The head of the NYPD's workplace discrimination office has opted to retire days after having been suspended without pay for 30 days after investigators say he posted hateful messages to a website where cops air grievances anonymously.
Deputy Inspector James Kobel was relieved of his command in early November after he was accused of penning attacks on Black and Jewish people, women, members of the LGBTQ community and others for more than a year using the pseudonym “Clouseau," a reference to the bumbling French detective in the “Pink Panther" films.
An NYPD spokesperson confirmed the 30-day suspension on Sunday, as well as the start of an internal disciplinary process. On Monday, an NYPD spokesperson confirmed that Kobel had submitted retirement papers.
Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted Sunday that the posts were “absolutely disgusting” and go “against everything we’ve done to build a more inclusive police department.”
The head of Kobel’s union said the 29-year NYPD employee retired to avoid a departmental disciplinary hearing, where de Blasio suggested he “be terminated immediately” if found guilty of violating NYPD rules.
“Given the current political climate and anti-police sentiment, DI Kobel did not see it as possible to get a fair administrative trial and decided to avail himself of the opportunity to file for retirement,” Captains Endowment Association President Chris Monahan said.
In messages posted on the website, “Clouseau" referred to Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark as a “gap-tooth wildebeest,” ridiculed Public Advocate Jumaane Williams for having Tourette's syndrome, called former President Barack Obama a “Muslim savage” and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s son, Dante, a “brillohead.” All of them are Black.
Commissioner Dermot Shea called the postings “abhorrent” and “utterly disgusting." Kobel, the commanding officer of the Equal Employment Opportunity Division, could be fired after an internal investigation, Shea said.
Kobel, 50, previously did not respond to an email sent to his department address seeking comment. No one answered a home telephone number listed for him. He denied being “Clouseau” in an interview with The New York Times, which first reported on the allegations.
“Nonetheless, despite my denial, it will likely end my career,” Kobel told the Times. “Where do I go to get my reputation back?”
The allegations against Kobel were detailed in a report that a City Council oversight panel will make public. City Council investigators linked the messages to Kobel by matching information in the “Clouseau” messages to publicly available details about Kobel's life and career, including: that both allegedly joined the NYPD at the same time, held the rank of captain or higher in 2019; both allegedly where on the job in February 2020; both allegedly served in the NYPD Housing Bureau under former Chief Joanne Jaffe; both allegedly had fathers who died in the same year at the same age after serving in the NYPD; both of their mothers allegedly died on the same day; and both are allegedly the youngest of seven children and have at least two brothers who were NYPD officers, among other shared specific personal and family characteristics.
News 4 has obtained a copy of the report and is not publishing the alleged comments verbatim due to their offensive nature.
The NYPD said it received a draft of the report on Oct. 14 and immediately started an internal probe. Kobel has cooperated with the investigation, Shea said.
Kobel was relieved of command and placed on modified assignment this week.
“That is a drastic step, but we thought it would be an appropriate step due to the nature of his assignment, as well as the allegations and what we have learned so far,” Shea told reporters.
Kobel, a 28-year member of the department, was the second-in-command in the Equal Employment Opportunity office for four years before being elevated to commanding officer in May.
The office is responsible for preventing and investigating employment and harassment claims and has implemented policy changes in recent years providing for lactation rooms, enabling officers to wear religious head coverings and making accommodations for transgender officers.
The day after allegations were made public, Cuomo said it is "almost incredible" that the blog has been up, by some estimates for years, and was so widespread and yet no one has done a thing, calling it "one of the most disgusting, disturbing, discriminatory, vile blogs that you can find on the internet."
Cuomo called the allegations "disturbing on so many levels, I can't even begin to tell you." The governor went on to say the blog is disturbing to read because it suggests "racism, discrimination and abuse of power that has gone on for too long."
"This has to be fully disclosed. It went on for years, there are hundreds of contributors," Cuomo said, adding that it is not just "about one person" who should be held responsible, but all who contributed to the blog.
Cuomo has said the NYPD's investigation should be expeditious and transparent.