NYPD Stationhouse Beer Can Probe Goes Flat

By Murray Weiss on February 10, 2014 7:12am 

 Commissioner Bill Bratton put a lid on NYPD brew-haha started when Budweiser cans were found in a precinct.
Commissioner Bill Bratton put a lid on NYPD brew-haha started when Budweiser cans were found in a precinct.
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

THE BRONX — The NYPD’s brew-haha has gone flat.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton ordered a stop to the forensic investigation NYPD brass launched after four empty beer cans and a chilled six-pack were found in a Bronx stationhouse, "On the Inside" has learned.

DNAinfo New York reported last month that Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski’s Inspections Unit called in a team of forensic experts to try to detect DNA and fingerprints to determine who had touched the Budweiser cans brought into the 47th Precinct stationhouse.

When that failed to crack the case, the brain trust considered employing an even more sophisticated and costly process known as “Superglue” that unleashes super-heated fumes to detect traceable evidence.

That’s when Bratton decided to put the probe on ice.

“The commissioner basically said, 'End it,’” one source said.

Another source said the commissioner was more diplomatic.

“He made it clear that he wanted the investigation to be reflective of the crime, which meant it's time to bring this to a proper conclusion, posthaste,” the source said.

The trouble started when a Bronx patrol captain who works as an integrity officer went to the 47th Precinct looking for a uniformed lieutenant at about 2 a.m. Friday, Jan. 10, and wandered into the dormitory area. There he found the precinct detective squad commander sleeping in a cushy chair, sources said.

The commander, who is a lieutenant, got off work about midnight and decided to sleep in the station house rather than drive home because he was due to punch in for another tour at about 8 a.m.

The captain rousted the lieutenant, and the two supervisors had a frosty exchange of words. The altercation was about to boil over when the captain began rummaging around the room and discovered the beers.

Despite the fact that the lieutenant was fit for duty and there was no evidence anyone had been drinking, the captain notified the chief of detectives' office, sources said.

That’s when the probe began, further exacerbating an already-wide rift between detectives and their bosses at the NYPD Detective Bureau.

Pulaski demanded his internal investigators question all the precinct's detectives about the beer, which had been barred from police facilities by former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

When that came up empty, Pulaski requested Crime Scene Unit probers be brought onto the cold case to scour the Buds for fingerprints and DNA. 

Officers' fingerprints are on file at Police Headquarters, but not their DNA, which would require a subpoena to retrieve, legal experts say.

When that high-tech exam failed to turn up any evidence, sources say the detective brass discussed utilizing “Superglue,” which would place the Budweiser cans in a sealed chamber filled with fumes released by overheated cyanoacrylate. The fumes would trigger a chemical reaction with any prints, which would then be revealed.

That’s when Bratton decided he had heard enough.

The beer incident was the latest blow to morale in the Detective Bureau, which is a cause of concern for Bratton, sources said.

“The commissioner is a big believer in boosting morale, not diminishing it,” a source explained.

All of which portends a change in the Detective Bureau.

Pulaski is considered one of the brightest and hardest working officials in the NYPD. He has degrees in law and engineering and has run the NYPD Lab, the office of the Deputy Commissioner for Operations that oversees the crime data system CompStat, and was a co-commander of the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Credited with making the bureau more tech-savvy, Pulaski can be abusive, sources said, and has ruffled feathers by demanding a checklist methodology to investigating crimes — an approach that frustrated detectives by stripping them of the use of their own discretion to manage cases.

NYPD officials declined to discuss the internal probe.

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