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Manhattan Detective Chief Yanked in Greg Kelly Scandal Fallout, Sources Say

By Murray Weiss | April 9, 2012 7:34am
Manhattan's chief of detectives was reassigned by NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly for failing to immediately inform the commissioner of rape allegations facing his son,
Manhattan's chief of detectives was reassigned by NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly for failing to immediately inform the commissioner of rape allegations facing his son, "Good Day New York" anchor Greg Kelly.
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DNAinfo/Josh Williams

MANHATTAN — Manhattan's chief of detectives has been reassigned, and it appears the Greg Kelly scandal is to blame, DNAinfo has learned.

Assistant Chief Lawrence Nikunen was yanked from the prestigious NYPD post by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly a few hours after prosecutors declined to pursue rape charges against the the top cop's son and "Good Day New York" anchor in February, sources told "On the Inside."

Sources said Ray Kelly was simmering that he was not immediately informed by Nikunen or others in the chain of command that his detectives were investigating Greg Kelly, after a paralegal walked into the 13th Precinct on Jan. 24 and accused him of raping her in her Downtown law office.

Instead, the top cop learned of the incident not long before DNAinfo and The New York Times started making inquiries about it, sources said.

"With the Greg Kelly case, we are talking about the commissioner’s son being accused of a serious crime,” one source explained. "Someone should have called [Ray Kelly] directly or made sure he learned about it immediately. Instead the information went through normal, slower channels.”

Nikunen sent roughly a dozen notices about the Greg Kelly case through the chain of command, but failed to contact Ray Kelly directly, sources said. 

Ray Kelly is notorious for demanding to be informed immediately about important matters, no matter the time of day — and he hates learning anything from the press.

In one instance, after a controversial late-night shooting involving cops in Brooklyn, a sergeant who once ran the commissioner’s personal detail paused to get more details before waking the commissioner. The delay cost the sergeant his post.

There are rarely coincidences of this magnitude at the NYPD, and sources say the sudden transfer of Nikunen was no exception.

After a nearly two-week investigation of the rape allegation, the Manhattan District Attorney's office declined to charge Greg Kelly.

Within a few hours, Nikunen received a surprise call directly from the commissioner, who told him he was being transferred from the No. 1 spot in Manhattan to the No. 2 two spot in the Intelligence Division, where Nikunen had previously worked under David Cohen, the Intel Deputy Commissioner.

The move was opportune as well, as Nikunen filled a vacancy created when the former No. 2 in Intelligence, Deputy Chief Brian Burke, was transferred back into the Police Commissioner's office at 1 Police Plaza.

Calls to Nikunen, a 27-year NYPD veteran, were not returned.

While sources said Nikunen was the perfect scapegoat in the Greg Kelly flap, they also said he had other issues regarding his stewardship over Manhattan's detectives.

Not long before his transfer, Nikunen sent a strange email to his deputies blistering them about covering his back. The email was widely distributed throughout the ranks of top police brass.

Nikunen continued his criticism at a borough-wide meeting that coincidentally ended just hours before he received his walking papers from Commissioner Kelly.

He was stunned to hear the news Kelly delivered, sources said.

Nikunen’s replacement is Assistant Chief Walter Salowski, who ran the NYPD’s Applicant Processing Division for the past several years.

Described as an even-keeled police veteran, Salowski told friends he was pleased to return to operational command. Judging by the reaction of his men and women, they are just as pleased as he is.

Now all you hear from detectives is that their new boss is “a gentleman" — a term you don’t often hear these days inside the NYPD.