Paul Browne denies allegations that Veronica used detectives on Kelly’s detail to run errands and race to engagements with lights and sirens on, but acknowledges that she is given rides to appear alongside Kelly at events. More recently, Veronica, as well as other members of Kelly’s family, has been given a security detail from the Intel Division, after death threats were received, Browne says.
Kelly’s disciplined work ethic, his command of the NYPD, the steady downtick of crime, and his name recognition made him a momentary favorite in the 2009 mayor’s race—that is, before his boss, Bloomberg, decided to go for a third term. While Kelly denied it, even saying that he “had no desire” to run for public office, sources say he did entertain the idea, even meeting privately with Republican strategist Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign. While Browne claims Kelly and Reed merely bumped into each other at an event, a source close to Reed says the two met at the behest of a mutual friend “to see what [a campaign] might look like.”
Reed and Kelly spoke in the midtown office of one of Reed’s clients for roughly 40 minutes, the source says. One topic was how Kelly, as a registered independent, would navigate the party system in New York. A more critical one was Kelly’s relationship with Bloomberg. Reed asked Kelly if he would be running with Bloomberg’s endorsement. “I don’t know,” Kelly said, according to the source. (Browne says the meeting with Reed never happened, and insists Kelly has never had mayoral aspirations.)
Kelly’s friend Guy Molinari says he spoke with Kelly on at least two occasions over the years to urge him to consider a run for mayor. “It’s not like he was telling me, ‘Guy, look, I’m not interested, stop pushing me,’ ” Molinari says. “He listened.”
There’s no obvious avenue open for Kelly. The federal post of Homeland Security director is filled. Same with the CIA. The post of FBI director will open up next year, but the appointment is for ten years, and Kelly is already past retirement age. But why would Kelly want to move to Washington and deal with agencies so big he couldn’t control them? He’s custom-fitted his NYPD to do some of the same work as all three. Plus, running the department with a Marine’s efficiency, he’s treated like a general.
At headquarters, Kelly squeezes into the private elevator. An official eyes Kelly’s Dunkin’ Donuts iced decaf cappuccino.
“Hey, that looks good,” he says.
“I tell you, you can find Dunkin’ Donuts … ” Kelly says.
“On your iPad?”
“You can talk into your BlackBerry and say ‘Dunkin’ Donuts’ and it comes up on a map,” Kelly says.
“I don’t want to stereotype, but after fortysomething years as a cop, can’t you just radar and find out where the Dunkin’ Donuts are?”
“Hey, stereotyping,” Kelly says.
On the fourteenth floor, the conference room is lined with flat screens and charts monitoring weekly statistics in the city’s eight borough commands. About 30 chiefs, commissioners, and senior officials sit around the conference table and deliver their briefs to Kelly at the head.
“This morning in the 6th Precinct, during a 250 [stop and frisk], a male fits the description of a burglar they’ve been having a problem with. So, looks like a good collar.”
“Commissioner, we have a foreign-government security detail that came in with too many weapons, and we’re in the process of cutting that way back, working directly with the government and State Department, clarifying that they gotta clear it with us first.”
Kelly does not say a word. He sits, listens. It’s as if he’s recording, like one of his cameras. His extreme self-control makes him seem remote, a little lonely.
Earlier in the day, he was sitting in the same seat and the conference room was empty. I asked him about his reputation as an intimidating boss.
“I think I’m easy to talk to,” he said, “but maybe it’s my Marine Corps experience. Maybe that comes across. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or a good thing.”
“Well, is it better to be loved or feared?”
He was fidgeting with his BlackBerry.
“I just want to get the job done,” he said.