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Sal: I’ll sweep headquarters

May 1, 1997

Sal Albanese, the Brooklyn Don Quixote tilting at the Democratic primary windmill, says he can put 2,000 more cops on the street.

If elected mayor - right now he's running last in the polls, although Albanese says he's only 15 points behind the front-runner - he says he'll subject One Police Plaza to the kind of bureaucratic shake-up Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has demanded of the school system but not of the Police Department. "One Police Plaza makes 110 Livingston Street pale by comparison," says the 15-year Bay Ridge councilman, a liberal Democrat in a Republican district, who says he knows the department better than any other candidate, Giuliani included. "The department is top-heavy and over-specialized. Too many chiefs, not enough cops on patrol."

If elected, he says, "I would reassess whether we need all those superchiefs. Do we need a First Deputy, a Chief of Department and a Chief of Patrol? Can we reduce staff at One Police Plaza? Do we need a huge community affairs team in the thousands? I can identify 2,000 cops we don't need there." Those 2,000 cops he would put on the street.

"Patrol strength is the last thing on the brass' minds," continues Albanese, a former high school teacher who says his idol was the legendary corruption-fighter Frank Serpico of Knapp Commission fame. Albanese himself took the police exam only to be told he was too old to qualify.

"Officers on patrol have been the last priority for years," he says. "With 38,000 cops, there is no reason we can't have enough officers on patrol round the clock."

"In the early years of the Dinkins administration," he says, "there were no patrol cars out on some midnight tours. Then, in Brooklyn's 68th, 62nd, and 72nd Precincts, some midnight tours shut down entirely."

"And there is no proper supervision. We need 500 more sergeants. Now there is one for 50 cops. There should be one sergeant for ten cops. During some tours in Brooklyn South we have one sergeant supervising two precincts."

On the recent police shooting of a machete-carrying teenager in Washington Heights, Albanese says: "In a highly charged incident such as this, a leader urges calm and demands a full and through investigation. Then he makes a statement."

"You don't pre-judge like primary opponent Freddy Ferrer, who called the shooting "an execution" , or put out false information like the mayor did." (Giuliani initially said Kevin Cedeno had been shot in the chest. An autopsy revealed he'd been shot in the back.)

Printable versionAlbanese says the Democratic front-runner, Ruth Messinger, has been properly restrained in her comments of the shooting. "In 1992, she demonstrated for Kiko Garcia a police shooting victim who turned out to be a drug-dealer who'd attacked the cop who killed him . She's learned from that."

Of Mayor Giuliani, Albanese says: "I think police officers want a mayor who will be balanced on police issues. If City Hall is run by someone who is fair-minded, you will see more confidence in the police and in investigating these controversial incidents. I absolutely think the cops want someone more even-handed than Giuliani. They are in the middle. His one-way attitude destroys relationships with communities. Now every incident gets magnified."

Albanese maintains that Police Commissioner Howard Safir "is not running the department. That is why former commissioner William Bratton was let go. He was running it until Giuliani told him which commanders to appoint or to flop."

Of the Transit and Housing police merger, one of Giuliani's heralded successes, Albanese says: "They give the mayor all this credit but in the long run I don't know if it will benefit the city. We are beginning to see the problems now, such as more token booth shootings. It will erode strength in the public housing and in the subways.

"Policing is political. Police are moved around to more politically popular pressure points. Buses and subways are not a priority. Not a lot of wealthy people use them.

"It's the same with public housing. Anti-crime transit cops had an in-depth knowledge of the subway system. They told me it took years to learn this. Now, cops will work transit for only two or three years. They'll want to go above ground, and we'll lose a trained cadre."

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© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.