Ferrer shows NYPD blueprint
February 3, 1997
Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer declared his candidacy for mayor last week and for someone who's never worked in the criminal justice system or ever been arrested, he knows the New York Police Department.
He's already discovered statistics the department doesn't publicize. Although murders declined 16 percent citywide last year, bringing the number under 1,000 for the first time in 28 years, Ferrer's figures show homicides rose in 28 of the city's 76 precincts. And despite an overall decrease, rape increased in 32 precincts.
Murder rates rose in such upscale precincts as Manhattan's 19th, which covers the Upper East Side; in Staten Island's 120th and 122nd; in Brooklyn's 66th, 69th, 62nd and 63rd, which cover Borough Park, Canarsie, Bensonhurst and Flatlands; in Queens' 100th, 105th and 102nd, which cover the Rockaways, Rosedale and Woodhaven; and in the Bronx' 48th, 50th and 52nd, which cover Belmont, Riverdale and Fordham.
Ferrer lives with his wife and 18-year-old daughter in Fordham, where homicides rose from 19 in 1995 to 28 last year. "Is my daughter more likely to be hurt?" Ferrer asked. "That's what I want to know. These are all neighborhoods that people live in. Despite this administration's claims, people don't feel safer because their neighborhoods aren't safer."
Ferrer says he's already selected his police commissioner: William Bratton's first deputy, John Timoney. The straight-talking, cop-friendly Timoney went out like a comet when he called Howard Safir, Bratton's successor, a "lightweight" after Mayor Rudolph Giuliani forced Bratton to resign and then passed Timoney over.
Giuliani then tried to demote Timoney to captain, cutting his annual pension by $19,000. Only the intervention of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association's president, Lou Matarazzo, prevented it. Three months earlier, the PBA had donated $5,000 to Ferrer's campaign.
"What Giuliani did to him was small, petty and mean-spirited," Ferrer said. "Although Timoney apologized to Safir, Giuliani still wanted to bust him to captain. He's a cop's cop. I want him back."
Ferrer also sounds like he spells trouble for Chief of Department Louis Anemone. A favorite of City Hall, and sometimes even Safir, the department's dark prince had supported Bronx Police Officer Francis X. Livoti, who was acquitted last fall in the death of Anthony Baez, 28, after a football struck Livoti's patrol car and a scuffle ensued.
Livoti, who had 11 civilian complaints, many for excessive force, is awaiting a departmental decision on whether he improperly used a choke hold that led to Baez' death in December, 1994.
Six weeks after that incident, Anemone talked about Livoti at a public hearing on police procedures that Ferrer conducted: "The mere fact that eleven complaints were lodged against this officer over a career that extended probably eleven or twelve years or more in the Police Department with a distinguished career of service to the community, we are not going to prejudge him. This is an officer that has been very active in solving community problems, doing the kind of work that the citizenry of the city and certainly this country are looking for."
Now Ferrer says of Baez' death: "How was Livoti on the street that night? Who let him out on the street and why? I think the mayor has to come clean. The chief of department has to come clean and answer some questions." So far, no response from the mayor, the department or Anemone.
Ferrer also is saying out loud what many at One Police Plaza whisper: that the department is, as Ferrer puts it, "totally politicized."
Ferrer should know. Before Bratton left, a chief close to him lost his command and was transferred to an obscure job at headquarters. A story in The New York Times cited ties to Ferrer as the reason. The chief slated to replace him, the Times reported, was blackballed by City Hall. "They City Hall wanted to know if he had made any public statements in favor of the mayor," the article quoted a department official as saying. "They said he was a Dinkins man and we don't think he's loyal."
Ferrer, a Democrat, describes Safir as Giuliani's "political hatchet man." When he announced his candidacy and mentioned the precinct increases in homicide and rape, Safir stuck his size 14 shoe in his mouth and retorted that today's numbers are far lower than when "his Ferrer's party was in office."
"When Bratton left, the floodgates opened," Ferrer said. "The department is now as politicized as during the worst days of Tammany Hall.
"Safir made my case. Giuliani has made the police a partisan issue. Chiefs shouldn't work for the mayor. They should work for the people. Giuliani calls everyone a machine politician. But when it comes to the police department, he's as much a machine politician as the worst of Tammany."
Email Leonard Levitt at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.