In New York City, the local police and the feds do not get along — at least when it comes to counterterrorism. Now the FBI has a new man in New York. His name is Joe Demarest. Besides guarding against terrorists, his top job will be to help patch things up between the New York Police Department and the FBI.
The latest dust-up came after the terror attacks in Mumbai, India. After tough negotiations with India's government, the FBI managed to send a handful of agents to Mumbai. A day later, the NYPD sent their own team — which rankled the feds.
And then there's what happened last month: The head of the NYPD, Commissioner Raymond Kelly, accused the Justice Department of dragging its feet on approving wiretap applications. The Justice Department said the New York police were asking for wiretaps that broke the law. The angry letters between Kelly and Attorney General Michael Mukasey went public.
"I think the challenges are many out there in the law enforcement community," said Kevin Donovan, who used to head the New York office for the FBI. "And I think having someone who can make the community work together and gel the talents of the NYPD and the FBI and make them work together is really what Joe is going to be able to do."
Demarest is the assistant director in charge of the bureau's New York division. He left the FBI last year to become head of international security at Goldman Sachs, but he was called back into service by FBI Director Robert Mueller. Demarest was told to get things back on track in New York between the FBI and NYPD. By most accounts, he has the personality to do so.
"He's the type of guy who would give you a good handshake or a hug around the waist or whatever, very affable guy," said former FBI agent Dennis Buckley. He worked with Demarest investigating the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa. That's where Demarest cut his teeth on counterterrorism. He then went on to run an FBI SWAT team and the Joint Terrorism Task Force with the NYPD — leading 350 NYPD detectives and FBI agents.
"Joe Demarest is a first-class professional, and he'll be a tremendous asset to security in New York City," Kelly said. "We're all looking forward to working closely with him."
Law enforcement officials say Kelly and Demarest get along well because they are cut from the same cloth. Both men are fitness enthusiasts. They both are sharp dressers. They both have military bearing. "I think in the way they carry themselves, you'll see very much similarities," said Donovan. "Joe is a very disciplined individual, and he has a command presence, which I think Ray Kelly does, and I think that is important in that role."
That's because things are a little different in New York. While the law enforcement community does pull together in a pinch, the personalities are very strong, very "New York." The U.S. attorneys are aggressive, and so are the district attorneys. As the police commissioner of America's most populous city, Kelly is used to picking up the phone and calling Mueller directly. And if he doesn't get what he wants from that call, he'll call his friends on Capitol Hill.
The thinking is that with Demarest in New York, Kelly might be more willing to use normal channels.
Many observers say that, at this point, the relationship between the FBI and the NYPD has nowhere to go but up. So Demarest is bound to be successful. He reported for duty in New York on Monday.