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An Amateur Mistake

October 9, 2017

NYPD Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill may or may not have made an amateur mistake — as Sergeants Benevolent President Ed Mullins put it — in perhaps prematurely criticizing a sergeant’s fatal shooting of Deborah Danner, an emotionally disturbed Bronx resident, last year.

But O’Neill’s undisputable amateur mistake is that he accepted the interpretation of state law 50-a by NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters Larry Byrne. Byrne’s interpretation deems all law enforcement personnel records confidential. O’Neill is now using Byrne’s interpretation to block the release of departmental trial decisions, police videos, and even disclosures of transfers and promotions.

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialO’Neill, who, like Mayor Bill de Blasio, bleats about the importance of “transparency,” recently told the Daily News he is “hamstrung” by the law.

Actually, O’Neill has hamstrung himself.

And the mayor, instead of standing up to the department — specifically to the police unions, who seek to keep internal decisions secret — has gone along.

City Hall appealed a decision by a lower court, ordering the release of trial room decisions even with the officers’ names blacked out. The case, brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union, will be heard by the state’s top court next year.

“How does a judicial decision become a confidential personnel record? And how does it extend to police videos?” asked Chris Dunn, associate legal director of the NYCLU.

Granted that, after five million mostly meaningless stop-and-frisks under the 12 years of former Commissioner Ray Kelly, many non-white New Yorkers don’t trust the police. Granted, too, that an anti-police climate prevails throughout the nation and that there is a universal rush to judgment against the police.

But, as a former top department official put it, “In the long run, transparency is more important to the integrity of the department than pressure from the unions.”

And if O’Neill and de Blasio find themselves distrusted by non-white New Yorkers — despite all their talk about their Neighborhood Policing policy engendering trust — they have only themselves to blame.

. The NYPD may or may not be the greatest police department in the world, but it has the greatest number of rumormongers.

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittBecause cops are trained to give accounts that are believable, if not necessarily true, it’s often difficult to separate their facts from fiction.

Two related rumors are now rattling around Police Plaza. Rumor No. 1 is that Commissioner Jim O’Neill will be leaving after the election for a job in the private sector.

A high-ranking police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter, said he’d heard that rumor but that it was not true. He declined to put his name to that denial, saying: “I don’t respond to rumors.”

Rumor No. 2 concerns who would replace O’Neill. That person is said to be Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, an ex-NYPD captain who founded the group “100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care” and who for years was a thorn in the NYPD’s side.

Adams, who is running for re-election next month and is out of the country until Oct. 20, did not respond to a text message asking whether he had been approached by Mayor Bill de Blasio or his intermediaries.

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialTwo cautions.

A corollary to Rumor No. 2 is that Adams is said to be close to de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray. The same claim was made a couple of years ago about former Chief of Department Phil Banks, who at the time was thought to be in line to succeed former Commissioner Bill Bratton. Banks has stated he doesn’t know McCray. Actually, the only NYPD official who we can say with certainty is close to McCray is O’Neill, whom McCray introduced at his swearing in a year ago.

Caution No. 2: A similar rumor about leaving the department was often made about former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. He remained commissioner for 12 years.

Deputy Commissioner for Strategic Initiatives Zach Tumin, whose father, a Princeton sociology professor, was victimized by academia’s political correctness and who became the inspiration for Philp Roth’s recently released novel “The Human Stain.” Tumin says he plans to teach and write.

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