Showing posts with label Bernard Kerik. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bernard Kerik. Show all posts

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What the Deaths of Michael Brown and James Foley Can Teach Us

As a result of the police response to the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has ordered a review of the distribution of military equipment to local and state police, to determine three things:  (1) whether the federal/military surplus programs are appropriate; (2) whether the amount of training provided for that equipment is sufficient, and (3) how well the government audits the use of the money and equipment provided to our police departments.
I strongly believe that there is a clear justification for local, state and federal police agencies in the United States to be well equipped, well trained, and be prepared for the threats of violence and terrorism that we face today and in the future.
To eliminate or diminish these types of units because of mistakes that may have been made in Ferguson may be a temporary "feel good" solution, but that will only last until the first time an extremely violent act or terrorist attack occurs and those units do not have the equipment or weapons necessary to defend themselves or protect the communities they serve.
Then they will either fail and be criticized for not doing their job, or far worse, they will die trying.
I believe President Obama’s concerns are justified and understandable, but I just hope that those responsible for the review, as well as our congressional leaders are fair, objective and think this out long and hard before they make a decision either way.
We cannot ask our local and state police to put their lives on the line, yet not give them the tools, training, resources and support they need to do the very jobs we expect of them.
According to reports, the review will be led by the President’s Domestic Policy Council, the National Security Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and relevant U.S. agencies including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury, and will also be carried out in coordination with the U.S. Congress.
Given what we saw in the immediate aftermath of the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, where unarmed peaceful protesters were confronted by armored vehicles, assault weapons and, as one former military commander said, "more gear than I wore in Iraq or Afghanistan,” I under the President’s concern. I understand the questions.
Personally, I believe the initial police response, however well intended, was an over-reaction under those specific circumstances. We saw unarmed peaceful protesters, standing with their hands in the air, met by officers pointing assault weapons at them. That response only exacerbated an already difficult and painful situation.
However, when provocateurs, most of whom came from outside of Ferguson, infiltrated the peaceful protests in the nights that followed, they threw Molotov cocktails, looted and destroyed businesses and private property, and fired guns among the protesters.
The police had no option but to act, and act with force.
A crowd can, at any moment, turn from peaceful to dangerous. Law enforcement has to hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst, and never be afraid to do their job. When they do their job, their political leadership and superiors MUST support them.
History has taught me that at every turn in life, we must try to make good from a bad situation. In this case, I am sure there are many lessons to be learned from Michael Brown’s death.  And we owe it to Michael Brown, his family, the community of Ferguson and really all of America to do our best as a society to learn everything we possibly can from this tragic event.
Was the show of force with war-like weapons necessary? Could it have been handled differently? Do local and state police require the weapons and equipment we saw in Ferguson?
After 35 years in law enforcement and running two of the largest law enforcement agencies in America, overseeing the rescue, recovery and investigation of the attacks of 9/11, and being extremely familiar with the threats we face in this country from ISIS and radical Islamic extremist terrorists, I offer the following historical perspective.
In the 80s and 90s, the drug cartels and violent criminals were outgunning local, state and federal law enforcement officers. Bad guys went from carrying revolvers to semi-automatic pistols to semi-automatic rifles to fully automatic assault weapons.
 In 1986, in Miami, FL, two men slaughtered two FBI agents with fully automatic weapons. In 1997, bank robbers in Hollywood, CA confronted Los Angeles police with fully automatic weapons. Attacks like these and increasing similar armed confrontations left law enforcement no choice but to enhance their weapons, ammunition and protective equipment.
Then came 9/11 and the threats of radical Islamic terror, which changed the dynamics of law enforcement all across our country, including at the state, local, and even small community levels.
Let’s remember that New York City has been the target of at least 13 terror attacks over the past 12 years. Radical Islamic extremists targeted the Prudential Building in Newark, NJ, and others around the country. Two brothers planted a bomb at the Boston Marathon. A group of men planned to blow up a synagogue.  I could go on and on.  
In addition, in the past four years, we have witnessed mass murders on our military bases, in our colleges and elementary schools as well as shootings in our malls, either by Islamic extremists or some deranged lunatic.
Our local and state police are responsible for responding to these attacks and the increasing threats of terror and violence we face in America today. 
In the most violent and extreme circumstances, there are specialized teams of highly trained men and women, some of which are referred to as Emergency Service Units (ESU), Special Weapons and Tactics Teams (SWAT), Emergency Response Teams (ERT), Hostage Rescue Teams (HRT).
When civilians need help, they call the police.  When the police need help, they call ESU, ERT or SWAT.
When these units respond, they have to be prepared for anything and everything - a deranged gunmen with assault weapons, a suicidal bomber, IEDs, a suspect wanted for murder, a hostage taker or barricaded suspect, or an emotionally disturbed person who wants to jump off of a building or bridge and is willing to take the life of anyone who attempts to stop them.
This is what these specialized units do day in, day out. Their primary mission: SAVING LIVES.
You would have to be either naïve or in complete denial not to admit that these teams are extremely important and play a vital role in securing and responding to threats of violence or terrorism in our cities and communities.
We should have a national debate on the response to Ferguson’s demonstrations, and rightfully so. We can look at who receives equipment from the federal government or military, what equipment is necessary, and most importantly – more than anything else, whether the units receiving this equipment are not only adequately trained, but funded for training long term.
Local and state government leaders are quick to create these units to keep their communities safe, but then fail, and at times outright refuse, to fund them for the necessary training which is quite often more important than the equipment itself.
You can have the best equipment in the world, but if you do not know how to use it, or consistently train with it, or conduct mock drills and table top exercises as a cohesive team, then you are putting the men and women in those units, as well as the citizens in the communities they serve, in danger.
If we are going to look at these types of issues, I think we should also begin to look at many of our regulatory agencies.
In the past year or so, I have read about U.S. Health & Human Services raiding doctors' offices for fraud with heavily armed police, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency raiding a guitar company with a SWAT team, and U.S. Department of Education booming down a family's door in a morning raid in search of someone who failed to pay off his student loan.
If these reports are true, why do these and other federal regulatory agencies require that sort of firepower, when the U.S. Justice Department – FBI, DEA and Marshal's Service – has some of the best trained and most qualified non-military special weapons and operations teams in the world?
If a regulatory agency requires that sort of firepower, why not leave it to the real professionals, those who do it for a living?
There is a lot on the line for our country and all Americans as it relates to this issue. We need real debate, not knee-jerk reactions. Weapons of war on America’s streets are not needed every day, in every circumstance. However, we must be prudent in our preparations for the worst possible scenarios while at the same time protecting our citizens, our communities, and our freedoms.
Just in the past few days, we have heard one threat after another from the newly-formed Islamic extremist army called ISIS. This barbaric and savage army claims to be in the United States, has threatened imminent attacks, and even boasted that they intend to raise their flag above the White House.   We must be ready should their threats become reality.
There are no easy answers in a world where a man in black garb and a hood covering all but his eyes and mouth beheads an American and posts the video on the Internet for the entire world to see. 
Yes, there is a lot for us to learn from what happened to Michael Brown.  And there is a lot for us to learn from what happened to James Foley.
May the circumstances of their deaths cause all Americans, especially our government leaders, to pause and dig deep for answers about how we arm and prepare our communities in the face of such realities. 
Let this be Michael Brown and James Foley’s legacies. Their deaths can cause us to be better prepared and to help save lives.  We must make that so. 

May they both rest in peace. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014


A New York Time’s editorial recently outlined how presidential clemency which allows the President of the United States to either commute unjust sentences or pardon deserving petitioners who have served their time, has decreased over the past several decades.  The editorial stressed there is now a call for reviving this much needed practice…and that we should heed that call.
U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole recently encouraged the criminal defense bar to assist the Justice Department in finding suitable candidates for clemency among the thousands of people who were incarcerated unjustly as a result of mandatory minimum sentencing.
Mr. Cole was talking specifically about low-level, nonviolent, and many first-time drug offenders who are serving draconian, “life or near-life” sentences, who The Times’ reported “are trapped permanently at the margins of society by post prison sanctions — laws that bar them from jobs and housing, strip them of the right to vote and make it difficult for them to obtain essential documents like drivers’ licenses.”
As much as I agree with The Times and Mr. Cole’s assessment, I would strongly urge a bigger, broader look at the problem and how to address it.
Drug offenders are not the only ones suffering from post-prison sanctions, nor are they the only people who are serving unjust or unfair sentences as a result of the federal sentencing guidelines or mandatory minimums.
If our Founding Father’s beliefs were truly that all men are created equal, and that the punishment must fit the crime, and once you have been punished, you have served your debt to society, then our failings are far greater than the American people could ever imagine.
The collateral damage to a convicted felon, not just to a drug offender, is the same.  There are men convicted of first time, non-violent, non-drug offenses with Master’s degrees and Ph.D’s who cannot find a job. There are similarly convicted members of our Armed Forces who put their lives on the line for us in war but who cannot now find housing. The label of “convicted felon” is a life sentence of personal, financial and professional hardship that creates an unending burden, not just to the individuals and their families, but to society as well.  
Presidential clemency is needed to right the wrongs in the drug sentencing laws, but it is also needed to give those men and women who deserve it, a real second chance. Our system of justice today offers none.
I agree with the Times that the Justice Department’s recent interest in the clemency problem is good news, but looking beyond the Justice Department’s Pardon Office is a must.
There are men and women sitting in prison or who have already served an enormous amount of time, yet do not have the money to hire attorneys to file a petition of clemency or the education to do so on their own.
Counselors and case managers in the federal prison system can be extremely helpful in identifying candidates for consideration. So can advocacy groups, family members, and others willing to handle the necessary paperwork in a skillful manner.
In considering changes in the mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines, our legislators must look at ways to make those deserving U.S. citizens whole, once they have paid their debt to society for mistakes they have made. A life-long period of punishment is unjust, unfair, and un-American.
In speaking about presidential clemency, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy once said, “A people confident in its laws and institutions should not be ashamed of mercy. The greatest of poets reminds us that mercy is ’mightiest in the mightiest.’ It becomes the throned monarch better than his crown.” I hope more lawyers involved in the pardon process will say to the powers that decide, “This man has not served his full sentence, but he has served long enough. Give him what only you can give him. Give him a second chance. Give him a priceless gift. Give him liberty."
In a country bound by what I believe is the greatest Constitution on the face of the earth, we must encourage the use of presidential clemency as the Times’ suggests. We should also encourage our legislators to do the job that they were sworn to do, and create laws that are fair, impartial and, most importantly, with punishments that fit the crime, not ones that last for eternity.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


September 11, 2001 began like most mornings. It was around 6 a.m. that I gave my wife Hala and 11 month old daughter Celine a kiss before walking out the door of our apartment. Given it was New York City’s primary election day for the mayoral candidates, Hala and I had plans to watch the election results with the Mayor at The Dylan Hotel, on East 41st Street, that evening. I confirmed our plans and told her I’d see her later. Little did I know no one would be voting that day.

I was in sweats, ready for my daily work out in the gym in the back to the Commissioner’s office at NYPD headquarters. The drive from my apartment took about 40 minutes. By the time I arrived, I had read through the crime stats from the night before and had been briefed by the detectives in my car. Nothing, that I recall, was out the ordinary. If we all were lucky, it would be a peaceful day with the election going smoothly.

I went to my office, put a few things on my desk, and then started running on the treadmill while watching the news. It was a blue sky day, the kind you’d want for any election. I finished my workout about 0745 and then went over some paperwork in my office. When I finished, I went to take a shower and was standing in my bathroom shaving when John Picciano, my chief of staff, and Detective Hector Santiago started banging on my outer door. When I opened it, I still had shaving cream all over my face and a white towel around my waist. “A plane has just hit Tower One,” they said, almost in unison. I looked up at the TV over my treadmill and saw the news coverage. I walked quickly through my office to my conference room to look at the Towers...a clear shot from my windows. I was horrified by what I saw.

The devastation to the North Tower, 1 World Trade Center (WTC), was mind-boggling. I wondered how a small plane could have done so much damage. The news began reporting that it was a jet airliner. A jetliner?

Within minutes I was there, standing on West Broadway on the north side of the building, right next to 7 World Trade which housed the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management. The front of it had been damaged by the explosion of the airplane hitting the building. There was no way to get into the building or to the Office of Emergency Management. There was debris falling from the top of the North Tower. People were running out buildings, screaming and crying. A police sergeant ran towards me and my men, screaming for us to get back. "Back up, back up!" he yelled, "They're jumping!"

As most Americans watched their television in horror as men and women jumped to their deaths from the 95th floor of the building, I witnessed their last moments alive. One by one, then two and three at a time, they jumped and fell to the ground. I felt completely helpless. There was no way to stop them...or to help them. They were escaping the towering inferno in the only way they could.

About 15-20 feet to my right, just off the curb, was a hot dog vendor who too realized what he was seeing. He began screaming at the top of his lungs, “Oh my God! Oh my God!” He moved closer to me, gesturing and grimacing wildly. Then, he simply stood still, still screaming but not moving. He was so loud I couldn’t hear what my people were shouting to me. I yelled for them to get him back and out of the way. They moved him behind me and north of Barclay, and, luckily they did because had he stood there much longer, he would have died instantly from more falling debris.

Unanswerable questions

The city's response was in motion and, as bad as it seemed at that moment, it was about to get severely worse, not only for New York City, but the entire nation. As I turned around to give an order to one of my men, an enormous explosion and fireball blew out of the north side of the South Tower around the 85th floor. As I looked straight up, I was confused at first. What the hell just happened? Then I heard a member of the NYPD aviation unit on the radio say that a second jet airliner had just hit the South Tower on the south side, opposite of where I was standing. In that instant, I knew we were at war. An enemy was attacking us. I yelled for John Picciano, my chief of staff, to get me air support and close down the airspace.

How many planes did they have? Were they also on the ground? Where would they strike next? Would they try to kill the mayor? Me? My mind was racing with unanswerable questions.

We ran for cover as debris from the plane and building showered down on top of us. A two foot chunk of metal from the plane struck one of my detectives in the back of the leg, nearly knocking him to the ground.

I told my staff to call the mayor's car and divert him. Have him meet me at West Broadway and Barclay. Forget meeting at 7 WTC; it was too dangerous. About three minutes later, the mayor arrived, jumped out of his truck and ran up to where I was standing. Joe Lhota, his deputy mayor, was there too. I began telling them about the second plane hitting Tower Two just minutes before, just as I was standing there. We were looking up at the buildings and saw the rainstorm of white papers, chunks of metal, and….people. Suddenly the mayor realized that people were jumping to their deaths to escape the raging fire. He looked at me, stunned. It was obvious that we were likely to lose everyone and everything above the impact area of where the planes had hit. We realized this was like nothing we had ever been through before.

The mayor grabbed my arm and said, "We're in unchartered territory." I assumed at the time that he was referring to the damage and devastation to the Towers and at the size of the response to come. However, in the days that followed the attack, and realizing an enemy had succeeded in the unimaginable—a catastrophic attack in the heart of our country's financial district—those words had a whole new meaning.

There were no warning signs of the attack, but New York City's first responders in the FDNY, NYPD, EMS and Port Authority Police could not have accomplished more than they did that morning given the circumstances. With strength, determination, valor and grace, they executed plans and protocols that had been developed over the years, resulting in the evacuation of more than 100,000 people from lower Manhattan and the impact zone, the rescue and evacuation of thousands from the two buildings, and the establishment of one of the largest crime scenes in U.S. history, all in the face of death that, by day's end, claimed nearly 400 of their comrades.

‘We’ve got this, Boss’

The mayor and I wanted to see the damage to the other side of the buildings so we walked to the fire department’s temporary command center. We met with the Fire Department's First Deputy Commissioner, Chief of Department, and Chief of Operations, three of the most experienced fire fighters in the country with well over 100 years of combined experience. Also there were Father Mychal Judge, the Fire Department's Chaplain, and Sergeant John Coughlin from the NYPD Emergency Services Unit (ESU). They briefed us on their assessment of the damage and the response. As the mayor spoke to Father Judge, I spoke to Sergeant Coughlin. Despite the death and devastation around them, they were all examples of grace under pressure. John briefed me on the ESU teams on site; you would have thought he was briefing me on a minor water main leak. He was confident, courageous, and defiant. "We’ve got this, Boss," he said, and he knew I believed in him. Just 10 months earlier, he had helped save my baby daughter's life when she was choking. I already knew Coughlin was a hero. They all were. As we walked away, heading back north on West Street, I told him to stay safe. Father Judge blessed us all. It was the last time I would see any of them alive.

One of my detectives had commandeered a small office on the corner of Barclay Street and West Broadway for use as a temporary command post. We walked from West Street back to that office. The mayor called the White House from a hard-line phone. He wanted to ask for military support. After finally getting through, he was told that the Vice President would come on the line momentarily. All of the sudden, the mayor abruptly hung up the phone, looked at me and said, "That's not good. They said they're evacuating the White House and they think the Pentagon has just been hit."

Before I could get my mind around his words, the building we were standing in began to tremble as if a freight train were coming through the side of it. Joe Esposito, the NYPD Chief of Department, burst through the door and yelled, "It's coming down!" Someone yelled, “Hit the deck!” A bunch of the mayor’s staff dove onto the floor. Some crawled under desks or tables. The building was rattling. No one screamed or yelled, but I could see the fright in their faces. I was standing, holding onto the wall and a file cabinet. None of us knew what was really going on. From where I was standing, I could see the windows in the corridor that led into the office. All at once, they were exploding. Something was happening outside…everything was shaking.

The South Tower of the World Trade Center complex, one of the biggest buildings in the world, crashed to the ground. We didn’t see it, but we heard it. Almost instantly the office was filled with smoke, dust, and a gassy smell.

When the rumbling stopped, my security team rushed the mayor, the others, and me to the back of the office. There was a door that entered into the hallway. One of my men was yelling into his portable radio, "Code Black!" the distress signal if the mayor or police commissioner was in trouble. The hallway connected to a maze of hallways, each with a door at the end. One by one each door was checked. Locked. We couldn't breathe. We were suffocating. I pulled my shirt up over my nose and mouth. I remember thinking: "All the shit I've been involved in... burning buildings, gun battles, drugs busts…and I'm going to die in an office!"

We couldn’t stay there

I didn’t know how much time we had. No one could rescue us because no one knew where we were. I doubted the “Code Black” was even transmitted due to all the crap in the air and whatever else was going on outside. I thought of my wife and baby. Little did I know, Hala was watching the news coverage, and they were reporting the mayor and I were missing.

We were surrounded by locked doors. The smoke and dust in the air were getting thicker. Breathing was becoming more difficult. I thought we were going to die there. Then, to our utter amazement, we heard keys jangling. Someone was opening one of the doors. We rushed in that direction and when the door opened, two maintenance men were about as stunned to see us as we were them... especially for them to see the mayor and me. We all took deep breaths of clean air. But we knew we couldn’t stay there. I asked them where the other doors went and if there was a back way out of the building. They said yes and we all headed for the far door that they opened with a set of keys. We all moved quickly down this new hallway, went through another door, and found ourselves in the lobby of 100 Church Street.

We were now four blocks away from the Towers, and as I looked out of the windows in the lobby of the building, my first thought was that we had suffered a nuclear blast. Everything outside was white. Ash covered the streets, cars, and buildings. There was nearly an inch of dust on the ground. As we walked outside, what struck me perhaps more than anything was that there was no sound. None. It was almost as if we had been placed in a soundproof room. The silence was beyond eerie…it was frightening. What had really happened? We didn’t know. People were walking around in a daze. Some looked like plaster statues. Some were crying. I heard someone mumble, "It's down...the Tower's's completely down."

Many of the mayor's staff wanted him to return to City Hall, but I thought otherwise. I didn't know how many more planes there were or what the next targets could be. I wondered if ground attacks were planned. I told the mayor, "You cannot go back to City Hall. It is too dangerous for you there. You have got to get out of here."

I needed to keep him alive. Continuity of government is critical at a time like this. I don't think he was thinking of it that way, but for me, it was no different than the U.S. Secret Service keeping the president airborne and out of Washington, D.C. until they could determine further threats.

We began walking north. We had to set up a command center, but where? It was still difficult to breathe but not as bad as when we were stuck in that office. Then came that noise again. People behind us and around us began running and screaming. "It's coming down," and within seconds, the North Tower collapsed. Another blizzard of ash, dust and soot. Again, it was difficult to breathe.

First we went into a hotel and then a fire station. I ultimately recommended that we use the New York City Police Academy as a command center. It was nondescript and out of the way. When I spoke with the press and media, I told them to them to keep the location secret. If there were enemy on the ground, I did not want them to know the whereabouts of the mayor, governor or the command center.

Greatest rescue mission

By 12:30 p.m., the mayor, fire commissioner, nearly every city agency head and I met at the academy to begin managing the crisis. Governor George Pataki and his senior staff responded. The mayor and I later went to Saint Vincent's Hospital to check on casualties. Doctors and nurses were standing and sitting outside, waiting for those who might need medical attention. Few arrived. Little did I know then, that was a good sign for all of us. It meant the first responders had done a better job than anyone could have imagined. More than 100,000 people had been rescued or evacuated from those buildings and the surrounding area. This was one of the greatest rescue missions in U.S. history, and the men and women of the New York City Fire and Police Departments, EMS and the Port Authority Police were responsible.

I returned to police headquarters late that afternoon. Joe Dunne, my first deputy, came into my office to tell me the families of the 23 missing police officers from the NYPD were assembled in the auditorium, waiting for me. Meeting the families was one of the most difficult moments of that day, but it was also one of the most inspirational. Fearing the worst, I tried to remain hopeful and optimistic. I shared their pain, but I also had great pride in our department...its heritage, its camaraderie and its ability to take care of its own. The family members were an inspiration to all of us. I often think that they were a greater inspiration to me than I may have been to them.

Late that night, the mayor left the academy for home, and I left for my office. Before going to headquarters, I returned to what became known as "Ground Zero." I needed to see it again. I walked through the smoke and debris and saw a small group of people walking toward me. It was the mayor and his staff. We met for a moment. We barely spoke. We stood there looking at the damage and devastation. For me, it was like looking into the gates of hell, the smoke and fires and the smell. It was hard to breathe. I thought of those we were missing. I thought of the men and women who were there working. How could this happen and why? All in one day, I had witnessed the worst and the best in humanity...the evil that had attacked us and the courageous men and women, working tirelessly around the clock in an attempt to rescue any possible survivors.

I slept in my office that night. I woke to the sound of fighter jets patrolling our skies. New York City was a war zone. I cried and I prayed to God for strength.

Completely gone

Every day I witnessed great heroism and experienced great loss, as did all of America. Any of us who were at Ground Zero for any period of time saw things that would haunt the strongest of men. I clearly remember the day I got the news that they found two of my cops. I went to Ground Zero immediately. Every worker at the site came to a standstill as I walked toward my First Deputy Joe Dunne and the Chief of Department Joe Esposito. There were hundreds of workers, but it was still and silent. When I got to Dunne and Esposito, I said, "Who is it?" They told me the names of the two cops. I then asked, “Where are they?”

They both pointed towards two orange Home Depot buckets, 10 to 15 feet away from where I was standing. I slowly walked toward the buckets, looked around and saw nothing. When I got up to the buckets and looked inside, each contained an exploded gun, a magazine, and, I believe, a set of keys and handcuffs. There was no body, vest, boots, uniform or belts...there was nothing else. These men were completely gone. Dunne had tears running down his face. He said, "There's nothing else."

To this day, I hate the sight of orange buckets.

The initial shock of finds like this was overwhelming to all of us. Some people took it harder than others, and some never recovered. The psychological impact of war can be devastating, and this was the first battleground in this war with our new-found enemy. The men and women serving on that battlefield we call “Ground Zero,” including many volunteers from across the country, somehow found the strength to work through these circumstances, through the death and devastation. The emergency responders deserve so much more credit than people have given them, not to mention the inference by many that they do not deserve the medical attention they have asked for. Anyone who refuses or questions medical support for the men and women who worked on those piles for days, weeks, and months at a time has absolutely no conception of what they went through.

In the three and a half months that followed, we were not perfect, but did the best we could. As I have watched other crises around the world in the 10 years since, I stand even more proud today of our first responders. Their successes and sacrifices have been unprecedented, and I believe there are none better.

Prior to September 11, 2001, I had already decided and announced I would leave office on December 31, 2001, with Mayor Giuliani, even though Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg had asked me to stay on as his police commissioner. Crime was down to a five year low, the morale of cops was up, community relations were stronger, and in just 13 months, we had reduced the response times nearly 50 percent for the first time in more than 10 years. I was proud of my accomplishments as police commissioner, but not as proud as I was of the men and women who worked under my command.

Day in and day out, they put their lives on the line for the people of the City of New York, but it was not until 9/11 that the entire world got to see them at their best. They never cowered, and they did not flinch. In the face of death, their strength, dignity, valor and grace were unparalleled, just as with their brothers and sisters in the FDNY and Port Authority Police.

May God bless those who were there, those we have lost since, and the families they left behind.

And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Monday, August 5, 2013


Can Orange is the New Black, the new weekly comedy-drama television series, focused on the American criminal justice and prison system, do something that no one has ever been able to do before? 

For the sake of our economy, and our society as a whole, I sure hope so.

I read Piper Kerman’s book, Orange is the New Black, when it first came out and found it compelling, gut wrenching, and sad but true.

Given my experience in running Rikers Island and the NYPD, I have learned that you cannot fix a problem that you do not know exists. Given what I observed during my own incarceration, I am convinced that our legislators, courts, criminal justice administrators and the general public, have very little real insight, into something that has had, and continues to have such an negative impact on our children, economy and our country.

Hopefully, Orange is the New Black, will bring one of America’s most important issues, into the halls of Congress, and the living rooms of a general public, to give them a birds-eye-view of the collateral damage that prison and the criminal justice system can quite often have on families, children, the economy, and our society as a whole.

Bad people that do bad things belong in prison, and some, for a very long time. Some forever. But there are many first time, non-violent offenders sitting in prison, that could be punished by alternative sentencing, such as fines, probation, community service, and other methods, which would allow them to work, take care of their families, pay their fines and restitutions, and most importantly build a stronger bond with their children.

Justice would be served, and families could survive. The collateral cost of continuing down the road we’re on, will ultimately destroy generations of our youth to come, and our already dire economy.

Thank you Piper Kerman for your story, and to Netflix for having the foresight, and courage, to touch on a topic that NOT so many wish to discuss, or have the courage to do so.

Hopefully, in the course of your efforts, you can convince our legislators that inaction in criminal justice and prison reform is not as much soft on crime, as it is stupid on crime. 

Without it, our children and theirs, our economy, and our society as we know it, is doomed to failure.