Detectives from the Manhattan South Homicide Task Force came to the doors of several network employees late at night. The detectives had come to question the people, fingerprint them, and tell them they would have to take lie detector tests. All this for a missing necklace and cell phone.
These items, the detectives said, were owned by Judith Regan, a publisher at HarperCollins whose client at the time was Bernard B. Kerik, then New York City's police commissioner, who is the author of an autobiography titled "The Lost Son." The phone and necklace disappeared during a photo session on the afternoon of Nov. 28, 2001, at the Fox News Channel studio in Manhattan. Hours later, detectives began visiting the homes of five Fox News employees, in two instances arriving after midnight.
Police officials have not disputed the account given by the people whose houses were visited, but have said that the amount of resources devoted to the case was not unreasonable. Exactly who gave the order sending them out remains unclear. Mr. Kerik has denied any role. But those who were interviewed say they believe that a close friend of the police commissioner was getting special treatment.
In a complaint filed last week with New York City's Conflicts of Interest Board and in legal papers filed in late December, they contend that the police went to great lengths in the case — assigning at least five of the city's leading homicide investigators — because of Ms. Regan's business relationship with Mr. Kerik. They argue that Mr. Kerik abused his authority for personal gain and violated their constitutional rights. They said in the legal papers that they planned to sue the city and Mr. Kerik.
The former police commissioner said he did not even know of the incident until well after the investigation had begun. He said that he had not ordered the police to give Ms. Regan special treatment.
Ms. Regan said that she was the one who had been wronged, which she felt should be the focus on the incident. She said, "A crime was committed, and no one cares."
In the episode involving Ms. Regan, several of the people questioned after the incident said they doubted that a crime had even been committed. They pointed out that the jewelry that Ms. Regan had reported missing from her purse was later found at the bottom of her handbag. A credit card she initially said had been stolen and used to run up charges was later found to have been left behind at a pharmacy in a separate incident, according to police officials. The missing phone was later found in a garbage can in the studio. No one has been arrested or charged in the case.
Mr. Kerik said that, while he had spoken to Ms. Regan sometime after she noticed her phone was missing, she had initially called one of his aides. The aide began the investigation without his knowledge, he said.
Last month, the Conflicts of Interest Board fined Mr. Kerik $2,500 for using a police sergeant and two detectives to do some of the research for his book. The new complaint was filed by Robert M. Simels, the lawyer representing the Fox News employees, who also filed a notice of claim against the city, the first step in bringing a lawsuit.