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Giuliani Copped the Power

City Hall will give the news and call shots for police

February 23, 1995

If there remains any doubt about who is running the NYPD, doubt no more: it is Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

That's the word from the mayor's press secretary, Cristyne Lategano, who is exerting an influence on the department through its Public Information Office.

"Public relations was put before any kind of substance. When you put glamour over fighting crime, it leads to serious problems. Now it is the time to get serious. This is a reality check," she told New York Newsday yesterday.

While the mayor has always contended he and Commissioner William Bratton share the same vision on the substantive issues of fighting crime, Lategano made it clear who is controlling the publicity.

"The mayor is comfortable that things are on the right track under Bratton," Lategano says, but City Hall has set new ground rules for what the police commissioner can and cannot do.

Bratton will be permitted to hold "in-house" press briefings at One Police Plaza with reporters who cover the police. "He doesn't have to clear that with the mayor. He's always done that, then briefed the mayor about what came up," Lategano explained.

But Bratton can no longer hold other kinds of press conferences. "All interagency press conferences and the release of strategy or positon papers will be done out of City Hall," she said. "That was always past policy - policies that were in place were not adhered to and not respected."

Reversing tradition, Lategano said City Hall, and not Bratton, will select a successor to John Miller, the department's deputy commissioner for Public Information who resigned two weeks ago because of what he said was pressure from City Hall to sack his staff. For the past two decades, that appointment has been made by the police commissioner, pending City Hall's approval.

And Bratton can no longer continue the tradition of "ride-alongs" - in which reporters spend a shift in a patrol car or on a police raid. That, too, she said, must be approved by City Hall.

"We're here to fight crime, not to be Hollywood stars. This is real life cops, not 'NYPD Blue,' " Lategano said, referring to the ABC television cop show, which has become so entwined with the NYPD that its cast appeared at a farewell party for former Commissioner Ray Kelly a year ago.

Giuliani, who passed Kelly over for the top cop job in favor of Bratton, did not attend, saying at the time he had a prior engagement in Staten Island.

Printable version"This job is not a stepping-stone to something later in life," Lategano continued. "If police officers would rather be on TV or on the covers of magazines instead of fighting crime then their priorities need to be straightened out."

Lategano said later she was referring to Officer Carol Shaya, who posed nude for Playboy magazine, and was not referring to Miller or Bratton, the subject of a flattering New Yorker magazine article last month.

In addition, Bratton's public exposure already has been cut by recent City Hall edicts.

He can have no more than 17 people in press office - one less than the mayor's press staff. That required the transfer of nearly half Bratton's press staff.

And, according to police sources, Giuliani has warned Bratton off Elaine's, the trendy East side restaurant where Miller and he wined and dined with celebrities and favored media folks. Lategano, who was also said to have frequented Elaine's with Miller, declined to discuss the restaurant.

Giuliani, meanwhile, is no stranger to accusations of being a media hound. As U.S. attorney, he was accused of prosecuting some insider trading and celebrity cases, such as Bess Myerson and Imelda Marcos, for headlines.

And in 1986, Giuliani dressed up in a Hell's Angel biker's black leather vest, and with his then-pal U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, stood on a Washington Heights street corner with 30 heavily armed undercover cops and a van full of reporters and bought $ 20 worth of crack vials. Nobody made any arrests, and both he and D'Amato were roundly criticized.

Bratton had no comment yesterday, according to his spokesman Deputy Chief Lawrence Loesch. But yesterday, he followed Giuliani's new rules and with a small retinue trooped over to City Hall for a news conference with Giuliani at center stage to announce what are now being called "redeployment cuts."

A news release written by the department's Public Information Office stated that 121 uniformed officers were redeployed from One Police Plaza to other assignments. A more detailed release from Lategano's office put the number at 141 and pointed out that 15 had come from the police commissioner's office.
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© 1995 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.