One Police Plaza

Too Drunk to Fight Terrorism?

August 28, 2017

Let’s take a deeper dive into the NYPD’s aborted counterterrorism training trip to Afghanistan that resulted in two top commanders being tossed off a chartered military flight because they were allegedly drunk. Chief of Counterterrorism James Waters then called off the operation.

The department acknowledges that the six-man NYPD team, including Waters, a deputy chief and a captain, went for “a few beers” at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport in the middle of the night on Aug. 10, after they learned their flight to Afghanistan had been delayed for three hours. The NYPD’s Aviation Unit had flown the men down there.

When they boarded the military plane, the crew, which department officials say followed strict military protocol, apparently concluded that Deputy Chief Scott Shanley and Capt. Daniel Magee were too drunk to make the 14-hour trip. Waters then ordered all six officers to disembark. He notified the Critical Response Team in New York, which sent two vans to pick them up.

The department maintains the six were unarmed while drinking. If they were drinking while armed, that’s a major problem.

Contrary to a report in the Daily News, which first reported the story, and in an anonymous letter published in the NY Post, both of which stated Magee was disruptive and yelling at the crew, the department also maintains he and Shanley did nothing to warrant being removed from the plane. A top department official who asked for anonymity because the incident is under investigation said, “Nobody ever made allegations to the NYPD or to Waters that anybody engaged in misconduct or in an encounter with any other human being.”

Nonetheless, their actions are an embarrassment to Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller, the Counterterrorism Bureau itself, and the NYPD.

The incident also raises questions about Waters, who formerly headed IAB’s notorious Group One, which handles misconduct and corruption investigations involving ranking officers.He has made a lot of enemies. Although his reputation is that of a straight arrow and the department maintains he himself wasn’t drinking at the airport, one former top NYPD official familiar with such incidents questioned his “failure to supervise.”

“If he was there, he should have stepped in and stopped the drinking, no two ways about it,” said the former official, who asked for anonymity because he is not authorized to speak about the incident. “Remember, they were representing the NYPD and the city, and have to be a cut above. Waters should get a reprimand of some sort.”

He added, “With people in high positions, you have to come out tough on them. They don’t have to be punished harshly but some measure of discipline has to be taken. As for the guys who were drunk, there should be no more training missions for them.”

An investigation into the incident is being conducted not by the Internal Affairs Bureau but by Miller because no misconduct has been formally alleged. That decision was apparently made by Commissioner James O’Neill.

This is hardly the first time top NYPD commanders have been involved in embarrassing drunken incidents, though — at least those that have come to public notice are rare. In 1984, then-Commissioner Benjamin Ward disappeared for three days. It turned out he was traveling to motels between Baltimore and Washington with a girlfriend and had to be picked up in a department car because he was apparently too drunk to drive. The department did not acknowledge at the time that Ward was missing.

Another such incident occurred in 2005 when then Deputy Commissioner for Operations Garry McCarthy managed to turn a parking ticket for his daughter into an embarrassment for himself, his family and the department.

McCarthy, who admitted having drunk a couple of glasses of wine earlier in the evening, got into a dispute with a Palisades Parkway N.J. officer over the ticket. The dispute escalated into a fight during which a Palisades officer removed McCarthy’s gun. McCarthy’s wife Gina grabbed the gun back, leading to the arrests of both. Although IAB investigated the case and concluded McCarthy was in the wrong, then-Commissioner Ray Kelly said through his spokesman that McCarthy’s actions did “not rise to the level of official misconduct.”

LESSONS FROM CHARLOTTESVILLE. Lesson one: Listen to Louie. That’s retired Chief of Department Louis Anemone, who criticized the tactics and lack of preparedness of Virginia officials over the Charlottesville white nationalist demonstration earlier this month.

Now, the good-old Virginia boys are covering their butts. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer says he had “no legal authority” to control his police department, adding that his police chief told him “to stay out of my way.”

The paper also reported that Gov. Terry McAuliffe relayed specific concerns to Signer by the Virginia State Police, including restricting weapons, as Anemone said should have been done but was not.

Lesson two. Those Confederate statues and black history. Is removing the statues devaluing our history, as President Donald Trump has said? Historian Eric Foner points out something else: the statues honored such southern generals as Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave trader and a founder of the Ku Klux Klan but ignored a general like James Longstreet, who after the Civil War endorsed black male suffrage, and as commander of the New Orleans police department engaged in armed combat with white supremacists who sought to seize control of the state government. Maybe to put everyone, black and white, on the same page, so to speak, black history should be taught in every school as a part of American history. Dates like 1822 and 1831 — the years of slave rebellions led by Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner — should be as familiar to all schoolchildren as 1492 or 1776. The more you learn about black history, the more you understand why so many black people are so angry.

Lesson Three. Trump’s secret weapon: the Democrats. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has urged the Army to change street names of confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson at a base Fort Hamilton section of Brooklyn. If that’s not political pandering, what is?

Mayor Bill de Blasio, in tandem with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, is “studying” whether to remove statues of Christopher Columbus because he supposedly slaughtered native populations. It’s not clear whether they plan to replace the statue at Columbus Circle with one of Oscar Lopez Rivera.


Copyright © 2017 Leonard Levitt