These days, NYPD brass are being told to be wary of “new friends."
Following recent disclosures of police corruption and influence peddling in the NYPD's higher ranks, everyone from captain and above is being cautioned to be on guard against civilians suddenly eager to shower them with friendship and gifts.
After a series of sordid allegations about the way some NYPD chiefs were plied with favors, including services of a prostitute, by politically connected Brooklyn businessmen, Commissioner James O’Neill told newly minted chiefs in particular to watch out for people who may abuse trust.
“Take a look at your friends before you became a chief and see who your friends are after you become a chief,” O’Neill said recently when asked what advice is given to commanders.
“Hopefully there are not too many new ones because they might not be your friends for the right reason,” he said bluntly.
Earlier this month, businessman Jeremy Reichberg was convicted in Manhattan federal court of conspiracy and obstruction of justice after trial evidence showed that he and wealthy partner Jona Rechnitz used politics and police graft to buy favors from City Hall and certain high-ranked cops.
Prosecutors alleged that Reichberg and Rechnitz, who was a cooperating witness, provided jewelry, meals, travel — such as a chartered jet to Las Vegas with a prostitute — and other favors in return for help with gun licenses, police escorts and parking placards. Reichberg plans to appeal his conviction.
"What a terrible chapter in NYPD history,” O’Neill said about the past two years, in which the department was wracked by charges of payoff and influence peddling. “But moving forward we have to make sure that everybody knows, not just captains and above, but everybody in the police department knows that this has to be a corruption-free agency.”
Roy Richter, head of the Captains Endowment Association, said that after the allegations about Reichberg and Rechnitz surfaced in 2016, O’Neill called all executive officers — which today total 721 from the rank of captain all the way to the Chief of Department — to a mass meeting at the Police Academy in Queens.
There, O’Neill, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Internal Affairs Joseph Reznick and department lawyers told the police executives about what the policy and rules were on conflicts of interest, Richter said. Generally, cops can’t take gifts of more than $50 value.
One department official who didn’t want to be named said the difficulty for cops was how they should behave when long-standing friends offer them expensive gifts or dinners.
“If it is a legitimate friendship, where does it stand?” the official asked rhetorically.