The NYPD has stripped another high-ranking cop of his gun and badge and fired a detective amid the wide-ranging FBI investigation into possible corruption in the upper ranks of the department, as well as the Mayor's Office and mayor-controlled nonprofits. Inspector Peter DeBlasio, until yesterday commander of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, has been reassigned to an administrative position, and Detective Michael Milici, already transferred from his job with Community Affairs in Borough Park's 66th Precinct, has been fired for refusing to answer questions before a grand jury and skipping a departmental trial.
The police department's top spokesman Stephen Davis announced the personnel moves in a statement yesterday. Captains Endowment Association president Roy Richter told reporters that DeBlasio "cooperated fully and answered questions presented to him by federal investigators at his home in an early morning unscheduled interview." His lawyer said that he has served for over three decades and "will be able to exonerate himself as time goes on."
The New York Post reported that DeBlasio refused to answer questions before a grand jury.
Milici's lawyer has maintained recently that the detective didn't cooperate with investigators because he felt the fix was in and cooperating could dig him in deeper. "We knew from the absolute inception that the NYPD was not going to treat him well and that attempts to cooperate and have discussions certainly would not benefit his position," Patrick Parrotta told the Daily News. "The die was cast long ago."
Milici is the first officer known to have been fired in connection with the probe, which relates in part to two businessmen with ties to Borough Park and their purported favors to high-ranking officers in exchange for alleged favors such as police escorts and security details for diamond deliveries, funerals, and family functions. DeBlasio, whose command encompassed the neighborhood, is the 11th officer reported to have been demoted at least temporarily in relation to the investigation. Inspector Michael Ameri, head of the Highway Patrol, killed himself at a Long Island golf course last week as the federal investigation seemed to zero in on records related to escorts provided by his unit. Some in the department told reporters there was no indication Ameri was going to be charged with a crime.
Another thread of the inquiry focused on the alleged bribing of officers in the NYPD's License Division by a leader of Borough Park's Shomrim Hasidic Jewish neighborhood watch, to obtain gun licenses for people who would otherwise be unqualified.
DeBlasio, no relation to the mayor, would have worked closely with the Shomrim in his role as borough commander. The Mayor's Office halted funding to the group following Lichtenstein's arrest, pledging to assess whether it is a "responsible vendor."
A sergeant, Erez Levy, who served as school liaison under DeBlasio, was stripped of his gun and badge earlier this month for refusing to talk to federal investigators, the Post reported.
Meanwhile, the License Division's commander and two other officers were reassigned following the arrest of the Shomrim fixer Shaya Lichtenstein, and the cop who took over the unit doesn't seem to have liked what he saw. Inspector Terence Moore, a veteran of Internal Affairs, took over the licensing unit for just two weeks before handing in his retirement papers, according to DNAinfo.
Speaking to NY1, police Commissioner Bill Bratton confirmed Milici's firing for skipping an administrative trial, and said, "They'll probably be firing several more at different ranks for the same offense in the next week or so."
On AM970 today, Bratton made a more pessimistic prediction, saying, "Some of this will probably result in criminal indictment." He referred specifically to a Post report that businessmen Jeremey Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz had accompanied top NYPD officials on a private jet to Las Vegas featuring a prostitute dressed as a flight attendant. "Clearly that goes beyond anything that’s permissible," Bratton said.