Page last updated at 12:11 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 13:11 UK

Profile: Bernard Kerik

The fall from grace of former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik has been dramatic.

Bernard Kerik
Bernard Kerik, a former New York City street cop

Back in 2004 he was nominated as President George W Bush's first choice to protect the US from security threats as head of homeland security.

At that point he was nationally known for his role overseeing the New York Police Department's efforts in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Just a week later he withdraw his name from nomination following questions involving the tax and immigration status of his nanny and claims of extramarital affairs.

Since then he has faced repeated probes of his financial affairs, pleaded guilty to a state misdemeanour charge and now faces three trials in New York and Colombia on federal charges relating to corruption, tax fraud and lying to White House officials about the homeland security role.

'Toxic combination'

In October 2009 Mr Kerik's bail was revoked just before the start of the first trial, on corruption charges, because he reportedly passed on confidential pre-trial documents to an associate.

As he jailed him, Judge Stephen Robinson described Mr Kerik as "a toxic combination of self-minded focus and arrogance" who had a disregard of the court's processes.

Known as "Bernie" to his friends and colleagues, Mr Kerik has worked in the fields of law enforcement and security for decades.

Growing up in a tough neighbourhood of Paterson, New Jersey, no one would have known that he would go on to lead one of the biggest police forces in the world, winning plaudits for overseeing the police department's heroic efforts in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks.

His mother had abandoned him as a toddler and he spent his childhood in the homes of relatives and friends until his father was awarded custody.

Rudy Giuliani (c) with Bernard Kerik (r)
Mr Kerik has a long professional association with Mr Giuliani

Mr Kerik dropped out of high school to join the army, where he became a military policeman stationed in South Korea. After a few years, he left to work as a security expert in the Middle East, including a stint with the Saudi royal family.

He joined the New York Police Department in 1986 as a street cop and became a star undercover narcotics detective who helped bring down members of Colombia's Cali cartel.

In 1991, he was awarded the NYPD Medal of Valor for his role in a shoot-out during a drugs bust in Washington Heights.

A few years later, he began a long professional association with former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. He served as Mr Giuliani's campaign bodyguard in 1993.

A year later, he joined the Department of Correction as the director of investigations. According to the New York Times, one official told the department's commissioner: "Congratulations. You've just hired Rambo." Mr Kerik took over as commissioner in 1997.

There, he won accolades for curbing jail violence, particularly at the notorious Rikers Island prison. In 2000, Mr Giuliani chose him to take over as the city's police commissioner.

Bernard Kerik
Bernard Kerik was described as "toxic" by a federal judge

During his 15-month tenure, he was praised for helping to reduce crime rates in the city. During the last year of his term, violent crime had its biggest drop in five years.

In the wake of the 11 September attacks, he caught the eye of the White House and was later rewarded with a role as special policy adviser to the Iraqi interim government. He was enlisted to help set up a fledgling police force.

He was also given an honorary Commander of the British Empire (CBE) award by the UK.

Mr Kerik was a popular police commissioner with a reputation for tough-talking and working his staff hard.

After the Trade Center attack, he urged lawmakers to pass legislation that would encourage the FBI to share terrorism information with the local police. He was quoted as saying that the barriers between the different agencies were "the worst kind of dysfunctional thinking in government".

But he was fined by the Conflict of Interests Board for using police officers to investigate the death of his mother - who had been murdered in Ohio.


Mr Kerik's autobiography, "The Lost Son: A Life in Pursuit of Justice", was finished just hours before the attack on the Twin Towers. He was criticised in the press for quickly adding a chapter on the attack - some said he was profiting from tragedy - and for including dozens of police department photographs.

He argued that he was only reporting the biggest event that happened on his watch and said he would donate some of the proceeds of the book to a charity for the World Trade Center victims.

Mr Kerik resigned as police commissioner when Mr Giuliani left office, despite being urged by elected replacement Michael Bloomberg to stay. He decided, instead, to explore opportunities in the private sector.

He is reported to have made millions of dollars since leaving the NYPD, much of it believed to have been made while working as a security consultant.

However, his supporters have helped him pay his legal fees by organising fundraising balls and have defended him on websites and social networking sites.

Mr Kerik, 54, has two young daughters with his second wife Hala and a grown son. He fathered another daughter while stationed in Korea.

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