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Racism in the NYPD? It's a fact.

December 9, 2005

Here are new details of the Latino Officers Association’s $17.3 million discriminatory settlement with the city that this column has learned. They portray systemic racism in a police department that supposedly reflects the city’s cultural diversity.

Most disturbing is that even those promoted to the department’s highest levels were victims of racial discrimination.

They include no less a figure than Joyce Stephen, appointed by Commissioner Ray Kelly as deputy commissioner for community affairs and until her recent retirement, the highest-ranking black in the department.

In addition to Stephen, three of the department’s five black inspectors received monetary awards for discrimination.

One of the department’s highest ranking blacks, who was awarded nearly $100, 000 for discriminatory discipline and who asked not to be identified said: “The money may have eased our pain but scars remain. The damage was done and the department. can’t always pay its way out of trouble. The best was not given to city of New York because we were denied promotions and opportunities because of racism, which still permeates the department.”

Of the1265 officers who filed claims, 576 – or 45 per cent -- received monetary awards. Virtually all of them were black and Hispanic. That’s more than five per cent of all blacks and Hispanics in the department.

LOA counsel Richard Levy notes that percentage does not include the unknown number of cops who were afraid to file, fearing retaliation or career damage.

Although the names of the officers receiving compensation remains, at least at this point, confidential, here is what this column can report:

The awards ranged from $3500 to the 286 officers who suffered from a “hostile work environment” to $405, 000 to the 36 officers who were discriminatorily dismissed.

In between were 154 officers who won awards for discriminatory retaliation and 100 officers compensated for discriminatory discipline.

According to Kenneth Feinberg, the court-appointed special master who determined the amount of each claim, most awards resulted from discrimination practiced before the current administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office.

Most of the abuses occurred under former police commissioner Howard Safir, whose legacy of insensitivity and obtuseness includes the city’s having to pay $1 million to another black deputy commissioner, Sandra Marsh, after Safir fired her for refusing to rewrite a report critical of a white chief.

At least one case, however, did occur under Kelly. LOA president Luis Arroyo says he was awarded $85, 000 stemming from his removal two years ago from a Brooklyn South narcotics unit after allegations of falsifying overtime records led to wholesale transfers.

Arroyo says, “I attempted to meet with Commissioner [Ray] Kelly but received no response from his office. He was fully aware of who I was and what was occurring. Had he met with me, I believe the matter could have been resolved.”

Taking on the Times. Not content with belittling virtually every law enforcement official he has known, beginning with the chiefs in his own department, Police Commissioner Kelly has now taken on The New York Times.

And people contacted by this column all praise him for it.

In a letter the Times printed Monday, Kelly chastised the Times for its jailhouse interview of Allan Cameron, who police say fired the shot that killed officer Dillon Stewart.

The interview, which ran the previous Thursday, was headlined: “Police Fired Fatal Shot, Murder Suspect Says in Jail,” and quoted Cameron as saying he was arrested as a scapegoat after Dillon was fatally shot by a police bullet.

“Without a scintilla of evidence to support his fantastic lie,” Kelly wrote, Cameron, “was given the front page of your Metro section as a platform to broadcast his scurrilous assertion that the police were responsible for the shooting death of one of our own.”

Although the Times article cited police officials who refuted Cameron’s claim and quoted spokesman Paul Browne saying Cameron’s account was “self-serving in the extreme,” Kelly added:

“No doubt the Times could elicit equally preposterous theories of innocence from any number of individuals incarcerated on Rikers Island. Why you elected to give standing to the accused killer of a police officer to claim, ‘Police Fired Fatal shot, Murder Suspect says in Jail,’ is as offensive as it is unfathomable.”

Three people who know Kelly offered differing reasons for his letter. One, a well-known city political consultant who asked for anonymity, said the letter furthered Kelly’s position as a possible mayoral candidate. “It looks like he’s getting ready for a run but he has not made a decision. His letter speaks to the law enforcement community and I think it serves his purpose of running on not coddling criminals.”

Former mayor Edward I. Koch -- who last month told this column that Kelly would make a formidable mayoral candidate, although Koch himself is backing Comptroller William Thompson -- said of Kelly’s letter to the Times. “Three cheers for him. He’s not afraid of them.”

Former police spokeswoman Alice McGillion said, “I don’t know if he is running for mayor or not, but I feel he was truly angered by that article. The headline was outrageous. There was absolutely no evidence to back up Cameron’s claim that Stewart was shot by the police.”

The Times’ editor Bill Keller did not return an e-mail message.

The Fighting McCarthy's [Con't] Deputy Commissioner for Operations Garry McCarthy has his big day in an Alpine, N.J. traffic court next Thursday. For anyone out there who may not know, Garry received a personal violation for blocking an exit lane at a gas station on the Palisades Interstate Parkway with his NYPD vehicle last February. His wife Regina received a personal violation for “unreasonable noise.” Their daughter Kyla was charged with parking in a handicapped zone.

According to documents obtained by NYPD Confidential, McCarthy, who was in civilian clothes, gun visible in his holster, struggled with the Palisades Parkway Police officer who ticketed Kyla, leading the officer to handcuff and arrest Garry, and confiscate Garry’s gun. Regina then retrieved it for Garry, leading a second PIP officer to handcuff her. All three McCarthys have pleaded not guilty.

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Copyright © 2005 Leonard Levitt