By Harry Keaney
After more than 31 years with the New York City Police Department, Patrick Kelleher is embarking on a new and even more expansive beat. This September, the 53-year-old Brooklyn native will leave his job as second in command of the NYPD to become the director of worldwide security for Merrill Lynch, the financial behemoth with tens of thousands of employees in 43 countries.
"I will be overseeing their executive protection, internal investigations and all fraud investigations impacting on the company," he said last week.
As to the similarities and differences between his new job and that as the NYPD’s first deputy commissioner, he simply remarked, "same church, different pew."
For example, providing protection to the world’s movers and shakers is nothing new to the NYPD, the police force in a city that many regard as the capital of the world, as well as being home to the United Nations.
Kelleher pointed out that for two years, he was chief of the NYPD’s internal affairs bureau. Indeed, he has been credited with spearheading a reorganization of the bureau, which resulted in improved efficiency and effectiveness.
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Although his new base will only be a short walk away — Merrill Lynch’s headquarters are in the World Financial Center, near One Police Plaza — it will involve more foreign travel. His first trip outside the U.S. for Merrill Lynch will certainly be a familiar one. He will travel to Ireland to attend an FBI conference. Kelleher’s parents, his father, Myles, and mother, Mary Gilroy, came from Leitrim.
For years, Kelleher has been at the center of the high-pressure, emotionally draining environment that many NYPD officers endure: the shootings, the murder investigations and the long hours away from home.
Kelleher himself, and Barbara, his wife of 30 years, are the parents of three: Robert, a Postal Service worker; Patrick, who is following in his father’s footsteps as an officer of the NYPD, and Keri-Lyn, a junior at Mount Saint Mary’s College.
"The New York City police department is probably the furthest thing from a normal occupation," he said, referring to the demands not only on officers but also on their families. Despite this, Kelleher said he would stay forever in the NYPD if he could.
"But after 31 1/2 years, an opportunity presented itself that I couldn’t pass over for myself and my family," he explained. He is also adhering to advice he often heard as he rose through the ranks: Get out on your own terms and when you’re on the top of your game.
Indeed, Kelleher revealed he had intended to leave last spring but stayed on because of Commissioner Howard Safir’s discovery that he had prostate cancer. Kelleher said that Safir was now "doing fine."
In a way, Kelleher is returning to some of his roots. Before he joined the NYPD in 1969 and after spending two years in the U.S. Army, he worked on Wall Street, in an administrative capacity with Brown Brothers & Harriman. Furthermore, Merrill Lynch’s current director of worldwide security is another Irish American, Charles Connolly. And Connolly’s predecessor was Patrick Murphy, not only an Irish American but, like Kelleher, also a first deputy commissioner in the New York Police Department.
As he serves out the last days of his three decades of service with the NYPD, Kelleher admits to being apprehensive, even a little scared.
But, he adds, he’s also looking forward to the challenges ahead.