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.”
Kerik, after thanking Giuliani, expressed his gratitude to former mayor Koch. While working in Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s as a security supervisor, Kerik called the city Department of Personnel to get an application for the police force—and was twice hung up on.
He sent a letter to Koch, who personally responded, and soon received a half-dozen applications in the mail.
He was sworn in July 15, 1986.
Kerik has served as chairman of the Michael John Buczek Foundation that honors law enforcement officers nationwide. Buczek was an NYPD officer killed in the line of duty in 1988. Sgt. Kane said Kerik committed hundreds of hours of his own time to the foundation.
“I don’t think everybody at the NYPD knows how much he cares about cops,” Kane said. “The rank and file are going to love Bernie because he knows the foot cop story, the detective story, the boss’s story. He’s going to be able to relate to all of those people.”
Colleagues Praise Him
Kerik’s colleagues in the Corrections Department gave him high marks for boosting morale and reducing violence among inmates and against officers.
“He has a lot of credibility and is someone who has been able to communicate and make a working relationship with us,” said Norman Seabrook, the president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association.
Kerik was named by Giuliani as Corrections Commissioner in January 1998. Prior to being commissioner, he was the Corrections First Deputy Commissioner, appointed that position in January 1995. He joined the department in 1994, and also has served as the executive assistant to the commissioner and as director of the Investigations Division.
Kerik, from Paterson, N.J., joined Corrections after serving eight years as an NYPD cop, spending much of his career as a narcotics detective in Manhattan. He received 30 police citations, including the Medal of Valor. He earned that award after surviving a 1991 shoot out in Washington Heights.
Kerik worked on the New York Drug Enforcement Administration task force, helping direct an investigation that resulted in the convictions of more than 60 members of the infamous Cali drug cartel.
Before joining the police force, Kerik served as a military police officer in the U.S. Army and as warden of the Passaic County Jail. A martial arts expert, Kerik spent four years in various security assignment in Saudi Arabia.
A high school dropout with an equivalency diploma, Kerik has been taking courses through Empire State College and is 24 credits short of a bachelor’s degree.