Post 13 Trivia – Kelly’s Legacy & the Bill of Rights
John Young, Patrolman
First of all, the 48-hour rule had been controversial and often misunderstood by many, including the bosses, the press and the general public. The rule was in effect from 1967 to September 2003, at which time an Albany judge decided that the rule can no longer be negotiated in police union contracts.
State Supreme Court Justice Edward Sheridan decided that the rule, which required the Police Department to wait two days before interrogating officers accused of misconduct, was improper and cannot be the subject of future negotiations. That was the city’s argument because the Police Commissioner (Kelly) stated “It was the intention of the City (as with all the police unions) to see that the 48-hour rule be eliminated” It should be noted that the other four line organizations gave it up!
Remember it was Al Sharpton, the Daily News and the Village Voice that had been calling for a revision of the 48-hour rule. They even want cops to reside within the city limits. I guess that why Kelly moved from Long Island to Battery Park City!
2006 state Court Of Appeals decision affirmed the Police Commissioner’s ultimate power over disciplinary matters in his department. The PBA challenged Kelly’s repeal of the contract provisions requiring NYPD superiors to wait at least 48 hours to question police officers accused of misconduct. One must remember that disciplinary procedures became a mandatory subject for negotiations under the Taylor Law in 1967.The garbage men got it first in 1954, but it took cops thirteen years.
What’s missing? Well, the Department gave up its right to question officers by first notifying the District Attorney’s Office of police shootings. They even called them on dog shootings or unintentional discharges- my term for accidental. Yes, the latter happens when an officer trips over something. He unintentionally grabs this firearm and squeezes off a round. In almost all cases, a cop will notify the line organization of a shooting. In the Bronx, some cops would call the PBA before notifying the Borough Commander. Within hours a board officer and attorney would be at the hospital or station house.
Once at Jacobi Hospital, I remember a Deputy Inspector attempting to question a wounded cop on a hospital gurney. The cop’s PBA representative politely asked the boss “Where your tape recorder to record this hearing, as I want to record the wave the formal reading of G.O. 15.” Needless to say, the boss wanted a scope on the cop’s story to tell the P.C. who would be conducting a press conference at the hospital. Eventfully, they got a story!
The P.B.A. has been providing legal assistance since the late 1960s. It was Richie Hartman’s firm that established the 24-hour service in 1978, in that an attorney would be available within hours. Instead of leading the investigation, our Department relinquished its investigative responsibility to the district attorney’s office. The Police Department stepped aside and took a wait and see attitude.
When a D.A. responds to an incident, he always has a stenographer. Nothing can start until he or she gets there. Shooting investigations were usually good for 8 to 10 hours overtime for the officers. Most of the cop witnesses talk to district attorney, only after he tells them they witnesses. However, the shooter will eventually appear before a grand jury.
Remember Judge Sol Wachtler (1985) proposed that New York State should scrap the grand jury system because these juries were the prosecutor’s pawn, rather than a citizen shield. In a Daily News interview, the judge coined the phrase “a grand jury could indict a ham sandwich.” The former chief judge would later served 15 months in prison for sending threatening letters to a former girlfriend (1994.) He got his law license back in 2007.
Too many cops had their careers interrupted by criminal indictments. Too many times cops have had their department hearings released by the department, or handed over by CCRB. Two Bronx cops were given copies their G.O. 15 hearings by an assistant district attorney. When I confronted CCRB, I was ordered to hand over the copy so that he could be dusted for fingerprints. I refused, but that another story!
Case after case, the 48-hour rule came to be an annoyance to the department and the district attorney’s office. It was a simple rule for minor cases of alleged misconduct but high profile cases caused a problem for the commissioner. A newspaper headline “Cop Kills Teen” or an interview on Sharpton’s National Action Network usually causes havoc on the fourteen floor of One Police Plaza. Tom Selleck’s character on “Blue Bloods” handles the job well… always looking out his cops. Frank Reagan hasn’t taken away the 48-hour rule yet!
While I was only on the job during Kelly’s first term as Commissioner, I had let it be known that I believed his legacy was the two patches on all shirts, blouses and overcoats. The incident that sparked this decision occurred after 44 cops sewed an American flag on their left shoulder to show support for the troops during the first Gulf War. Remember the American flag attached to felt, worn under the nametag. That was Kelly’s idea!
Cops started wearing the American flag during the Vietnam War. Even Richard Nixon and his White House staff started wearing a lapel flag thanks to Patty Dolan, 46th Precinct He was standing station house security and was told to remove a small American flag that he was wearing to support the troops by some boss. Charges or suspension eventually led to the wearing of a small flag lapel pin above the department award bars. It looked better than the American flag worn beneath the officer’s name tag.
I haven’t read Kelly’s new memoir “VIGILANCE” as I have been waiting for Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino to make a TV movie. Maybe they will include the legacy of his second term as commissioner- elimination of the 48-hour rule. Hopefully Patrol Guide 206-13 will be reviewed at the next PTS session at German Stadium.