One Police Plaza

Lame Duck Bill

July 27, 2015

Saying he won’t be sticking around much past the 2017 election, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has issued his declaration of independence from Mayor Bill de Blasio.

What he said was nothing less than extraordinary. Police Commissioners don’t announce their retirements until they are ready to go. Usually they give thirty days, not thirty months.

Furthermore, Bratton apparently blindsided de Blasio. His spokeswoman, Karen Hinton, refused to answer when asked whether Bratton had alerted the mayor to his announcement.

“We don’t talk about private conversations the mayor has,” she said.

Bratton’s stated reason for not continuing through a second de Blasio term, should the mayor win reelection: old age. “I will not be commissioner for six and a half years,” he said. That’s the reality. I’d be 70-some-odd, 75 years old by that time.”

Two Bratton confidants downplayed his remark as nothing more than “an honest answer to a question.”

“He never intended to stay eight years,” said a top police official. “He doesn’t intend to work until he drops dead. He has a life outside the NYPD.”

Said another top official: “This [his announcement] had nothing to do with de Blasio. It had to do with him [Bratton] and Rikki,” a reference to Bratton’s wife, Rikki Klieman.

Still, his surprise announcement reflects a couple of things, both of which fall under the heading: “Lessons I haven’t learned since Rudy Giuliani dismissed me in 1996 because I felt I was more important than he was.”

The first: Bratton still can’t keep his mouth shut about himself.

The second: He again believes he is more important than the mayor.

Here he may be right. While de Blasio has made misstep after misstep with the police — from his embrace of Al Sharpton; to his support for Sharpton’s former spokesman, Rachel Noerdlinger, as his wife’s chief-of-staff despite anti-police postings by her live-in boyfriend and teenage son; to publicly warning his son Dante to be wary of the police — Bratton has thrived. He has become both a buffer and a mediator, not just between the mayor and the police rank-and-file, but between the mayor and a large segment of the public distrustful of de Blasio’s “progressive agenda.”

De Blasio handled Bratton’s announcement like a pro, segueing into a riff on Pope Francis’s ability to make impactful decision into his late 70s. Indeed, Bratton’s claim of old age does sound lame. Just look at his predecessor, Ray Kelly. Approaching age 74, he’s ready to jump back into harness at the first sign anyone wants him.

In a statement to NYPD Confidential, the mayor sounded conciliatory, saying of Bratton as police commissioner: “He should do it as long as he feels it’s right for him and his family.”

Cynics at Police Plaza suggest Bratton’s stated reason for his departure masks something more serious. No one dares say so out loud, but on the 14th floor, where Bratton operates, there are whispers of health issues, although this is belied by his robust daily schedule and vehemently denied by his closest aides.

Still, that’s what they’re saying.

GOING IN CIRCLES. Remember police officer Adrian Schoolcraft, who police forced to spend six days in the psychiatric ward of Jamaica Hospital? Well, after six years of legal and other turbulence during which time he and his father Larry hired and fired half a dozen or so attorneys, the Schoolcrafts are back with their original guy, the honest and trusting Jon Norinsberg.

Larry, who generally does the talking for Adrian, has claimed that Adrian was hospitalized in retaliation for exposing his superiors’ doctoring of crime statistics in the 81st precinct in Brooklyn, where he worked. The police claim Adrian, who left work early on Halloween Eve, 2009 against orders, is an EDP, an emotionally disturbed person, who required hospitalization. Whether the police forced him into the hospital for medical reasons or as punishment is at the heart of his multi-million federal suit that goes to trial this fall.

Ray Kelly’s book, “Vigilance,” with the modest subtitle: “My Life Serving America and Protecting Its Empire City,” is due out this September.

Like his three police commissioner predecessors, Bill Bratton, Howard Safir and Bernie Kerik, Kelly is using a ghost-writer. But his name won’t appear on the cover.

So we’ll tell you that he’s Ellis Henican, former Newsday columnist, Fox News commentator and co-author of half a dozen books, including “Amish Confidential” with Levi Stoltzfus, “Doc” with Dwight “Doc” Gooden and “How to Catch a Russian Spy” with Naveed Jamali.


Copyright © 2015 Leonard Levitt