Guess which top NYPD official is a member of the Harvard Club?
None other than Commissioner Bill Bratton.
Guess who picked up Bratton’s tab — listed in his 2014 financial disclosure form as $5,000 to $47,999?
Generous fat cats from the nonprofit Police Foundation.
Guess how Bratton justified the perk in his filing?
“Customary practice of Foundation to underwrite these costs for NYPD Commissioners,” he wrote.
Paying for Bratton at the tony Harvard Club is hardly customary. The practice began under Bratton predecessor Ray Kelly. After firing the foundation’s director, Kelly strong-armed it into paying his Harvard expenses.
Two Bratton aides said the expense is a necessary feature of the job; the club serves as a convenient midtown spot where Bratton can take business guests at relatively cheap prices. NYPD spokesman Steve Davis said, “There is a business purpose to these meetings. And he [Bratton] is accountable to the Police Foundation [for the expenses].”
The nonprofit was founded as an anti-corruption measure after the police corruption of the 1970s. But four decades later, this has changed.
One of Bratton’s contributions to the NYPD was to give the commissioner’s job celebrity status. But celebrities tend to feel entitled. This has led to some high-level schnorring — a Yiddish word that describes habitual begging with no intention of repaying.
That sense of entitlement led then-Commissioner Howard Safir to accept a trip to the Oscars in 1999, plane fare and expenses paid for by Revlon Corp. Safir’s successor, Bernie Kerik, accepted $165,000 in free renovations from a company seeking city contracts. Safir was censured by the Conflicts of Interest Board and forced to reimburse Revlon $7,100, the cost of the trip. Kerik went to prison.
So how does this look to the department’s top brass when city rules forbid officials to accept gifts worth more than $50?
Is it any wonder that federal officials say an ongoing investigation found chiefs and inspectors had accepted plane trips and other gifts from private citizens?
And what of the rank and file? They see the top brass accepting favors while they earn what they consider minimum wage. God only knows what’s going on in precincts across NYC.