NYPD Confidential - An Inside Look at the New York Police Department
Home Page
All Columns
Contact Leonard Levitt
Search this site
Printable versionSend to a friendEmail Leonard Levitt

Editor’s note: This column did not appear in Newsday.

Threats on terror — or on reporters?

October 28, 2005

Veteran reporters based at One Police Plaza have for years been issued identification passes, allowing them to freely enter the building to get to their offices on the second floor. That changed this week when the department made some of them go through metal detectors like any visitor.

This tighter security is not the result of a newly discovered terrorist plot. Rather, it follows two Daily News stories alleging that outdated headquarters surveillance cameras failed to record the attack of a 14-year-old boy on October 6 in the plaza. The cameras also missed another attack five days later when thugs chased and beat a 32-year-old man they believed was gay.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has lambasted others for sub-standard security measures, in particular, bank branches whose lax video surveillance has made them easy prey for robbers.

Apparently being criticized in the News for the same shortcoming stung the commissioner.

It also stung his spokesman, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne. Before it ran, he told the Daily News reporter who wrote the story, Tony Sclafani, “There is going to be a price to pay for this story.”

Sclafani said “I don’t comment on private conversations.” Browne, a former Daily News reporter himself, did not return calls from Newsday. But a former top department official interpreted Browne’s words as a threat. “Of course it’s a threat,” the official said. “How else would you take it?”

Sclafani is hardly the first reporter warned or threatened by the Kelly administration. Browne retaliated against Newsday reporters by refusing access and information after critical articles, such as claims by cops and sergeants that their commanders ordered them to downgrade certain felonies to misdemeanors.

Two years ago, Kelly took off an afternoon from fighting crime and terrorism and drove out to Newsday’s headquarters on Long Island to complain about this reporter. More recently he revoked Your Humble Servant’s building pass because of critical articles too numerous to mention.

The days are long gone when New York newspapers were a force to be reckoned with. No longer. Where they used to be able to get information, they are now routinely ignored, especially by the police department, which under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, became more closed and secretive than any time in recent memory.

In 2001 when he ran for mayor, Michael Bloomberg promised more “transparency” than had existed under Giuliani. Under Kelly, the department has become more closed and secretive than even under Giuliani..

Meanwhile, the media praises Kelly for placing the NYPD at the heart of the nation’s fight against terrorism. No one dares ask why Kelly finds it necessary to antagonize virtually every federal agency and law enforcement official outside the NYPD, whom he might otherwise have welcomed as partners.

The Coast is Clear. Those exact words were spoken by Kelly’s predecessor Bernard Kerik at last week’s retirement dinner for Chief Tom Fahey.

Kerik said them into a microphone to Chief of Department Joe Esposito, adding that it was now OK for Espo to sit at Kerik’s table.

Kerik was referring to the absence of Commissioner Kelly, who failed to make even a token appearance for a two-star chief who for the past 40 years has bled NYPD blue.

But Fahey was close to Kerik and the world knows how little Kelly thinks of him. In an NYPD first, Kelly last year directed the Internal Affairs Bureau to investigate how four high-tech security doors were ordered for Police Plaza during Kerik’s tenure. So far, nothing has come of that investigation.

As for Esposito, this column is too polite to ask which commissioner he prefers, Kerik or Kelly.

Return of the Prodigals. Here are more terms of the reengagement between the FBI and the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation, which was cut off from the bureau by the former head of its New York office, Pat D’Amuro.

D’Amuro has never publicly stated his objections to the fat cat group, whose members pay a $25.00 initiation fee for the privilege of supporting the FBI. However, he was known to have been infuriated by their use of FBI plaques and replica FBI badges – especially when one board member was arrested for soliciting a prostitute, supposedly while flashing his fake FBI badge.

The group has since agreed to give up the plaques and badges. There is also an unwritten “understanding,” that members convicted of a serious crime will be suspended. If convicted, they will be tossed.

Yesterday, the Foundation threw a monster bash at the Waldorf, with former president Bill Clinton as keynote speaker. The gentleman with the prostitute was front and center, seated at Clinton’s right on the podium.

« Back to top