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One more top cop walks out door

April 2, 1996

Deputy police commissioner Jack Maple resigned late yesterday afternoon, following a meeting with incoming police commissioner Howard Safir.

The debonair and flamboyant Maple, a chum of outgoing commissioner William Bratton who had worked as a lieutenant under Bratton when Bratton headed the transit police, said he had also met with Safir last Friday and described both meetings as "very cordial."

"It's been great fun here," said Maple, who was intercepted as he walked around the ninth floor of One Police Plaza, where his office is located. "The department is in good hands. Now it's on to the next adventure."

He said he might join Bratton, who has taken a job as the head of a private security firm.

A former department colleague said Maple decided to quit because "all his friends were gone and it wouldn't have been fun anymore. If he'd clicked with Safir, great, but apparently that wasn't the case."

Besides Maple, another close Bratton aide, Deputy Commissoner for Administration Peter LaPorte, announced his resignation yesterday.

And last week former First Deputy John Timoney, another Maple crony, also resigned.

While Mayor Rudolph Giuliani told reporters he would be happy to have had Maple remain, it was Giuliani had hounded Bratton into taking the "Joe Blow" security job that Bratton had foresworn a year ago - the most publicized departure since President Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Yesterday Giuliani called the resignations "normal, . . . not disruptive . . . The fact is that when a commissioner leaves, the people closest to him usually leave with him. But it's not near the level of resignations when Bratton took over."

Meanwhile at Police Plaza, top remaining chiefs were huddling behind closed doors and holding hushed conversations about their own futures.

They were also reflecting on the sudden fall from grace of one of their own, the straight-shooting First Deputy Commissioner John Timoney, who after a 29-year career was ordered by the mayor from Police Plaza in disgrace.

All deputy commissioners and bureau chiefs beneath him, including Chief of Department Louis Anemone were said yesterday to be preparing their resumes for their incoming boss, Howard Safir.

"We're all preparing briefing packages for later this week when we'll be meeting with him," explained a three-star chief. "We're all reporting our accomplishments, goals and staffing levels."

Another top chief summed up the mood of a number of chiefs in the building. "I'm still alive," he said. "But I think it's just a stay of execution."

Or, as former captain Steve Davis, the director of investigations in New York City for the Fairfax Group, put it as he took the elevator to Bratton's office on the 14th floor, "At this level, it's not just ability that counts. It's politics and personal relationships."

Printable versionTop and former top brass interviewed yesterday professed no concern about Bratton's future, despite his precipitous departure.

"Did you watch him last week?" said a former chief. "He was smooth, always in control. He never said anything negative about the mayor." At Friday's emotional promotion ceremony, his last speech was not about himself but about Timoney. "Then, very slowly," said the ex-chief, "he read the names of all the cops who'd died in the line of duty since he became commmissioner. There wasn't a dry eye in the place.

"I don't see him staying at this security job for long," the former chief continued. "This summer he'll do his book. And I bet it won't be a kiss and tell book. It will be a book about creating organizational change. Then he'll take his organizational change menu on the road. He'll go on the lecture circuit where the executive luncheon crowd goes for $10,000 a pop. He'll go around the country, maybe around the world. I can even see mayors and governors running for re-election bringing him in as a guru so they can say they are fighting crime."

On the other hand, all professed concern for Timoney, who in a moment of anger at being passed over for the P.C.'s spot, called Safir a "lightweight," then suggested publicly what many in the department feel about Giuliani: that he is need of psychiatric help. Unlike the outside world, where a mistake can be forgiven, a harsher code exists within the police department. "One mistake and you are out," said a top chief.

Bratton had jumped Timoney over 40 others to make him Chief of Department when Bratton was appointed police commissioner in 1994.

"The key is you come to feel you are indispensible," said a top chief. "But this institution can run without any of us. When it comes to public officials, there's another guy coming every two minutes. So you may pound the wall in your office in the privacy of your staff but you cannot show a public reaction."

Said a former chief of Timoney: "He gave his life to the city . . . But he should never have made his personal feelings known to the public. The problem is ego. He had been humble all his life. But in the past two years he was feted by every Irish organization and was praised in virtually every newspaper article. He came to see himself as the only logical successor."

Ironically, it was his benefactor Bratton who may have spelled the end of Timoney's chances. On various occasions - and as late as last week when Giuliani forced him to depart - he'd stated that Timoney should succeed him. Given Giuliani's testiness over Bratton, that was Timoney's kiss of death.

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© 1996 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.