needed protection. [See NYPD Confidential, Apr. 29, 2002.]

Large-size details like those providing security for Giuliani, Safir or Kelly appear to be a recent phenomenon.

Ed Koch had a six-member detail after leaving office, but the protection was withdrawn after six months and some $180,000 in public expense.

The detail for David Dinkins consisted of a single detective driver.

When Giuliani fired Kelly in 1994, Kelly was also provided with a single detective who served as his driver for just a few months.

When Giuliani forced out Bratton in 1996, Bratton got nothing. Nada.

In 2002 when Michael Bloomberg became mayor and Giuliani was viewed as the hero of 9/11, Bloomberg ordered Kelly, then police commissioner, to provide the former mayor with a permanent police detail.

O’Looney justified the department’s protection of Giuliani, saying: “The mayor remains one of the highest-profile people in the country and with that come security concerns for him and those close to him.”

Supposedly, the decision to provide a security detail is made by the Intelligence Division’s Threat Assessment Unit. How they come to their decisions is anybody’s guess.

While the department would not specify or enumerate the threats against Kelly, a high-ranking official pointed out that the most recent threats against Kelly related less to terrorism than over Stop and Frisk, which received much publicity during his last year in office.

Recently, Kelly — who has a second home in Deerfield Beach, Florida — made two speeches in Sarasota, Florida, substituting for CBS reporter Lara Logan. It’s unclear if his detail accompanied him.

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

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

Commissioner Bratton said last week, “I was not overly concerned by what I saw” after Mayor Bill de Blasio pointed to his NYPD security detail when it was caught speeding and blowing through a couple of stop signs in Queens by a WCBS-TV camera crew.

It was the second embarrassing incident involving de Blasio and the NYPD in just over two weeks.

Two weeks ago, de Blasio contacted a deputy chief without Bratton’s knowledge to inquire about the arrest of a de Blasio political supporter, Bishop Orlando Findlayter.

Bratton called de Blasio’s call to the deputy chief instead of to him: “No big deal.” When the deputy chief inquired, the bishop had already been released, police said.

Just as police spokesman Steve Davis said the department would not question the decision by 67th precinct commander Kenneth Lehr to release the bishop, Bratton said he would not question the police officer assigned to drive de Blasio.

The city’s media, however, citing a speech by de Blasio two days earlier that detailed a city-wide initiative to rein in traffic fatalities, went hog wild.

Going especially wild was Fox News’s Greg Kelly, who cited de Blasio’s “hypocrisy” in having just made traffic safety an issue.

Nowhere did Greg mention that he is the son of the outgoing police commissioner whom de Blasio fired.

But driving wildly seems to be standard operating procedure for some of the city’s biggest machers.

Back in 2004, Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen was caught speeding up the West Side Highway, lights and sirens blazing, by none other than Mayor Bloomberg. Bloomberg notified the police.

Paul Browne, who succeeded O’Looney as Kelly’s spokesman and is known to readers of this column as “Mr. Truth,” said at the time that Cohen’s speeding was authorized. [See NYPD Confidential, June 18, 2004.]


Copyright © 2014 Leonard Levitt