A former New York City drug detective who currently manages the city’s jail system was named police chief today.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, appointed his longtime friend police Corrections Commissioner Bernard Kerik to head the 41,000-strong force, which is the nation’s largest.
“This has been a dream from many, many years ago, when I started in law enforcement,” said Kerik, 44. “This is something I dreamed of, something I thought would never happen.”
Kerik’s NYPD colleagues predict the rank-and-file will embrace him quickly.
“He’s a cop’s cop,” said Sgt. Jerry Kane, who worked with Kerik at Manhattan’s Midtown South Precinct in the 1980s. “He was the best street cop I ever worked with.”
Minorities Criticize Process
But Rev. Al Sharpton, a critic of Giuliani and outgoing Police Commissioner Howard Safir, said minority community and political leaders feel betrayed by Kerik’s appointment—especially in light of Giuliani’s promise to reach out to them after he dropped out of the U.S. Senate race in May.
“The real police commissioner is Mr. Giuliani, and he just appointed his first deputy, Mr. Kerik,” said Sharpton at his National Action Network headquarters in Harlem.
If Giuliani had been “sincere” in his promise to reach out, “he should have met with a cross-section of leaders” before choosing a new commissioner, instead of consulting only “his own circle,” Sharpton added.
Norman Siegel, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, urged that Kerik begin his tenure by meeting with civil rights officials and community leaders to address issues of police brutality.
After accepting the job, Kerik told reporters he will be there for all New Yorkers and will listen to their concerns.
“I’m going to visit the cops, I’m going to visit the communities. I think they will be seeing a lot of me,” he said.
Three incidents marred Safir’s four-year tenure in office and created a wide gap between the NYPD and minorities: the police torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, and the fatal police shootings of West African immigrant Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond.
Giuliani said race relations between the community and the police was only one factor in his decision to choose Kerik over Chief of Department Joseph Dunne, who was named today as the NYPD’s first deputy commissioner, the second-in-command. Dunne, 52, had a strong rapport with minority groups when he was a police commander in Brooklyn.
Dunne Will Support Team
Dunne, who looked visibly upset, said he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t “terribly disappointed” at not getting the top job.
But Dunne reassured Kerik that he would support him. “Commissioner Kerik, we’re a team now,” he said.
Giuliani praised Kerik for his three-year tenure at the Corrections Department, where he has earned the respect of the 12,400 employees, 76 percent whom are black or Hispanic. He oversees approximately 130,000 inmate admissions yearly in the city’s 16 jails, 15 court holding pens and four hospital wards.
“Bernie has (one) thing so important as police commissioner - having served as a police officer, understanding the difficulties and split second decisions an officer has to make,” Giuliani said. “He brings a quality of leadership.”