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Accomplished cop awaits call

September 9, 2005

Apparently with a straight face, Deputy Commissioner of Training James Fyfe assured the head of a Hispanic officers' group that the selection of a chief's son to attend the FBI National Academy involved no internal politics, no third-party phone calls, no letters or connections - only merit.

Lt. William Taylor, whose father is a recently retired two-star chief of the same name, was dismissed from the FBI academy last month for what a top NYPD official described as excessive drinking, consorting with a married woman and publicly bad-mouthing the bureau at a restaurant in Little Italy.

Fyfe's description of the selection process was provided last year to Anthony Miranda of the Latino Officers Association after Miranda protested the disqualification of his group's first vice president, Lt. Robert Gonzalez, who had also sought to attend the 10-week course in Quantico, Va.

"When I returned to the NYPD in 2003 after a 23-year absence, I found a widespread perception within the department that the FBI National Academy selection process was driven by politics and connections rather than by merit," Fyfe wrote to Miranda on Feb. 4, 2004.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly "even voided all nominations that were then pending so that we could institute an objective and tamper-proof system," Fyfe's letter to Miranda continued.

Translation: Kelly voided all contracts to the academy and elsewhere from the administration of his predecessor, Bernard Kerik, whom Kelly openly disparaged.

Fyfe's letter to Miranda explained that the current system under Kelly requires:

  • A timely application endorsed by the applicant's commander and bureau chief or deputy commissioner.
  • A satisfactory career history.
  • An interview and assessment by a committee chaired by Fyfe and including six captains and above nominated by their chiefs or deputy commissioners.

"Each of these captains and I independently rate each applicant on a variety of dimensions," Fyfe wrote. "Committee members who have working or personal relationships with candidates must recuse themselves from participating in such candidates' interviews and assessments.

"No other matters - not third-party phone calls, not letters, not connections - are considered in these selections," he concluded.

A copy of Fyfe's letter to Miranda was provided to Newsday after this column reported Taylor's dismissal last week.

Taylor has offered no public explanation for his dismissal and did not return a call from Newsday yesterday.

According to Tony Garvey of the Lieutenants Benevolent Association, the last known NYPD dismissal from the FBI academy occurred a decade ago, after the officer's license plate number turned up in a homicide investigation.

Kelly took no immediate action after Taylor's dismissal. Then on Aug. 25, a day after Newsday telephoned the FBI in Washington to ask about the dismissal, Kelly transferred Taylor from the 81st Precinct detective squad in Brooklyn back into uniform in the 50th Precinct in the Bronx.

Fyfe, a former NYPD lieutenant with a doctorate, made his reputation in academia as a police critic. During the trial of the four officers accused of firing 41 shots at Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant, Fyfe testified that the officers had acted appropriately. When Kelly returned as commissioner in 2002, he appointed Fyfe deputy commissioner of training at the Police Academy.

As for Gonzalez, he is an 11-year veteran, a former instructor at the Police Academy and an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Monroe College in the Bronx. His application states that he scored in the 99th percentile in both the sergeants' and lieutenants' exams.

In an interview, he said he had first applied for the FBI academy in January 2004 but was disqualified because the deadline had passed.

In his letter to Miranda, who had asked Fyfe to extend the deadline, Fyfe wrote that "to maintain the integrity of the system, we can make no exceptions."

Gonzalez reapplied in November. He says that in July Insp. Robert Lucema of the Police Academy told him he had performed well in his interviews and that Fyfe might consider him for the August class that Taylor was selected for.

Gonzalez says he never heard another word.

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© 2005 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.