Len Levitt is the author of “NYPD Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Country's Greatest Police Force."
Let's hope that an act of kindness and compassion -- something the NYPD is not usually known for -- doesn't turn out to burn the department down the road.
Late last year, a probationary cop turned up drunk and belligerent at the 73rd Precinct in Brooklyn. She pulled down her pants, urinated on the floor, then passed out. Ordinarily, such behavior would merit dismissal. Probationary cops have no union protection. The department's thinking is that it's best to rid itself of troubled cops before they lead to major problems.
"Do you want this person around for the next 20 years?" a police source said anonymously to candidly address the case.
At a recent top-level hearing to determine her fate, First Deputy Police Commissioner Rafael Pineiro took the standard department line and pushed to fire her, according to a retired NYPD official familiar with the case. Chief of Department Phil Banks argued that the officer, who is reported to be a victim of domestic abuse, was young and deserved a second chance. "Banks ruled with his heart, not his head," the retired official said.
With Pineiro's and Banks' vote split, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton became the final arbitrator. He sided with Banks.
Bratton's decision not to dismiss the officer appears problematic. In a week last month, three officers in three separate booze-related incidents fired their weapons at people.
The incidents prompted Bratton to say he was "very disturbed about a number of incidents in recent weeks that are part of a long-term problem of inappropriate use of alcohol by members of the department."
Bratton knows of the NYPD's drinking problem. In 1995, in his first tour as commissioner, seven officers were disciplined for drunkenness while attending a law enforcement memorial service in Washington. Patrick Kelleher, then the Internal Affairs Bureau chief, worked around the clock to determine which officers were involved.
As for the 73rd Precinct cop, no one is talking. Pineiro did not return calls, and Bratton spokesman Steve Davis did not respond to an email and a call.
Banks said only, "I didn't know her then. I don't know her now."