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Is Kelly not cooperating?

September 16, 2005

Is Police Commissioner Ray Kelly refusing to allow top department officials to cooperate with the Civilian Complaint Review Board's investigations of alleged police misconduct during the Republican National Convention?

Such a refusal, if true, would violate the City Charter.

The issue surfaced Wednesday at the board's monthly meeting after Chris Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, asked if board members knew the department's position relating to captains, inspectors and chiefs refusing to testify.

After chairman Hector Gonzalez refused to answer the question, board member William Kuntz said: "The board knows the answer. ... It should be patently obvious. ... If the Police Department were cooperating, wouldn't we tell you that?"

Section 440 of Chapter 18A, which was added to the city charter in July 1993 when the CCRB was formed, states:

"The police commissioner shall ensure that officers and employees of the Police Department appear before or respond to inquiries of the board and its civilian investigators in connection with the investigation of complaints ... provided that such inquiries are conducted in accordance with department procedures for interrogation of members."

Since returning as commissioner in 2002, Kelly has been given wider latitude than any commissioner since Arthur Woods during World War I, says Thomas Reppetto, author of a history of the NYPD.

Running for mayor in 2001, Michael Bloomberg promised a more "transparent" Police Department than existed under Rudolph Giuliani, who controlled the department and the information it released.

Instead, Bloomberg has deferred to Kelly in all police matters and the department has become less transparent than ever. Every departmental decision, from promotions to transfers, is made by Kelly and Kelly alone.

Its public information office routinely does not return phone calls and refuses to provide such basic information as an officer's assignment history or the names of those selected to attend the FBI academy.

Last year, Kelly instituted a police panel to review cases substantiated by the CCRB involving the GOP convention. In the first years of the CCRB's existenceunder Giuliani, the department re-investigated all substantiated complaints. Giuliani was pressured into dropping re-investigation because it undermined the CCRB, Dunn said.

Earlier this year, the head of the mayor's Commission to Combat Police Corruption - an ineffectual body Giuliani established, supposedly as a check on departmental corruption - resigned, saying the department under Kelly refused to supply information.

Kelly has been especially sensitive about the convention, which resulted in 1,806 arrests but not one felony conviction.

The cases included, according to the office of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, two people who were convicted and 14 pleaded guilty to class A misdemeanors; three who pleaded guilty to class B misdemeanors; 19 were convicted and 134 pleaded guilty to violations, which are lower than misdemeanors. Also, 1,089 cases were adjourned in contemplation of dismissal; 34 people were acquitted; 450 cases were dismissed and 22 are pending.

Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne did not return a call seeking comment yesterday. Bloomberg spokesman Robert Leonard also did not return a call.

A rock and a hard place. PBA attorney Stuart London's revolutionary policy of having cops tried before a jury, not a judge, lasted just one trial.

After Officer Mark Conway was convicted of the accidental shooting of Dante Johnson, 19, in the Bronx by Judge Troy K. Webber in 2001, London decided that judges were no better for cops than juries.

So when Officer Bryan Conroy was charged in the fatal shooting in Chelsea of African immigrant Ousmane Zongo, 43, London opted to have Conroy tried before a jury.

He won something of a victory when jurors could not reach a verdict earlier this year. But the feedback he received on the jurors' 10-2 vote for conviction was so unnerving he decided Conroy's retrial, set for later this month, should be before a judge.

Meanwhile, last month Webber's conviction of Conway in the Bronx was overturned on appeal.

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© 2005 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.