Thursday, April 07, 2016
The commanding officer of the Upper East Side's 19th Precinct and another top cop have been stripped of their guns and badges amid the widening fallout from a federal investigation into possible corruption in the upper ranks of the NYPD. The FBI is questioning some 20 high-ranking officers about gifts, possibly including international vacations and diamonds, from Upper West Side developer Jona Rechnitz and Borough Park power broker Jeremey Reichberg, both prominent backers of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The New York Post reports that the 19th Precinct's Deputy Inspector James Grant has been placed on modified duty because he may have accepted diamonds and cash from Reichberg, in multiple instances allegedly escorting Reichberg from the airport after he returned from trips abroad to buy diamonds, and accepting some diamonds as payment.
The tabloid also says that the 2014 resignation of former Chief of Department Philip Banks was not, as he said at the time, because he was unhappy with the administrative nature of his proposed new assignment, but because of the looming federal investigation. The probe purportedly came out of an unrelated look into deals of the two businessmen, and focused on Banks when he turned out to have hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank.
In a statement, police Commissioner Bill Bratton said that Deputy Housing Chief Michael Harrington, who formerly worked under Banks, has also been placed on modified duty. Brooklyn South Deputy Chief Eric Rodriguez and Deputy Chief David Colon have also been transferred, he said. Harrington and Ryan were both implicated in the alleged coverup of an incident where 10 rookie cops beat a taxi driver outside an Upper East Side bar, then arrested him.
"This is not a particularly good day for the department," Bratton said at a press conference.
The FBI investigation dovetailed with an NYPD Internal Affairs investigation that opened in late 2013, according to Bratton, and the department is now overhauling its training on conflict of interest issues.
"This joint investigation has been going for some time now and is continuing," Bratton wrote in a statement. "We will follow the leads wherever they take us."
The FBI investigation has also brought correction officer union boss Norman Seabrook under new federal scrutiny, in part because of a trip he and Banks took with Rechnitz and Reichberg to Israel, for which at least part of the expenses were paid. Seabrook told the Post that the trip was allowed because they bought Rechnitz a $5,000 backgammon set, thus "There is no quid pro quo."
Other destinations Rechnitz purportedly flew cops to include London, Rome, and Las Vegas.
In return, officers may have provided special security for business deliveries, family functions, and even Torah transportation (both businessmen are Orthodox Jews).
NYPD officers are barred from accepting gifts over $50, and department bosses have a long history of crossing that line. Former NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik served more than three years in federal prison for accepting $255,000 in renovation work for his Riverdale apartment, then lying about it when he was being vetted to run the Department of Homeland Security. He also pleaded guilty to taking tens of thousands of dollars in gifts as the city's Department of Correction commissioner, for which he paid $221,000 in fines.
Kerik's predecessor, Howard Safir, paid a $7,000 fine to the city for taking a flight to the Oscars from the makeup company Revlon in 1999. And Kerik's successor, Ray Kelly, had his $1,500 annual dues at the Harvard Club paid for by the Police Foundation, a nonprofit he used as a slush fund, for at least eight years. He was never sanctioned for the transgression.
The Police Department also has a history of granting favors to ultra-Orthodox Jews in Borough Park, Brooklyn who constitute an influential voting bloc. The Post reports that Deputy Inspector Grant served as commanding officer of the 72nd Precinct in Sunset Park, and had doled out hundreds of police captains' union cards with his name on them and the message "Please extend all courtesy to the holder of this card."
Speaking to the Forward, security consultant Joe Levin said that Borough Park's 66th Precinct "is owned by the Hasidic community."
The precinct is known among cops as Fort Surrender, in memory of a 1978 riot by Hasidic Jews who overtook the station house and injured dozens of officers.
In the mid-1990s, Brooklyn South commander George Brown was reassigned after he refused to release a teenager arrested for outstanding parking tickets in the face of another riot at the precinct, according to NYPD Confidential. The blog also reported that it is routine for connected Borough Park figures to have their tickets fixed.
And in 2006, former 66th Precinct commanding officer Joseph Esposito was forced to apologize for allegedly yelling "get the fucking Jews out of here" amid a protest by hundreds of Hasidim upset over the arrest of a 75-year-old man for failing to pull over when police tried to stop him for talking on his cellphone. Protesters reportedly assaulted two cops, lit bonfires in the street, and smashed and burned police cars. Only three people were arrested.
De Blasio has so far declined to return the more than $50,000 raised by Rechnitz for his campaign, saying the investigation needs to play out before he makes a decision. He has denied accepting non-campaign gifts from the two businessmen, and said they have not contributed to his reelection.
Comments: Post a Comment