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Len Levitt

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An NYPD Inspector General?

Posted: 06/18/2012 12:16 pm

The NYPD's spokesman was at his disingenuous best last week, explaining why an inspector general is not needed to monitor the police department.

Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne said the NYPD is "probably under more scrutiny than any other police agency, probably in the world." He cited two United States attorneys, five district attorneys and two city agencies -- the Civilian Complaint Review and the Mayor's Commission to Combat Corruption.

Browne added that the department had made a major commitment to fighting police corruption by increasing the number of Internal Affairs officers. "There's nothing more effective than an Internal Affairs with teeth," he said.

In the early 1970s, the two U.S. Attorneys and the city's five district attorneys did not prevent the organized and systemic corruption uncovered by the Knapp Commission.

In the early 1990s, they did not prevent the Michael Dowd drug scandal in Brooklyn and the Dirty Thirty drug scandal in West Harlem's 30th precinct, uncovered by the Mollen Commission.

As for the Civilian Complaint Review Board, Browne's boss, Ray Kelly, spent years violating the city charter -- specifically, Section 440 of Chapter 18A, which mandates that the police commissioner cooperate with the CCRB.

Kelly refused to allow CCRB investigators to question supervisors of the mass arrests at the 2004 Republican National Convention. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said or did nothing to force him to comply. [See NYPD Confidential, Sept 16, 2005.]

Kelly also sidelined the other city agency charted with monitoring the police department: the Mayor's Commission to Combat Corruption.

In 2005, the commission's chairman, Mark Pomerantz, requested departmental crime statistics to investigate claims of systemic crime-downgrading. Again, Kelly refused to comply. Again, Bloomberg said and did nothing. Pomerantz resigned in protest. [See NYPD Confidential April 22, 2005.]

Despite beefing up Internal Affairs, final decisions are made not by its longtime chief, Charles Campisi, but by Kelly.

In 2005, Deputy Commissioner Garry McCarthy got into a scuffle with a Palisades Parkway police officer over his daughter's traffic ticket. As they struggled, McCarthy's wife tried to take here husband's gun. Both she and her husband were arrested. McCarthy admitted he had been drinking before the incident, although he maintained he was not drunk. [See NYPD Confidential Jan 23, 2006.]

The Internal Affairs Bureau was ready to throw the book at him but Browne, speaking for Kelly, announced that McCarthy's actions did not rise to the level of department discipline.

No action was taken against McCarthy, who went on to head police departments in Newark and Chicago.

Or take Lieutenant Eddie Maldonado, who headed the Intelligence Division's Threat Assessment and Dignity Protection Unit.

Anonymous letters to IAB accused him of moonlighting for Major League Baseball and celebrities like J-Lo and Marc Anthony while he was supposedly on duty, protecting visiting dignitaries. [See NYPD Confidential Feb. 15, 2010.]

Despite these allegations, Maldonado appeared in a National Geographic Counter-terrorism television special last year. To appear on T.V., representing the NYPD, you need approval from the top of the department. Maldonado is said to be close to Intel's commanding officer, Assistant Chief Thomas Galati.

Despite a full-blown two-year investigation by IAB's crack unit, Group One, Maldonado received a wrist slap: the loss of 15 vacation days.

Whether or not an Inspector General can effectively monitor the NYPD is problematic. But what the office could do is pressure Kelly to provide answers to some of the mysteries inside a police department increasingly closed to outside scrutiny and less transparent than even in the darkest days of the Giuliani administration.

Mystery Number One: the fate of Kelly's crime-reporting review committee that Kelly established in January, 2011.

With great fanfare, Kelly announced that this committee of three distinguished former federal prosecutors would determine whether the department had systemically downgraded crime statistics to make the city appear safer than it actually is.

In a press release on Jan. 5, 2011 -- six years after rejecting Pomerantz' request for similar information -- Kelly stated: "The integrity of our crime reporting system is of the utmost importance to the Department.

"It is essential not only for maintaining the confidence of the people we serve, but reliable crime statistics are necessary for the effective planning and evaluation of crime reduction strategies."

Kelly said that the committee -- composed of David Kelley, Sharon McCarthy and Robert Morvillo -- would "complete its work over the next to six months, with the full cooperation of all units in the Police Department."

It is now 18 months later. Morvillo has died. Like an Agatha Christie mystery, no one knows what has become of the committee.

Did the committee not have a staff? Was no money provided for it? Did circumstances change? Was Kelly trying to head off a public outcry over those cooking-the-books allegations with the promise of a ground-breaking report?

He's done that in the past. After the 2003 fatal police shooting of the unarmed African immigrant Ousmane Zongo in a Chelsea warehouse during a botched undercover operation, Kelly promised an investigation. If an investigation occurred, the results have never been made public.

After the fatal police shooting of Sean Bell, he hired the Rand Corporation to examine the shooting's circumstances. The Rand's findings were fruitless, centered on increasing the use of stun guns, which had no relevance to Bell's death.

Maybe an inspector general could solve a second police department mystery, this one reminiscent of a Robert Ludlum spy novel: the NYPD's Counter-Terrorism Foundation.
About five years ago, the NYPD secretly created its own nonprofit foundation.

In filings with the state's attorney general's office, the foundation listed Stephen Hammerman, the NYPD's former deputy commissioner of Legal Affairs, as president. The foundation also listed Kelly's chief of staff Joe Wuencsh as its treasurer.

Ever heard of a city agency starting its own secret foundation to raise money from private donors?

Unlike the Police Foundation which has funded other terrorism-related projects but whose donors are publicly disclosed, the donors to the NYPD Counter-Terrorism Foundation are secret.

Starting in 2006, the NYPD Counter-Terrorism Foundation raised nearly $300,000. Of that, $180,000 went to pay Maryland-based Marc Sageman -- a former CIA officer, medical doctor, Ph.D, and author -- to become the department's first "scholar in residence."

Filing documents do not detail how the other $120,000 was spent.

An Associated Press story in 2008 quoted Sageman as saying he believed in the primacy of the "home-grown" terrorist threat, as opposed to an international Al Qaeda conspiracy. This has become the cornerstone of the NYPD's anti-terrorism philosophy.

The foundation closed down around 2009.

After this column revealed the foundation's existence last November, [See NYPD Confidential Nov. 7, 2011], the website ThinkProgress reported that five right-wing leaning, pro-Israeli foundations had funded it.

If that's true, troubling questions arise about whether extremists are influencing the NYPD.
Did these forces encourage the department's pervasive and controversial spying on area Muslims? Did these forces have anything to do with a third NYPD mystery: its Buffalo/Somali connection.

Back in 2009, Intelligence Division detectives were dispatched to Buffalo to spy on its small immigrant Somali community, even though the department's upstate liaison, Erie County Undersheriff Richard Donovan, is quoted in a secret NYPD Intelligence Division document that he was "not aware of any crime trends or crime pattern attributed to the ethnic Somali community." [See NYPD Confidential Feb. 27, 2012.]

According to an Intel "briefing report," on Dec. 30, 2008, Donovan provided the Intelligence Division's Strategic Intelligence Unit with an "overview of the ethnic Somalian [sic] Community in the Buffalo area, where there are in excess of 1,000 Somali immigrants residing."

According to the briefing report, the Intel detectives "conducted vehicle surveillance" of five Somali locations that appear to be mosques. "New license plate information [NJ Registration] was obtained of a new vehicle observed at a subject location and photos taken," the report said.

Following the outcry from New Jersey politicians to Associated Press stories that the NYPD had conducted similar secret surveillance of Muslims in Newark and other New Jersey cities, Mayor Bloomberg said that "everything the NYPD has done is legal, it is appropriate, it is constitutional."

That may or may not be true.

But for the NYPD to target, apparently on whim, a small immigrant community hundreds of miles from New York, with no power or voice and when no crime appears to have been committed is just plain wrong.

Last we heard, this was still the United States of America. Maybe that's why an inspector general is not a bad idea.

 
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