The NYPD needs a new code of ethics, not just for cops, but also for its top commanders and commissioners.
That’s the take-away from the corruption trial that concluded last week with the acquittal of former NYPD Deputy Insp. James Grant and the conviction of a self-proclaimed Hasidic liaison with the department, Jeremy Reichberg.
The trial, which can best be described as part of a “friendship scandal,” has been an embarrassment for NYPD. Guilty or not, how does anyone justify Grant’s private-plane junket to Las Vegas with a prostitute hired by Reichberg? The trip was paid for by Reichberg’s pal Jona Rechnitz, who is the feds’ singing canary.
Prosecutors charged that Grant accepted gifts from Reichberg and Rechnitz, and in exchange, the NYPD provided them with favors that included help with gun permits and a helicopter flyover for a Reichberg boat party. Defense attorneys argued those were favors among friends.
And if you naively believe such “friendships” were confined to the 66th Precinct, remember that Rechnitz did some of his business out of the chief of department’s office, and that a dozen chiefs and inspectors throughout the city were forced to retire after the feds alleged some of them had granted favors to corrupt individuals.
This is not like the Knapp Commission scandal of the 1970s, when payoffs were systematically set up right to the commissioner’s office. Rather, the Grant-Reichberg trial reveals lower-level corruption under the guise of friendship. Still, city rules prohibiting cops from accepting gifts of more than $50 are simplistic.
Indeed, observe the behavior of the past NYPD commissioners to see how those rules were ignored. For instance, Bernie Kerik accepted $165,000 in renovations to his Bronx apartment from people seeking a city contract; Ray Kelly received $40,000 in dues and meals at the Harvard Club paid by the Police Foundation; and when Bill Bratton returned as commissioner, he demanded the same. Can anyone wonder why chiefs and inspectors saw nothing wrong with accepting freebies as friendship?
Yet neither Commissioner James O’Neill nor Mayor Bill de Blasio has addressed the issue. The mayor, whose 2013 campaign received a $100,000 donation from Rechnitz, had “no reaction” to the trial. “I tuned out, honestly, because it had nothing to do with me,” he told reporters.
O’Neill, who takes his cues from the mayor, has said virtually nothing.