Last week, as the NYPD brass struggled to contain the controversy over a xenophobic anti-Islam propaganda film that was screened for over 1,400 cops, we took a stroll down memory lane to recap the department's top ten lies. Many of these deceptions come straight from NYPD spokesman Paul Browne, who's been Commissioner Ray Kelly's spin doctor since the early '90s. New Yorkers currently pay Browne over $100,000 a year for the favor of supressing public information, and although he's joined to Kelly at the hip, there's a growing chorus demanding his head on a stick.
"There are too many instances where he has blatantly lied about what is going on with the NYPD to the taxpayers who pay his salary," City Councilman Jumaane Williams recently said. "Once, perhaps you could say it was a mistake. Twice, oops, I did it again. Three, four, five times: There's no excuse." And today the Associated Press published took a scathing look at Browne's operation:
Browne's office issues email summaries of the biggest criminal cases of the day — homicides, assaults, robberies and fatal traffic accidents. But except in rare cases, his office refuses to release police reports, mug shots, arrest logs, 911 recordings and other documents. Any citizen wanting these documents must file a Freedom of Information Law request, which can take months and possibly a court fight...
The NYPD policy is far more restrictive than that of other police forces operating under the same state public-records statutes, said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "They just sort of ignore it with impunity. The attitude is sort of, 'Oh, you want us to do something about it? Sue us,'" Dalglish said.
At the same time, the NYPD and its 36,000 officers have gained vast new powers to spy on Americans because of a 2003 court order. And the department has thousands of new cameras positioned around the city. Civil rights groups are demanding more oversight.
"Paul Browne has been the face of what feels like a systematic effort to keep the public in the dark about what the NYPD is doing," said Donna Lieberman, chief executive of the NYCLU.
Read the whole AP article here; it's just the latest in a series of shots fired in Browne's direction. For his part, Browne shrugs off the criticism by saying "certain people have axes to grind; I understand that. It comes with the territory." Speaking of axe-grinders, Len Levitt, a former Newsday reporter and author of the blog NYPD Confidential, eviscerates Browne in a Huffington Post today. Levitt enumerates some of Browne's best lies, even going so far as to call him a "serial liar," and declaring that "lying has been part of Browne's modus operandi since becoming the police department's chief spokesman, in 2004."
In the face of such withering criticism, one wonders if Browne's job at the NYPD is still as bulletproof as ever. Something tells us he's not getting thrown under the bus anytime soon, especially not with Mayor Bloomberg declaring, "Paul Browne is as honest and as competent as anybody in the business of representing the city and giving out information." And furthermore, New York's heroic Fire Department is unparalleled when it comes to extinguishing three alarm trouser fires.