Gloomy rumors for a top cop
June 24, 1996
Poor Chief of Detectives Charlie Reuther.
Here, his guys have just cracked three major cases in two weeks. First, there was the miraculously quick capture of John Royster, charged with the Park Avenue murder of a woman and the attacks on three other women, in Central Park, at the 60th Street heliport and on a Yonkers footpath. Next came the arrest of the alleged Queens elevator rapist. Finally there was the break in the years-old Zodiac murders.
In addition, detectives' arrest activity is at an all-time high. So are homicide case clearance rates - percentages of cases solved - which ran at 76 percent last year and are expected this year to be even higher.
So you'd think that Reuther, the 40-year veteran with the master's degree from Harvard who was appointed chief of detectives last year, would be beaming. If so, you'd be wrong.
For Reuther may be booted from his job.
With Police Commissioner Howard Safir in denial over the possible benefits of informing the public about what's actually happening at One Police Plaza, the rumor mill there has been churning. Over at City Hall, where key NYPD decisions appear to be made these days, they're hinting Reuther may soon be headed to the lowly Traffic Division.
The reason for all this, whispers one of Reuther's fellow three-star chiefs, is the stirring of the department's dark prince, Chief of Department Louis Anemone, whose influence had been believed to be dormant during Safir's first few months as commissioner. Anemone and Reuther have been tangling for the past year over the cannibalization of the detective bureau, orchestrated by Anemone's ally, former Deputy Commissioner Jack Maple.
At a well-publicized Crime Strategy meeting last fall, Maple and Anemone accused Reuther of "heresy" and "treason" after he raised a question about time spent preparing for a crime strategy session. More recently, the department's aggressive Brooklyn North drug initiative, begun under former Commissioner Bill Bratton, has placed part of the Brooklyn detective command under Anemone's man, Chief Joe Dunne.
Meanwhile, the taciturn Safir appears content, at least for now, to allow Reuther and Anemone to slug it out.
"In spite of his excellent performance, Charlie's afraid," says a friend of Reuther's inside the department. "He's achieved everything they could ask for and more. But Anemone is pushing for the disembowelment of the entire detective bureau. The question seems to be is there a need for a central detective bureau."
Neither Safir, Reuther nor Anemone would discuss the subject last week. Said Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Marilyn Mode: "I have nothing to give you on this."
Forced out of Police Plaza by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Bratton appeared yesterday on Channel 2 to knock his former boss as a control freak, who did not allow him to either transfer or promote officers without City Hall's approval.
And in his modest fashion, Bratton pointed out that it was his strategy in arresting subway farebeaters that provided police with a fingerprint of John Royster that matched one found at the scene of the Park Avenue murder.
Nothing for Jacqueline. Despite the efforts of her publicity-minded pal Joycelyn Engel, urging Mayor Giuliani to recognize Jacqueline Alexander-Tosi's "heroism," the mayor's office says there's nothing in the offing, not even a letter.
Tosi is the Good Samaritan who the night after the Central Park attack stumbled on 51-year-old Shelby Evans lying bleeding and unconscious on the roadside at the 60th Street heliport. Moments before, she'd seen a "wild-eyed" man whom she later identifed as John Royster fleeing the scene.
Running on empty, Tosi drove nearly halfway across town before finding someone to deliver Evans to the hospital. Detectives later told her Evans might have bled to death, had Tosi not spotted her.
For reasons still not clear, the department never informed the public of Evans' assault until Royster's capture eight days later. Commissioner Safir says precinct detectives never informed the department's office of public information, and Mayor Giuliani inexplicably maintained the department's right to withhold such information from the public.
Tosi said publicly she believes the NYPD did not alert the public to Evans' assault because the mayor feared more negative publicity following the Central Park attack. Some at City Hall suspect that remark may be the reason the mayor refuses to recognize her.
Email Leonard Levitt at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 1996 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.