Bernard Kerik: from crime-fighter to crook • Brooklyn Paper

Bernard Kerik: from crime-fighter to crook

When a cop commits a crime, the corrupted line of blue makes law-abiders see red.

The rot of revulsion is fouler when the suspected turncoat is a former police commissioner, a 9/11 hero, a one-time cabinet position nominee, plus a senior policy advisor to the American presidential envoy in Iraq and an interim Interior minister there.

Bernard Bailey Kerik, the son of a prostitute from New Jersey, was all of the above, and more, before his descent from being an esteemed crimefighter, who rose through the ranks from being a beat cop and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s chauffeur to being Inmate No. 210-717 facing 15 federal counts, which he denies and which, collectively, carry a maximum penalty of 142 years in jail and $4.7 million in fines.

Kerik is accused %u2013 among other charges %u2013 of swindling taxes between 1999 and 2004, fibbing to the White House in 2004 while being evaluated for the job of Homeland Security Secretary, accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in the form of discounted apartment renovations as a kickback from a mobbed-up contractor who wanted a city license (a charge he plead guilty to in 2006), and obstructing justice by trying to influence potential jurors before his day in court.

Certainly, he is owed that much, but while his trial may not unearth why this deviance happened to one who enjoyed the highest levels of success, as Kerik did, it should alert future crooked public officials that they are not above the law %u2013 however bloated their bluster.

Kerik could have continued his role as a model for the masses, given his own dismal roots as the child of divorced parents whose mother was killed, possibly by her pimp, when he was nine years old; a poignant point he speculates upon in his 2001 memoir, “The Lost Son: A Life in Pursuit of Justice.”

After the World Trade Center terror attacks, he helped temper a shaken city and rose to international acclaim as a gritty gladiator for the good guys before allegations of his own lawlessness surfaced amid the White House investigation.

Just a handful of years ago, who was better than Bernie? As corrections commissioner, he juggled a reported annual budget of $835 million with a workforce of 13,000 and an annual inmate admissions roster of 133,000 while overseeing the department’s 16 jails, 15 court detention pens and four hospital prison wards, including Rikers Island. As the head of NYPD, he developed an admirable gang intelligence unit and networked with local, state and federal authorities across the nation to nab the bad guys.

That was before he stood accused of being one himself, and before he breached the trust of New Yorkers who footed his salary and expense accounts %u2013 and before he tarnished the brave men and women in uniform whom he had pledged to lead by example.

Described as “a toxic combination of self-minded focus and arrogance” by the judge who overturned his bail, and jailed him a week before his trial for shady defense practices, Bernard Kerik is a disappointment to the venerable office of public service. His downfall demonstrates the inevitable implosion of self-fancying public officials, who put ego before duty and become delinquent on the taxpayer’s dime instead of just doing their job %u2013 properly and lawfully.


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