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Politics in Play On Sick Leave

December 11, 1995

Detective Brian Mulheren, on sick leave for the past two years following a fabled car accident, will be examined by a police surgeon this week. Judging from the tone of voice of Health Service's Inspector Vinnie Mansfield, he'll be found fit for duty.

Mulheren was the department liason to three former mayors - Abe Beame, Ed Koch and David Dinkins - although exactly what he did and where he was actually assigned is still a mystery.

"I'm suffering memory loss since my accident and can't remember," he said last week, although he remembered enough to then telephone an old acquaintance, the editor of this newspaper, to make an inquiry about this column.

Mulheren, 48, still has friends in the NYPD, most notably First Deputy Commissioner John Timoney, who, like Koch, Dinkins, former First Deputy Patrick Murphy and former Chief of Department Robert Johnston, testified for him last year at his departmental trial, stemming from the accident.

But without the clout of City Hall and with his having made plenty of high-ranking department enemies, he's now something of a shuttlecock bobbing back and forth in the department's political winds.

Mulheren's accident, in February, 1992, occurred as he chased a burglary suspect in a city car near his home in Queens. He suffered injuries that he says affected his brain, was placed on sick leave and provided with a driver - something reserved for officers who suffer the most egregious on-duty injuries.

For Mulheren, who had no formal hours or assignment but who worked seven days a week without overtime, night differential or sick days, the question was whether he was on duty at all.

The Internal Affairs Division under former Commissioner Lee Brown disputed Mulheren's claim that he was on duty when the accident occured and began one of its infrequent investigations. It concluded Mulheren had defrauded the department, and it brought him up on departmental charges.

Meanwhile, Mulheren remained on sick leave, in violation of Koch's 1978 mayoral order that states that after a year of sick leave, an officer must be retired. Mulheren faced a dilemma. One of the department's district surgeons found him too sick to return to work, while the medical pension board found him perfectly healthy.

A year ago, the department took Mulheren's driver away from him. A few months later, Mulheren was cleared of all charges at his departmental trial. Last month, the medical board turned him down a third time for a line-of-duty disability pension, and Inspector Mansfield ordered him re-examined.

Says Mansfield: "Unless, he has a new ailment, unless he's developed something we don't know about, he's going back to work."

Printable versionThe Director Departs. Director Tom Croce, as he liked to call himself, departed the NYPD last month.

The diminutive Croce, described by department official as a "tireless worker" in Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's 1993 mayoral campaign, had been on the department payroll since October, 1994, and was given the title of Director of the Uniform Disability Retirement and Records Section. This meant he processed police disablity pension applications.

But, said a high police official, "He was a disaster. He would run around telling people Giuliani appointed him. He used to say, 'Giuliani appointed two people to the NYPD, me and [Police Commissioner] Bratton.' "

Because of this, Croce said he did not have to take orders from his commanding officer, the inspector who runs the health services division. "I only have to take orders from the mayor," Croce would like to say, according to the ranking police official.

The inspector didn't like Croce's leaving the health services building at Lefrak City in Queens without permission, as Croce often did for no apparent reason, the offical said. Instead, the inspector told Croce to clear it with him first. Croce, however, continued to disappear, saying vaguely, he was "at the hall."

Last month, Croce tried the inspectors patience one time too many when he refused the inspector's direct order not to leave the building. He was suspended without pay, according to the department. His last day at the NYPD was Nov. 14. City Hall then placed Croce at the Department of Personnel as an adminstrative staff analyst in its pension section. He made $42,000 at the police department. He now earns $50,000.

Still Around: John Miller may no longer be the police department spokesman, but he still has his sources. Back on WNBC / Ch. 4 he identified the perperator (then unknown) of the Harlem massacre Friday night as Abubunde Mulocko before his successor, Deputy Commissioner Tom Kelly knew of the name. Miller based his identification on a card with Mulocko's name and address police discovered on the body of the perp. But guess what? Police now say the identification card is a phony.

Seen: Commissioner Bratton, First Deputy Timoney, chief of department Louie Anemone, chief of detectives Charles Reuther and deputy Commissioner Jack Maples (in a homburg) glomming the spotlight with the mayor at news conferences after Friday's Harlem massacre.

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© 1995 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.