Cops Miffed At Queens DA
October 24, 1994
Richard Brown's love affair with the city Police Department is apparently over.
Brown, the Queens district attorney, rides with a red light atop his car to virtually all Queens homicides and likes to remind people: "I am at every hospital when a cop is shot." Now he's taking heat from Police Department officials for ordering the arrest of a state correction officer who killed a fugitive in a Queens housing project last week.
Publicly, the Police Department has said nothing. Privately, officials accuse Brown of bending to community pressure by charging Officer Edwin Flores with manslaughter rather than letting a grand jury decide. "There was not enough evidence for a summary arrest because the investigation was incomplete," said a police source. "Frankly, if he had been a New York City cop, we wouldn't have arrested him."
Flores and his partner Dennis Reilly, of the correction department's Absconder Unit, were looking for another prisoner at the South Jamaica housing project last Monday when they spotted Jason Nichols. Nichols had failed to return to a work-release program at the Queensboro Correctional Facility.
Brown said he had "uncontroverted evidence" - four witnesses who said Nichols offered no resistance, that Flores put a gun to Nichols' head, that no struggle occurred and that Flores cried "Oh s - - - " after shooting him.
Brown says he was especially angered that Police Benevolent Association attorney James Lysaght, who represents both Flores and Reilly, wouldn't permit Reilly to be questioned. The PBA and Lysaght have been cited for conflicts of interest in representing more than one cop in the same case. Cops under investigation are allowed 48 hours to consult with their attorneys before being questioned by department superviors. But Brown says PBA protocol allows his office to question police witnesses immediately. "I expect them to talk to me,"he says.
Police sources say both Flores and Reilly did talk - to their superior, Corrections Inspector General Brian Malone. "They told Malone Nichols grabbed for Flores' gun before Flores shot him," said a detective. "Malone shared this information with the DA." Brown denies it.
Police sources say Brown first agreed not to arrest Flores before presenting the case to the grand jury. But after an uproar at the housing project, Brown's chief assistant Barry Schwartz notified detectives in a midnight phone call that Brown had ordered Flores' arrest.
Meanwhile, Brown and two of his civilian investigators met with Lt. John Hunt of the 103rd Squad in Jamaica. "Normally, we conduct our own investigations, then turn over the results to the the DA," a police source said. "This has become a prosecutorial investigation - not investigating what really occurred."
My Cherokee and Me
My Cherokee and Me. Late summer weekends, you could spot Police Commissioner William Bratton and Deputy Commissioner John Miller tooling around the Hamptons, each in his new four-wheel drive Jeep Cherokee, purchased by the NYPD.
Miller explained that the $ 30,000-a-piece vehicles were two of four bought for Bratton, First Deputy Dave Scott, Chief of Department John Timoney and Miller's office of Public Information. They replaced 1988 versions purchased during Commissioner Ben Ward's command for top brass who are "Category 1." Category 1 means they are so critical to the Police Department they can respond directly from home to an emergency. When these top brass take the Jeeps home, their regular police cars - two Crown Victorias and two Grand Marquises - remain garaged at One Police Plaza.
30th redux.The brass held another meeting with 30th precinct cops last week, this time including top PBA officials. Responding to laments at the scandal-plagued house that the cops feel abandoned and isolated by both the PBA and the department, Chief of Patrol Louis Anemone promised the following: If a cop applies for a new detail, he goes to the top of the list; if he wants to stay at the 30th, he can; if there are new patrol cars, they go to the 30th first; ditto for new computers and new uniforms.
Parting words.Mike Julian began his first week of work in the private sector with major publicity - about his old job. He had pulled back his application for a disability pension that could have amounted to $ 1 million over his lifetime because he felt he didn't deserve it. That decision made him the subject of two newspaper articles, two editorials, and radio and TV offers that he says he declined.
"I only hope I've caused some attention paid to the problem," said the former chief of personnel, referring to the top brass' abuse of receiving line-of-duty disability pensions. "For me the question is, What is your reputation worth? All I can think of is Chief Johnston." Chief Robert Johnston received a line-of-duty disability pension for hearing loss he claimed occurred when a firecracker exploded at a Rolling Stones concert. "Johnston was a police officer for 40 years. He was a great commander. He was chief of department for six years, the longest in history. But to the media, he will be remembered only for having received a disability pension under dubious circumstances."
Email Leonard Levitt at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 1994 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.