One Police Plaza

Troubled Probie Cop: Help Her Out or Kick Her Out?

May 19, 2014

Let’s hope that an act of kindness and compassion — something the NYPD is rarely known for — doesn’t turn out to burn the department down the road.

Late last year, a probationary cop turned up drunk and belligerent at the 73rd precinct. She pulled down her pants, urinated on the floor, then passed out.

Ordinarily, such behavior would merit summary dismissal. Probationary cops — officers with less than 18 months on the job — have no union protection. The bureaucratic thinking is that it’s best to rid the department of troubled cops early on before they cause major problems.

As a police source put it, “Do you want this person around for the next 20 years?”

At a top-level hearing to determine her fate, First Deputy Raphael Pineiro took the standard department line and pushed to fire her, according to a recently retired NYPD official familiar with the case.

Chief of Department Phil Banks argued that the officer — who was said to be a victim of domestic abuse — was young and deserved a second chance.

“Banks ruled with his heart, not his head,” said the recently retired official.

With Pineiro’s and Banks’s vote split, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton became the final arbitrator. He sided with Banks.

His decision not to fire the officer may seem problematic, considering that, in the span of one week last month, three officers in three separate booze-related incidents ended up firing their weapons at people.

In one case, 27-year old, off-duty cop Brendan Cronin allegedly shot a random motorist six times as he sat in his car. According to news accounts, Cronin started his day at a shooting range with other off-duty cops and ended it in a bar.

Three hours later, Sgt. Wanda Anthony, who was also off-duty, allegedly shot at her boyfriend and another woman outside a Somerset, New Jersey strip club. No one was injured. Anthony allegedly fled the scene and was arrested three hours later for drunk driving.

In the third incident, off-duty detective Jay Poggi accidentally shot his partner in the wrist after a night of drinking in the Rockaways. The two officers had each reportedly downed 11 drinks.

Those three incidents prompted Bratton to announce earlier this month that he was "personally... very disturbed about a number of incidents in recent weeks that are part of a long-term problem of inappropriate use of alcohol by members of the department.”

Bratton well knows of the NYPD’s chronic drinking problem. In 1995, a year into his first tour as police commissioner, seven officers were disciplined for drunkenness when, while attending a law enforcement memorial service in Washington, they terrorized guests at D.C. hotels with their late-night hijinks. Inside Washington’s Hyatt Regency Hotel, officers slid naked down bannisters and poured beer down escalators, setting off fire alarms. Their behavior became a national symbol of a police department out of control.

Bratton’s then Internal Affairs Chief Patrick Kelleher worked round the clock to determine which officers were involved. He ended up in the hospital from exhaustion.

As for the probationary cop at the 73rd precinct, no one in the department was talking last week.

Pineiro did not return calls to his office. Bratton’s spokesman, Steve Davis, did not respond to an email or a phone call.

Banks said only, “I didn’t know her [the officer] then. I don’t know her now.”  

Assistant Chief Charles Dowd — who filed for retirement after Bratton transferred him as the head of the city’s troubled 911 system amidst an investigation by the Public Corruption Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s office — has had his problems within the police department in the past.

But he has also had his supporters, although some might term them enablers.

In 1998, Dowd — whose father, then Deputy Inspector Timothy J. Dowd, played a key role in the capture of David Berkowitz, the famed Son of Sam serial killer — was cited for doctoring crime statistics in the 88th precinct that he commanded. His direct superior at the time, Brooklyn North Borough Commander Joe Esposito, minimized his actions, calling Dowd’s skewed crime numbers “sloppy record keeping.”

Instead of demoting Dowd, as he could have, then Police Commissioner Howard Safir transferred him to the 106th Precinct in Queens.

In Nov. 2001, Safir’s successor, Bernie Kerik, in the waning days of his administration and at the recommendation of Esposito, who had risen to Chief of Department, promoted Dowd from captain to deputy inspector.

Kerik’s successor, Ray Kelly, promoted Dowd to head the 911 system.

In 2010, Dowd was reprimanded by the city’s Department of Investigation for allowing himself to be wined and dined by Verizon, which sought a $1 billion contract to modernize the system.

Last year, in the waning days of his administration, Kelly promoted Dowd to Assistant Chief.

 Once again, Mayor de Blasio seems to be calling the shots when it comes to NYPD appointments. Initially, it was Pineiro as First Deputy and Banks as Chief of Department. Now it’s somebody named Kevin P. Wardally as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, who last week was the subject of a full-blown biography from the NYPD’s Public Information office.

According to the bio, Wardally began his career as an aide “to the Dean of the New York State Congressional Delegation, Charles B. Rangel.” He worked for the City Council for a decade, served as a “Senior Political Advisor” to then Speaker Peter Vallone, and as Deputy Chief of Staff to former Speaker Christine Quinn. From 2006 to 2011, he served as Senior Vice President of Political and Governmental Affairs at Bill Lynch Associates, a national political consulting and lobbying firm started by the city’s Deputy Mayor under David Dinkins.

That’s all very well and good, but just what does the job of Director of Intergovernmental Affairs entail? The department’s press release didn’t address that. Police spokesman Silent Steve Davis didn’t return an email seeking an answer. But then, what could Davis say? We had to hire this guy because City Hall said so?

The police department’s unofficial official historian, Tom Reppetto, took issue with last week’s column, which stated that while former  Brooklyn Borough South Commander Tosano Simonetti discussed crime at a COMPSTAT meeting, former Chief of Department Louis Anemone, who was running the show, projected a computerized picture of Pinocchio with his nose growing on the screen behind him.

Reppetto says it wasn’t Anemone but Anemone’s COMPSTAT buddy, the late Jack Maple, who flashed Pinocchio’s picture on screen.

Reached by phone, Anemone said something along the lines that he and Maple took credit for things together. Simonetti, who could settle the matter, couldn’t be reached. 


Copyright © 2014 Leonard Levitt