The NYPD’s new deputy commissioner of training, Wilbur “Bill” Chapman, should have no trouble teaching “New York’s Finest” about the pitfalls of sexual harassment, cronyism, and punitive transfers. He’s been accused of all that during his checkered career.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has declared: “Bill Chapman brings vast and varied experience to the all-important task of molding the future of the New York City Police Department.” But here’s Chapman’s past: His five-year stint as police chief in Bridgeport, Connecticut, left that department “functionally unsound,” the chief who followed Chapman told a federal judge in April 2005.
Joining the NYPD in 1969, Chapman rose to chief of patrol in 1995 and left as the department’s highest-ranking African-American in 1998 to become the commissioner of the city’s Department of Transportation.
When he was hired for the top job at Bridgeport’s much-troubled 445-officer police department in 2000, Chapman was hailed as a savior. One of his first moves was to hire NYPD colleague John White as director of crime strategies. Within a year, White, citing health issues, resigned after a controversy arose over his billing Bridgeport to travel by ferry, with his car, to and from his Long Island home, according to a published report. Chapman himself was criticized for taking 72 sick days in a year. That turned out to be the least of his problems.
Lt. David Daniels, a former president of the Bridgeport Guardians, a group representing black officers who initially sued the department in 1978 for discrimination, says the most difficult part of dealing with Chapman was his Jekyll-and-Hyde personality.
“He could be a nice guy one day, and the next day he’d have your head on a chopping block,” says Daniels. “He kind of ruled the department that way. And I don’t think he liked women too much. . . . Everybody heard him say some derogatory things to women.”
Karen Krasicky, an assistant chief under Chapman, detailed some of those remarks in a fall 2004 complaint filed with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities: “Chief Chapman is known for, and I have witnessed, his complete disregard and lack of respect for women in the workplace. . . . For example, during staff meetings, Chief Chapman uses foul language and on one occasion stated that, during a break, everyone should go and change their Kotex napkins.”
When Chapman was confronted by his staff with a potential “vote of no confidence,” Krasicky wrote, he retorted: “For all you ladies in the room, fuck you. Oh, I’m not supposed to say that, but fuck you anyway.” Chapman, her complaint added, “would comment that someone who was having difficulties was ‘having their time of the month.’ ”
Krasicky, now the police chief in Plymouth, Connecticut, claimed that Chapman passed her over for promotion because she’s a woman. According to court papers, the head of the BPD’s Internal Affairs office admitted that he didn’t do anything about her allegations because he didn’t “feel comfortable” investigating his boss. The city later settled Krasicky’s complaint for a reported $90,000.
Chapman’s difficulties weren’t just with women, but with his male—and black— colleagues. Daniels says Chapman specialized in what cops sometimes refer to as road or highway therapy.
“He was tyrannical,” Daniels says. “He sent me on an odyssey—I call it that. He got mad at me, and every three months he would transfer me from command to command.” Daniels adds that he can’t even remember why Chapman was mad at him—but “with Chapman, it was always over petty stuff.”
Ultimately, says Daniels, Chapman proved an ineffective chief, failing to upgrade equipment, technology, or training. On the one hand, salaries remained lower under Chapman than those at other local departments. On the other hand, Chapman was criticized for excessive overtime expenditures.
The black officers’ lawsuit, which predated Chapman’s arrival in Bridgeport, resulted in a consent decree overseen by a federal judge. In April 2005, a lawyer appointed as “special master” in the case accused Chapman of making punitive transfers, including removing the BPD’s internal- compliance officer from his position (which entailed making sure the department followed the federal decree) because his testimony at a previous hearing made the BPD look bad.
Part of Chapman’s problem, Daniels says, was that he was a strict “nine-to-fiver—anything that happened after five o’clock was left up to us.” It was widely known in the department that though Chapman was required to live in Bridgeport, he only kept an “address” there and really lived in New York, where he continued to register his automobiles, Daniels says.
Chapman didn’t restrict his controversial behavior to members of the Bridgeport Police Department; he was also accused of assigning a senior officer to investigate the new mayor, with whom he didn’t get along. When that mayor hesitated about renewing Chapman’s $97,000-a-year contract for five more years, Chapman was quoted in local papers as saying, “Maybe he’s not comfortable with an African-American chief.”
On January 21, 2005, days after city officials decided not to renew his contract, Chapman abruptly quit, accepting a buyout for $70,569, plus more than a month’s pay for vacation, personal, and sick time.
He put a lot of stock in such benefits. In 2000, while serving as the Bridgeport police chief, he threatened a
Daily News reporter who was working on a story about Chapman’s attempts to obtain a disability pension from the NYPD because of a heart condition that he blamed on his New York police career. “Write the negative story, and I’ll be down to see you,” he told the reporter.
Given that considerable baggage, why did Kelly choose Chapman for a plum $170,310-a-year job training NYPD officers? Chapman referred the Voice’s questions to the NYPD’s press office. Police spokesman Paul Browne’s only response to questions about Chapman’s past was to e-mail the Voice the week-old press release announcing the hiring.
State Senator Eric Adams, a retired NYPD captain who once headed 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, an organization critical of Kelly, offers one possible reason: Before Chapman’s hiring, only one of the NYPD’s 13 deputy commissioners was black. With Kelly rumored to be running for mayor, that percentage could be a liability. In the aftermath of the controversial police shooting of Sean Bell and two other unarmed black men in Queens—at a time when Kelly’s approval rating was plummeting—Chapman publicly endorsed Kelly as the best police commissioner he’d ever worked for.
Adams surmises, “It looks like as he makes his move to become mayor, Commissioner Kelly is trying to bring a little color into his cabinet.”