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Waiting for NYPD To Dole Out Cash

July 4, 1994

Sgt. Thomas Kennedy has filed a $3 million lawsuit against the police department, claiming it violated his civil rights by suspending him for 14 months after fiddling with the results of his drug test. He best not plan to spend the money soon.

Kennedy's story begins on Jan. 20, 1993, when he was shot in the hand, just a few hours before he was scheduled to take a random urine test for drugs, called a Dole test. The test was delayed for a day and "traces" of cocaine was found in his urine. But the amount was so small, it was below the cut-off line used to determine whether an officer tests positive or negative. According to those standards, Kennedy officially tested negative.

Although the Police Patrol Guide requires that negative test results be destroyed, the department didn't do that in Kennedy's case. The timing of his shooting, which he said occurred during a holdup, made some people in the department suspicious. No witnesses were found, even though it happened outdoors at midday. The question was: Had he shot himself - to avoid being "doled?"

Instead of destroying his test results, officials from the Health Services Division asked the testing lab's director, William Closson, to extrapolate Kennedy's results backward. Closson concluded that, had Kennedy been tested as scheduled 24 hours earlier, his cocaine level would have been above the cut-off level. In February, 1993, he was suspended. He appealed.

In April, Kennedy was reinstated. Police trial judge Nilsa Santiago ruled that the department had violated its testing guidelines.

Now, Kennedy's lawyer, Michael Fitzgerald, has filed a federal lawsuit, charging that Closson participated in the improper extrapolation because his lab, Brunswick Toxicology, of Amityville, L.I., was negotiating a four-year $800,000 contract with the NYPD. Brunswick's contract was indeed renewed in July, 1993, five months after Kennedy's suspension. But NYPD's chief contracts officer, Mitchell Hofstetter, said the contract was awarded to Brunswick strictly as the lowest bidder.

Last month, Santiago resigned from the Police Department. Department sources said that Kennedy, who has been kept away from the public working at Central Records at One Police Plaza, may wind up in an unsought-after precinct in Washington Heights, and a good distance from his Queens home.

The Chief's Call. It was Chief of Department John Timoney who made the decision to allow gays a second march up Fifth Avenue Sunday, despite his own three-hour argument to the contrary a few days earlier before a federal judge who ruled the march unlawful.

It was also Timoney who refused to arrest some marchers for nudity outside St. Patrick's Cathedral, where they had stopped to heckle.

Printable version"I would be remiss in my responsibilities if I had said yes [to the marchers' request for a second permit]," Timoney explained. "I did not want to give it an official imprimatur. But the issue is public safety. I wanted to get the march over with as safely as we could, and as fast, with no violence and no vandalism."

As his boss, Police Commisioner William Bratton, put it, "It was a good day. There were no arrests, no incidents. It was a very, very good day."

Onward Christian Officers. The Police Department is reassessing a policy that prohibits a group called Police Officers for Christ from mounting a Biblical display at One Police Plaza. The NYPD has balked at allowing the exhibit, which would include Christian symbols and a message of salvation from the New Testament, because of prohibitions against religious displays in municipal buildings.

The Officers for Christ has threatened a lawsuit unless its exhibition is approved by July 6. They say that other fraternal groups such as the Columbian Association, an organization of officers of Italian heritage and the Shomrin Society, an organization of Jewish officers, have used religious symbols in their displays.

Police officials say their legal department has been in touch with counterparts in the city Corporation Counsel's office. Says a spokesman: "A decision will be reached soon."

The group's demand follows the NYPD's first-ever Gay Pride celebration last month that included an exhibit and culminated with an official ceremony Wednesday with Bratton and First Deputy Commissioner David Scott present.

"We have never had so much support," says Lt. Bill Zazeckie, the secretary for what he says is the 650-member Christian police officers group. "People in the building are embarrassed by the gay and lesbian display. The Bible says it (homosexuality) is an abomination. It is one thing to tolerate, another to force acceptance. People are shocked and embarrassed."

Joe To Go Pro Bono? Mayor Rudy Giuliani hasn't asked Mollen Commission counsel Joseph Armao to remain after the commission issues its final report next week, but Deputy Police Commissioner Walter Mack wants to keep him around. "My intention is to reach out to Armao for help. I intend to tap his knowledge," says Mack, the civilian head of the department's Internal Affairs Bureau. "I am recommending that Joe serve pro bono as part of our advisory group" to advise IAB "on things we should be doing."

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© 1994 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.