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OpinionColumnistsLeonard Levitt

'Using' the NYC Police Foundation

New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton addresses

New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton addresses the New York City Council at City Hall in Lower Manhattan on Thursday, May 21, 2015. Bratton called for additional police officers in his remarks. Photo Credit: James Carbone

The City Council plans to investigate the New York City Police Foundation.

The announcement by Vanessa Gibson of the Bronx, who chairs the council's public safety committee, follows the disclosure in the New York Post that Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is using the nonprofit group to pay consultants with whom he has had longtime relationships.

The Post said Bratton was doling out "cushy consulting jobs to cronies." It quoted anonymous former NYPD officials as saying that Bratton used the foundation as a "piggy bank."

The foundation was formed after the Knapp Commission, which probed police corruption in the 1970s. The foundation -- created to support police programs -- has been vulnerable to the dictates of police commissioners.

Before he left the NYPD in 2001, then-Commissioner Bernie Kerik had the foundation pay for plaster busts of himself to give to friends.

After the PBA gave a vote of no confidence to Howard Safir, Bratton's successor in 1999, Safir asked the foundation to pay for a New York Times ad supporting him. The foundation refused. After returning as commissioner in 2001, Ray Kelly asked the foundation to pay for an American Express card for him. The foundation refused that as well.

But no one has exerted more control over the foundation than Kelly. The foundation paid his annual membership at the Harvard Club and his dining and entertainment expenses. The foundation also paid an annual $96,000 fee to Hamilton South, whose job as the foundation's marketing consultant morphed into that of a high-powered public relations man for Kelly as he pondered running for mayor in 2009.

"[Kelly] changed the culture," said its longtime executive director, Pamela Delaney, who was forced out at Kelly's instigation.

Kelly then promoted the selection of its board chairman, Valerie Salembier, a media executive with whom he had a close relationship. As her term ended, he created a position for her in the police department's public relations office with the title of "assistant commissioner."

Today, the foundation continues to operate without outside oversight.

"Kelly said it was wrong to talk to the press," said a former foundation executive. "They are following his philosophy and the atmosphere he created."


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