Are NYPD spokesman Paul Browne's pants again on fire?
NYPD Confidential disclosed last week that an Intelligence Division document indicated that the police had spied on Al Sharpton's National Action Network on May 3, 2008, to learn its plans for city-wide demonstrations over the acquittal of the three cops who fatally shot Sean Bell and wounded two of his friends. All three men were unarmed.
Browne, the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information who is known to readers of this column as Mr. Truth, issued the following response:
"Neither the Rev. Sharpton nor the National Action Network [NAN] but a separate individual who was present was the subject of the NYPD Intelligence Division's interest at the May 3, 2008 meeting in question," he said.
Well, let's see. According to the department's two-page memorandum titled: 'RESULTS OF MEETING ON MAY 3, 2008" [which readers can now view here for themselves], a confidential informant provided a detailed description of NAN's protest plans.
This included the names of two prominent African-Americans (the NAACP's Hazel Dukes and the Rev. Herbert Daughtry) who were prepared set to participate in the demonstrations; six locations where protestors would gather; and the number of demonstrators prepared to offer themselves up for arrest (50 at each location).
It also mentioned a "Brother David X," who the report described as a photographer with no previous arrests and "the only member of the New Black Panther Party that will be arrested."
No mention was made of Browne's "separate individual," supposedly the subject of the NYPD's interest.
So why wasn't the subject of the NYPD's spying identified as such in the report? Why was there no account of the subject that the Confidential Informant -- who was identified in the police report not by name but by his five-digit, departmental number -- was supposed to be observing?
Maybe the author of the document on Sharpton's group, who is identified as the head of the Intelligence Division's Priority Targeting Unit, should be sent to the Police Academy and taught how to write a proper intelligence report.
Said a former top NYPD official: "What about the actions of person the C.I. was sent to the meeting to observe? Why is there no description of what the subject did or didn't do at the meeting? The report doesn't even mention if he was there.
"Why doesn't the Confidential Informant offer a description of the subject in question? Why doesn't he mention whether the individual participated in the discussion? Did he raise his hand? Did he go to the bathroom? That should be in a report like that. That is Police Work 101.
"Instead," said the former official, "the report is far too detailed an account of the NAN meeting to be a mere auxiliary observation. It wouldn't surprise me if the Confidential Informant had a recording device. Or if the NAN meeting was bugged. This document is far too detailed an account about the National Action Network to satisfy me that they didn't go there just to spy on it."
Many African-American leaders professed outrage over the NYPD's spying on Sharpton's group.
According to a press release from Sharpton's spokeswoman, Rachel Noerdlinger, NAN board members demanded that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly "give a public response to why the NYPD... had an informant assigned" to Sharpton. NAN's general counsel, Michael Hardy, said in the release that he was "weighing all legal options, including whether there was a violation of federal consent decrees."
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said the NYPD's spying "reminds us of the bad days when J. Edgar Hoover recklessly spied on Dr. King and other civil rights leaders."
Benjamin Jealous, head of the NAACP said, "Our community must be certain that the people we count on to enforce the law are not breaking it."
Even Sharpton's former civil rights rival, Jesse Jackson, weighed in, saying, "Police Commissioner Kelly... must issue a full fact-finding report on the matter, fully disclose the spying activities of the police department and make restitution to Rev. Sharpton and NAN for this invasion of privacy."
However, the most important voice was missing: Sharpton's.
Maybe that's what happens when the city's, and perhaps the nation's, most visible civil rights "activist" becomes a pillar of the city's establishment, coddled by the likes of Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with his own national television show.
Maybe that's what happens when after eight years of exile at the hands of former mayor Rudy Giuliani, Bloomberg now attends his annual NAN affairs and Kelly appears with him in commercials and invites him to the Apollo Theater to lecture recruits on "diversity" training.
True, the Rev spoke over the weekend at the funeral of Ramarley Graham, an apparently small-time drug dealer who police shot and killed inside his Bronx home, mistakenly believing he had a gun.
But that's an easy call. Even Kelly has criticized his department's tactics in chasing Graham into his apartment and shooting him.
When it comes to criticizing a policy that could jeopardize Sharpton's relationship with Kelly and Bloomberg -- such as the controversial crime-reduction strategy, Stop and Frisk, where cops stop black teenagers for no other apparent reason than their race and age -- there has been virtual silence.
The Rev has uttered barely a peep of protest.
And unless we missed it, not the Urban League, not the NAACP, not Jesse Jackson has uttered a peep about the NYPD's pervasive spying on the city's Muslims, a practice brought to light by this column and by the Associated Press.
In more than a dozen articles the AP has focused on the NYPD's blanket spying on entire Muslim communities and organizations for no other reason than their religion.
What's been the response of Sharpton and his Civil Rights buddies? Nothing. Nada.
Neither Brown nor Sharpton responded to this reporter's requests for comment.
THE CRIME NUMBERS GAME: Management by Manipulation. That's the title of a new book by John Eterno and Eli Silverman, the two professors who reported two years ago that a substantial number of NYPD commanders felt pressured by superiors to cook the books to make crime appear less than it actually was.
Kelly and his claque have disparaged these findings as merely anecdotal. Spokesman Browne has suggested that Silverman and Eterno were repeating the same hearsay account.
To answer his critics, Kelly appointed a three-man commission to determine whether crime-downgrading was isolated or Eterno and Silverman claim, is systemic. Kelly formed that commission in January, 2011. It's now February, 2012. Where are their findings, Ray?
THE LATEST AP SPY STORY. Don't miss the latest AP story on the NYPD's spying on Muslim Student Associations. It begins: "The New York Police Department monitored Muslim college students far more broadly than previously known, at schools far beyond the city limits, including the Ivy League colleges of Yale and the University of Pennsylvania."