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Ray Kelly: Things Falling Apart

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How did this happen?

How did the wheels fall off Ray Kelly's NYPD?

How did Kelly's policies manage to alienate the City Council, groups of Muslim-Americans and African-Americans, the New York Times, the FBI and even the Obama administration?

For the past 11 years, Kelly has been described as the most powerful and respected police commissioner in the history of New York City, whose anti-terrorism and crime-fighting policies have stopped 16 terrorist plots and resulted in record-low murders and shootings.

The police historian, Tom Reppetto, has said New Yorkers felt Kelly "stood between New York City and another terrorist attack." NYU professor Mitchell Moss called Kelly "our secretary of defense, head of the CIA and ... chief architect rolled into one."

Now, however, Kelly appears to have pulled off the NYPD equivalent of a negative hat trick. His legacy will subject the department to the fallout from two unprecedented City Council bills, and probably a federal monitor as well. All three were created as a rebuke of his policies.

So how and why did this happen? The short version is that of Lord Acton's: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

This is not the traditional NYPD corruption, which involves graft, although there is plenty of possibility there from what we have seen of Kelly's unreported perks at the Harvard Club, plus the millions of dollars from the non-profit Police Foundation that have gone for his pet terrorism projects. [The latest annual figure from the foundation's 2011 disclosure form is $1,054,000.]

More important, since returning as police commissioner in 2002, Kelly has been granted absolute power.

While Mayor Michael Bloomberg may be a financial genius, he is a know-nothing when it comes to police and law enforcement.

Bloomberg still doesn't appreciate that a law enforcement agency and its top official can never be left to its own devises, unsupervised and unaccountable. He still doesn't realize that the NYPD and Commissioner Kelly, who makes all decisions and brooks no dissent, has to be monitored. And that it is the mayor's job to do that.

When he ran in 2001, Bloomberg told this reporter, then at Newsday, that he opposed the secrecy that characterized the NYPD under Rudy Giuliani. "I believe in an open department," he said. "Except for certain personnel documents, I am a believer in putting all the information out there. The essence of a free society is the right to information." [See NYPD Confidential, Sept. 4, 2006.]

Instead, during his three terms as mayor, Bloomberg has allowed Kelly to violate the city charter and refuse to cooperate with the Civilian Complaint Review Board; flout the Freedom of Information law; make it difficult, if not impossible, for reporters to obtain press cards and, during the Occupy Wall Street protests, arrest reporters for doing their job. In 2006, Kelly barred this reporter from Police Plaza as a "security threat," my mug shot placed inside the inner pod of headquarters' security desk alongside those of eight others, two of whom had threatened to murder Kelly. [See NYPD Confidential, Jan 9, 16, Feb 13, 2001.]

Bloomberg has also has allowed Kelly to secretly cultivate a relationship with the CIA to spy on American Muslims, which has alienated virtually an entire community. This program was exposed in 2011 by NYPD Confidential and, more extensively, by the Associated Press in its Pulitzer Prize-winning series.

The result of all this spying has been the conviction of two mopes and a pending indictment of a third. Each arrest was announced with great fanfare but, it turned out, was of a person with either a low I.Q. or with emotional and/or mental problems. All three of them were egged on by a police undercover or an informant, one of whom the NYPD paid $100,000.

In one case, the department refused to inform the FBI of its investigation until it was completed; in the two others, the FBI absented itself from the NYPD's investigation.

As for thse16 plots, the number, according to recent statements by Kelly's spokesmen, Paul Browne, has been reduced to three or four and now includes Browne's acknowledgement that the FBI was a partner in preventing them.

Bloomberg has also allowed Kelly and to spend millions of dollars on his most ballyhooed and perhaps most wasteful terrorism project - the posting of NYPD detectives overseas.

Earlier this year, Kelly acknowledged this program has produced not one lead that prevented a terrorist plot. [See NYPD Confidential Jan., 14, 2013.]

Instead, an unintended result has been to exacerbate tensions between the NYPD and the FBI. These tensions culminated in the 2009 Najibullah Zazi subway bombing plot, in which the NYPD secretly did an end run around the FBI that nearly blew the investigation.

That is not merely this reporter's characterization. A recent CIA report criticizing its involvement with the NYPD said: "The OIG [Office of Inspector General] determined that the assignment of... to NYPD ... placed the Agency more prominently in the middle of a contentious relationship between the FBI and the NYPD regarding NYPD's efforts to combat terrorism."

Similarly, Bloomberg has looked away for the past 11 years as the number of Stop and Frisks rose to five million - mostly of young black males who had committed no crime.

The confluence of its Stop and Frisk and its Muslim spying has brought together City Councilmen Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams - who have led the fight for an Inspector General -- with Faiza Patel, an outspoken Muslim opponent of the NYPD's spying who is affiliated with the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU. It was she who helped draft the City Council bill calling for an outside Inspector General.

How efficacious an Inspector General will be remains to be seen as he will be appointed by the Dept. of Investigation, an agency that in theory fights corruption but in reality protects the mayor from it.

For better or for worse, the IG's actions will reflect the new mayor's priorities. At best, the IG will act as a restraint on department excesses. At worst, he could hamstring the department for the next decade.

Kelly has refused to acknowledge missteps on either Stop and Frisk or on the NYPD's Muslim spying.

Last week he promoted to three-star chief status both Thomas Galati, the commanding officer of the Intelligence Division, and James Waters, the commanding officer of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, to which detectives on the Joint Terrorist Task Force report.

Galati, who is best known to the public for acknowledging that the Intelligence Division's Demographics Unit never produced a terrorism lead, was also the guy who insisted on a weapons check for the Iranian delegation at Kennedy airport in 2007, to the fury of the Secret Service, the Port Authority police and the State Department's Security Service. [See NYPD Confidential Oct. 1, 2007.]

Despite a newly declassified CIA report, criticizing its involvement with the NYPD, Kelly said at Galati's and Waters' promotion ceremony, "We are proud and grateful for the CIA's support in keeping the city safe."

As for Stop and Frisk, Kelly passed up a chance to defend himself and his policy when he refused to testify at the federal trial. Instead, he sent the recently retired Chief of Department Joe Esposito -a civilian. At the same time, he sniped at the presiding judge, Shira Scheindlin, in newspaper articles and through surrogates, accusing her of bias.

What kind of leadership is that? When events flowed in his favor, Kelly was quick to reap the accolades, while refusing to share the glory. Now as things fall apart, he is reaping the blame.