A small story deep inside the Daily News could cause big problems for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Federal prosecutors in the civil rights division of the Eastern District, the story said, want to talk to whistleblower cop Adrian Schoolcraft about his claims that the NYPD is low-balling crime statistics and arresting innocent people to meet quotas.
The NYPD has tried to silence Schoolcraft, first by tossing him into the psych ward of Jamaica hospital, then by offering him a job in the canine unit and the promise of testifying against two top police officials: Inspector Steven Mauriello, Schoolcraft's former 81st precinct commander, and Deputy Chief Michael Marino, who led the police posse that dragged Schoolcraft in handcuffs from his Queens apartment to Jamaica hospital.
Schoolcraft's attorney rejected the deal, calling it "ridiculous."
Schoolcraft poses an insoluble problem for the NYPD because he appears to have the goods: tape-recordings he secretly made of roll call meetings at the 81st precinct.
If the feds investigate his allegations -- which everyone in the NYPD knows goes on in precincts across the city -- then Kelly may find an asterisk beside his name, a la Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
On the surface, Kelly's record is impressive.
Given more power by Mayor Michael Bloomberg than any police commissioner in the city's history, Kelly has built upon the Bill Bratton/COMPSTAT crime reforms. With less manpower than his predecessors Howard Safir and Bernie Kerik, he has kept crime at record lows - or so it appears.
In addition, Kelly has created the NYPD's first counter-terrorism bureau and refocused its Intelligence Division on fighting terrorism.
But Kelly has a flaw, which could prove fatal if a federal probe confirms Schoolcraft's allegations.
It's an out-of-control ego.
Virtually every police action Kelly has taken has been calculated to burnish his image, consequences be damned. His drive for recognition can be dangerous when it threatens the NYPD's working relationships with other law enforcement agencies needed to keep the city safe from terrorism.
As this column has reported over the years, he has infuriated the FBI, the Port Authority and others by working joint operations, then cutting them out and taking sole credit.
Kelly is also brutal towards dissenters. For the past eight years, he has terrified critics into silence, starting with the mainstream media and ending with the city's district attorneys. (Ask Queens District Attorney Richard Brown why he is not investigating the circumstances of Schoolcraft's forced hospital stay.)
Mayor Bloomberg has been a partner in Kelly's bullying. Breaking campaign promises to make the department more transparent than during the dark Giuliani years, the mayor has instead become Kelly's enabler.
The result: the police department is now less transparent than at any time in modern history.
No one knows what's going on inside it, not the public, not the media, and apparently not Bloomberg.
Indeed, Kelly has succeeded in blocking all outside agencies from scrutinizing the department.
That's why Schoolcraft's allegations about downgrading crimes and arresting innocent people are so troubling.
Similar allegations have been around for five years - when the presidents of the patrolmen's and sergeant's unions stated that downgrading crimes and making quota arrests were widespread and systemic.
But nobody listened.
Kelly's spokesman Paul Browne - known to readers of this column as "Mr. Truth" - persuaded mainstream media that the unions' charges were false, stemming from a personal feud between Kelly and PBA president Patrick Lynch. (The PBA had the year before issued Kelly a vote of no confidence.)
Mayor Mike also mocked the unions' claims.
When the chairman of the Mayor's Commission to Combat Police Corruption sought police files to investigate the unions' charges, Kelly refused to release them.
Bloomberg said and did nothing. The chairman resigned.
"Those allegations didn't get the light they should have then," said Lynch last week. "It looks like they are now."
CRONIES. When Kelly returned as police commissioner in 2002, many people - Your Humble Servant included - believed he would crack down on cronyism, which reached new heights under his predecessor, Bernie Kerik. How naïve we were.
Take the 113th precinct in Queens. Two weeks ago, this column described the shenanigans of its commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Kristel Johnson, and her boss, the former Queens South Borough Assistant Chief Thomas V. Dale.
To cover up her mistakes, Johnson scapegoated lower-ranking officers, while protecting well-connected higher-ups, like Captain Matthew Travaglia, the precinct's executive officer.
In May, 2009, the department's Internal Affairs Bureau charged Travaglia with failing to obtain permission to moonlight as a lawyer and for actually running his law practice while claiming to be working at the precinct.
Despite his alleged misconduct, Borough Commander Dale - in total disregard of department protocol - then approved Travaglia's moonlighting, police sources say.
Johnson allowed him to work nights, so he could continue practicing law during the day.
Kelly's response? Earlier this year, he promoted Dale to Chief of Personnel.
Ten days ago, he promoted Johnson to full inspector.
THE BIG LIE. For four days, Commissioner Kelly and spokesman Browne tried to convince the public that a traffic or school safety officer - not a cop - had refused to aid 11-year-old asthma victim Briana Ojeda, who died in the emergency room at Long Island College Hospital.
Some kind of officer allegedly told Briana's mother Carmen that he did not know how to perform CPR, which, Kelly and Browne reminded the public, every cop knows how to do.
Meanwhile, the Ojeda family hired attorney Bonita Zelman, who learned from witnesses that the useless officer had also hindered Carmen Ojeda's desperate drive to the hospital to save her daughter.
Zelman stated publicly that if Kelly didn't identify and suspend the officer by that day's end, she would be in court the next morning to obtain the necessary documents to unmask the cop.
She added that if Kelly was unable to identify him four days after Briana died, then the city needed a new police commissioner.
An hour and a half later, Kelly held a news conference and identified the police officer as Alfonso Mendez.
CLOSING UP OR RELOCATING? Giuliani Partners is closing its doors but the firm is not closing its doors. It's moving from its 5 Times Square office some ten blocks uptown to Bracewell and Giuliani, the Houston-based firm that the former mayor joined as a named partner in 2005.
"Rudy is merely consolidating his locations," said Pat D'Amuro, who heads Rudy's subsidiary, Giuliani Security and Safety. "No one is being laid off."
Others point out that the Giuliani brand began sinking after his disastrous 2008 presidential run. It sunk further with Kerik's guilty plea to fraud and tax charges, and reached a new low last month with the arrest of his daughter Caroline for shoplifting.