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Officer Otto Strikes Again

November 13, 1995

Capt. Louis Manetta of the 33rd Precinct is set to retire from the NYPD. His rumored departure follows news reports that a star witness of the Mollen Commission on police corruption admitted he committed perjury in six cases as a cop.

During the commission's public hearings in 1993, that witness, former police officer Barry Brown, identified Manetta, executive officer of the scandal-plagued 30th Precinct from 1990-92, as condoning corruption.

The following year Sgt. Kevin Nannery, who commanded 10 rogue 30th Precinct cops known as Nannery's Raiders, told prosecutors Manetta had witnessed the Raiders in the act of "booming," or busting down drug dealers' doors without warrants.

Nobody ever corroborated either allegation. Brown was forced to resign from the NYPD two weeks ago in exchange for the Manhattan district attorney's promise not to indict him for perjury. Nannery pleaded guilty to perjury a year ago and is cooperating with state and federal prosecutors in continuing investigations.

Manetta, meanwhile, on the advice of his attorney, declined an "invitation" by federal prosecutors to tell what he knew about corruption in the 30th Precinct.

Last year, Manetta was promoted to commanding officer of the 33rd Precinct. First Deputy Commissioner John Timoney called him at the time "a tough, unpolished diamond in the rough."

Said Timoney: "He epitomizes the type of commander I'd want. He gives 110 percent every day of the year." Of the corruption allegations, Timoney said, "I just don't believe them."

Then, in a department survey earlier this year, Manetta was rated first of all captains in the city. The survey, conducted of the department's entire top brass above the rank of captain, is the first step in the promotion procedure for deputy inspectors. But last August when the promotions came out, Manetta was not on the list. A high-ranking department official explained that it was because of those uncorrobated corruption allegations.

"You can't promote him," said the official, "because you don't know what prosecutors will do. We know of past cases where they've railroaded cops."

Of Manetta's imminent retirement, the official said, "He's fed up. He should have been promoted six months ago. No one wants to leave under a cloud. Now that Barry Brown is discredited, he [Manetta] can walk away and say, 'Screw you.' "

Commissioner Plato. It's hard to imagine someone could have a higher opinion of Police Commissioner William Bratton than Bratton himself. But such a person has been found.

Printable versionHe is George Kelling, a professor at Boston's Northeastern University who is so enamored of Bratton he's compared him to the Greek philosopher Plato.

Or as Kelling begins an article in the Manhattan Institute's urban quarterly, City Journal: "From Plato in Athens to Police Commissioner Bratton in New York, experts on public order have ceaselessly worried over one key problem: how to control the police who maintain that order."

Kelling then lauds Bratton for not only reducing the city's crime rate but with using the same approach to reduce police corruption.

Bratton's solution, Kelling writes, "is as innovative and promising as his crime-busting strategies. In fact, it is. . . the same strategy. If you can devise ways of reducing crime that work dramatically, most police officers will find success so gratifying that their own self-image, their pride in being part of a winning organization, will serve as an internal bar to misbehavior."

Although he cites no evidence to support it, he adds, "Paradoxically, the only way to control police officers effectively is not to focus primarily on controlling them."

Kelling concludes his panegyric to Bratton by exalting the department's "Comstat," or crime strategy sessions, a Bratton innovation where top brass are grilled on their strategies by Chief of Department Louis Anemone and Bratton's sidekick, Deputy Commissioner Jack Maple. Kelling was permitted to attend a session, a privilege reporters covering the NYPD have been forbidden, following news reports that at a recent meeting Anemone and Maple so insulted Chief of Detectives Charles Reuther that Timoney and the philosopher-commissioner himself had to intervene.

Sheron's fall. Detective Sheron Russell's application for a lucrative tax-free, line-of-duty injury was rejected last week by the NYPD's pension board. Russell, for the past seven years the secretarial and clerical aide to the department's chief surgeon Robert Thomas, claimed she sustained elbow and shoulder injuries when she fell off a chair at work.

The department's medical board approved her line-of-duty application despite her refusal to undergo minor-risk surgery. A witness, Lt. Howard Brewer, also provided something approaching an engineering synopsis of how the chair toppled. But the pension board, led by Joe Wuensch, deputy commissioner for management and budget, rejected her application.

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1995 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.