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Barbara Bensoussan

Arnold Wechsler is the man in charge of hiring New York’s finest beat cops, police attorneys, dispatchers, and even the stable boys for the horses. How did a yeshivah kid from Brooklyn climb to the top of the New York Police Department?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

OnePolicePlaza, just north of theBrooklynBridge, is an imposing, 14-story building the color of burnt toast, with plate glass windows set squarely into the bricks like eyes. Like a fortress, it’s surrounded by an expanse of lawn and a metal fence with a manned guardhouse. Visitors are directed into a small building where they’re put through airline-style security: scanners, metal detectors, copies of identifying documents.

And even then, once you’re actually waved through and cross the plaza to enter the high-ceilinged lobby, you’re stopped at the front desk for cross-checking by a group of uniformed officers. Things are starting to feel like a Kafka novel: Even though you haven’t done anything wrong, you begin to believe, surreally, that you must be guilty of something. The huge statue of policemen towering over the lobby doesn’t help the discomfort, with the chilling motto “Fidelis Ad Mortem” (Faithful Until Death) affixed in large letters above.

On the floors above, however, life is reassuringly prosaic. Here there are dozens of offices filled with warrens of cubicles and filing cabinets and computers. You could be in any corporation, and in many ways, you are: With 53,000 employees, the New York Police Department is one of the largest employers in the city. To service a population of eight and a half million people, you have to be big.

The NYPD has never been known as a bastion of Jewish manpower. Hence, about two years ago, just about everybody in police and political circles was surprised when Police Commissioner Ray Kelly appointed a frum civilian, Arnold Wechsler, to be deputy chief commissioner of personnel.

It was a position that had been held for the previous 40 years by three-star police chiefs. Police columnist Leonard Levitt, author of NYPD Confidential, commented in a blog post: “The most recent chief of personnel, Thomas Dale, is nowNassauCounty’s acting police commissioner. Wechsler, on the other hand, is listed on page 21 of the 2011 NYPD roster as the head of the Employee Management Division … few know him.”

But Commissioner Kelly stated when he promoted Wechsler to deputy commissioner in January 2012 that he believes Wechsler possesses “incomparable expertise to handle the demands and complexities” of running a 53,000-member organization. Here on the 12th floor, we’ve come to visit Deputy Commissioner Arnold Wechsler, now one of the city’s highest-ranking Orthodox public servants.


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