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Absolute power corrupts absolutely



We were fascinated to see Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick onstage with U.S. Sen. John Kerry et al. just after the nominee delivered his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention last week.

The Kwamster, clad in one of his signature refrigerator-box custom suits, was chomping on a wad of gum and basking in the euphoria.

Which made us wonder why, given the lineup of up-and-comers — especially African-Americans — the Dems trotted out to address the convention, the Hip-hop Mayor didn’t make the cut. One thing the Kwamster can do is speechify mightily — even if his behavior seldom reflects his rhetoric.

Our theory is that the Democratic hierarchy is reserving judgment on the Kwamster. Any chance he had to burst onto the big national stage was certainly not helped by allegations of unseemly behavior that emerged in June, when litigious ex-cops accused the mayor of firing them in order to cover up marital infidelities, including an alleged thang with his chief of staff, Christine Beatty.

If Detroit turns out for Kerry in November, if the city doesn’t have to fork over too many millions to the aggrieved officers, if the Kwamster keeps his nose clean and his pants on, then maybe he’ll get an invitation to make that breakthrough oration on the big stage in four more years.

But the image makeover isn’t off to a good start. Once again, the center of the controversy is Beatty, who, according to the Detroit Free Press, greeted Detroit cops who pulled her over for speeding in June with, “Do you know who the [expletive] I am?” Our intimate relationship with language suggests to us that the expletive was “fuck.”

The Freep reported that Beatty flashed a badge, then called Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings from her city-owned Crown Victoria. Bully-Cummings denied that Beatty had contacted her to get her out of the mess. But get out of it she did. Sgt. Robert Lalone went to scene of the tantrum and reportedly apologized to Beatty. The two patrolmen who stopped the Kwamster’s Girl Friday got summoned to the precinct and roundly lectured.

Lalone told the Freep he stood by his decision to let Beatty go: “I’d show the same courtesy to any city worker. Because we’re all underpaid and overworked.” Beatty makes $140,000 a year.

Adding insult to insult, Bully-Cummings was quoted as saying she believed the officers might have “harassed” Beatty. Way to stand up for your troops, chief!

And the mayor told a radio station that he believed the officers had engaged in a “set-up. … It’s the biggest piece of crap. I was incredibly surprised that the Free Press would even write about it.”

There are several good descriptions for what’s going on here, and the first and foremost one is: This is bullshit.

It’s embarrassing and pathetic that our mayor and his chief of staff and our chief of police and our police sergeants could be so transparently moronic, or believe FOK (Friends of Kwame), or anyone, is above the law. Or that the cops who put their lives on the line on our streets should fear enforcing the law.

But that notion apparently hasn’t dawned on the administration.

One longtime officer is now being called on the carpet for speaking out vis-à-vis l’affaire Beatty du jour. David Malhalab, a 22-year veteran, obliged when a local television station asked him to comment on Beatty’s free pass. Malhalab says he told a Channel 4 (WDIV-TV) camera crew “it was an outrage that the situation had occurred and police officers should not be intimidated from doing their job. … The political leadership is out of control and they don’t have respect for police officers.”

Malhalab says that after the interview, his supervisors questioned him about his comments. He was asked to give them a statement because he was told he had “stirred up the police executives in the building,” Malhalab writes in an e-mail.

He suspects he will be disciplined. It’s not unprecedented. Malhalab, who has complained for years about rundown scout cars, police hiring practices and other issues, says he has been unfairly targeted “many times” for speaking out. James Tate, interim communications director for the DPD, doesn’t know if Malhalab faces disciplinary action. If he is disciplined, Malhalab insists it will not quiet him.

Lucky for Beatty, Malhalab was not on the beat the night she was pulled over. Had he been, he says he would have issued her the speeding ticket.

This is hardly the first time Beatty has been accused of hanging cops out to dry. She made headlines after she convinced the mayor to fire former Deputy Chief Gary Brown, who headed the department’s internal affairs division. She’s lamely testified that she shredded an anonymous note, the smoking gun that convinced her that Brown must go.

Someone should convince the Kwamster that Beatty must go. It would be a great first step in his maturation process. If he doesn’t discover a little humility and begin to at least feign accountability to Detroiters, he not only won’t be invited to speak at the next DNC, he won’t be mayor.

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