One Police Plaza

The Daily News and the Post: “Cheap Shots”

April 7, 2014

What, if anything besides their typically misleading reporting, is behind the News’s and Post’s assault on Police Commissioner Bill Bratton after he said what is obvious to everyone at Police Plaza. Because of Ray Kelly’s overuse of Stop-and-Frisk, department morale is “awful.”

First, let’s make it clear: Bratton was speaking the truth.

“Police Commissioner Bratton was absolutely correct when he said that morale of the police force is awful,” said Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.

“Commissioner Bratton’s assessment is accurate,” said Mike Palladino, president of the Detectives’ Union.

Second, let’s put Bratton’s remarks in context. Here’s what he actually said about Kelly last Sunday on WABC-TV. “The commissioner and the former mayor did a great job in the sense of keeping the community safe, keeping crime down, but one of the tools used to do that, I believe, was used too extensively.”

Then, in a far tougher comment, which the News ignored and the Post mentioned only en passant, Bratton said: “Quite clearly, the legacy of that era is now going to be the inspector general … a federal monitor and … an expanded Civilian Complaint Review Board.”

There is another legacy of that era that Bratton didn’t mention, which apparently irks both the News and the ­Post. Kelly’s overuse of Stop-and-Frisk led to Bill de Blasio’s election.

Bratton’s comments about Kelly so unhinged the Daily News — the paper that once called itself “the honest voice of New York” — that it lampooned him in a cartoon, depicting Kelly on the ground with a black eye and two cops saying to him: “Can you identify the mugger?” In the background a man is fleeing. Written across his back is the name “Bratton.”

Its accompanying story quoted Kelly’s longtime spokesman, the professional prevaricator Paul Browne — long known to readers of this column as “Mr. Truth — who said: “Kelly’s legacy is secure because it is measured in lives saved, especially among young men of color … .”

That’s the same old bromide, first enunciated by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, circa 1994, when the police under Bratton began aggressively patrolling African-American neighborhoods, and crime began to fall dramatically.

The next day the News quoted Kelly’s older brother Donald, who called Bratton “paranoid” and described his criticism of his brother Ray as “a cheap shot.”

“I never cared for Bratton and I think I’m right about that,” Donald Kelly said.

Well, for the record, Ray Kelly never cared for Bratton either. In 2006, he pulled the NYPD out of an anti-terrorism conference commemorating the fifth anniversary of 9/11, sponsored by the Manhattan Institute, whose right-leaning group writers regularly appear on the News’s and the Post’s editorial pages.

What had offended Kelly was the conference’s inclusion of Bratton, then Police Chief of Los Angeles; John Timoney, his former First Deputy in New York and then Chief of the Miami Police Department; and John Miller, who had worked for Bratton in New York and in L.A., and who had just become the chief spokesman for the FBI.

Kelly then held a rival anti-terrorism conference at Police Plaza the same day. [See NYPD Confidential Sept. 11, 2006.]

Neither the News nor the Post wrote a line about that.

As for the News, its current attack of Bratton was not its first.

Back in January, they headlined a full front-page article on Miller, Bratton’s newly-appointed Deputy Commissioner for Counter-Terrorism: “TV GUY IS NEW TERROR CHIEF.”

Its accompanying story said that “the gap in experience” between Miller and his predecessor under Kelly, David Cohen, “is staggering… .”

Included in the story was a quote from an unnamed “high-ranking counter-terrorism official who maintained that, as the News put it, “The pick [of Miller] will be ridiculed around the globe by terrorists.” [See NYPD Confidential Jan. 6, 2014.]

That, readers — an unattributed, derogatory quote of dubious accuracy — is a cheap shot.

The story read as though it had been scripted by the News’s owner, Mortimer Zuckerman. Mort owes Cohen and Kelly big-time.

Back in 2004, Zuckerman discovered he was being followed. He somehow prevailed on Kelly and Cohen to allow three detectives from Cohen’s Intelligence Division to conduct what was, in effect, a private investigation for him. To justify it, Zuckerman concocted a scenario in which, because of Zuckerman’s support for Israel, he believed that his pursuers might be terrorists.

Turns out his pursuers were retired Intelligence Division detectives, employed by a local interest whose identity has never been publicly revealed. Needless to say, that interest has nothing to do with terrorism. [See NYPD Confidential, Jan. 7, 2005.]

In this latest assault on Bratton, the Post has followed in lockstep, although it has been more restrained [if you can believe it] than the News.

In an editorial, they, too, described Bratton’s criticism of Kelly as a “cheap shot,” although they acknowledged that Bratton may have been correct in his criticisms of Kelly’s Stop and Frisk.

“Police Commissioner Bill Bratton may be right when he says the legacy of the stop-and-frisk era is going to be the NYPD’s new inspector general, a federal monitor and an enlarged Civilian Complaint Review Board,” the editorial began.

Then, somebody named McManus turned up with an op-ed commentary. As the Post’s former editorial page editor, this McManus was one of the lucky few who enjoyed Kelly’s company at the Harvard Club, where Kelly’s meals and membership were paid for by the Police Foundation. Kelly treated McManus to a hamburger. [See NYPD Confidential, Nov. 1, 2010.]

That hamburger went a long way. Without presenting any examples or evidence, McManus wrote that “Kelly placed real talent in key jobs;” that “Kelly’s strong suit was focus and clarity of purpose;” and that “Bratton, to put it bluntly, is a bit of a flutterbug.”

McManus apparently reads the Daily News. He referred to “the supremely qualified David Cohen,” and “the essentially uncredentialed TV luminary John Miller.”

He, too, called Bratton’s remarks about Kelly’s Stop and Frisk “a cheap shot.”

We conclude with a reality check.

According to police department statistics, the number of Stop-and-Frisks was greatly reduced throughout 2012 and 2013. This included an 86 per cent decline in stops during the last quarter of 2013, the final three months of Kelly’s tenure.

“The reductions were obviously due to the increasing political controversy surrounding it,” says Chris Dunn, Associate Legal Director of the NYCLU, which brought one of the Stop and Frisk cases.

“But Kelly couldn’t admit that,” says Dunn. “To do so would undercut his narrative and off-stated claim that Stop and Frisk was essential to public safety.”

For as the number of stops declined, so did crime.


Copyright © 2014 Leonard Levitt