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Sharpton eyes a Kelly type

September 15, 1997

Should the Rev. Al Sharpton win next week's Democratic runoff and then face Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the city could witness a battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. The only question is which one is which.

First take Sharpton, the former FBI informant, champion of hoaxtress Tawana Brawley, supporter of racists Louis Farrakhan and Leonard Jeffries, and most recently, an admitted tax "debtor," shall we say, of more than 100,000 clams.

Compare him to Giuliani, the former federal prosecutor who placed 2,000 Haitian immigrants in detention camps, some for more than a year; arrested two innocent stock brokers in their offices in handcuffs, and urged an unhinged young woman to secretly tape-record conversations with her mother, State Supreme Court Justice Hortense Gable. (Gable, charged with conspiracy, was acquitted. The stockbrokers' case was dropped. The Haitian detention policy was overturned.)

Next, contrast Sharpton, whom people actually like and whose wife (a backup singer to James Brown) campaigns for him, to Giuliani. The better one knows Giuliani, the more one dislikes him. If you think that's too harsh, check with former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton; Giuliani's wife, Donna Hanover; or Giuliani's old school chum Peter Powers, whose departure as first deputy mayor because of differences over the mayor's relationship with Communications Director Cristyne Lategano has not been fully reported.

Now let's examine their attitudes toward the NYPD, whose alleged brutalization of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima inside Brooklyn's 70th Precinct stationhouse has galvanized Sharpton's campaign. If elected mayor, Sharpton says he'd appoint as police commissioner "someone like Ray Kelly."

"In view of the Louima case and the systemic problems of police brutality, we don't need to sacrifice someone tough on crime to deal with brutality," Sharpton says. "A Ray Kelly type has the perfect balance: He'll keep crime down and keep abuse to a minimum."

Giuliani dismissed Kelly (currently under-secretary of the Treasury) and now goes with a testy asparagus called Howard Safir. When appointed, Safir knew nothing of the NYPD. And to whom did he turn for advice on some key appointments but the same Ray Kelly?

It's not clear what Safir has learned. Saturday, he held yet another of his futile "Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect" seminars, this one for Brooklyn Borough South commanders. Brooklyn South is the borough command where the 70th Precinct is located.

Duh! At last week's Public Safety Committee hearings, not one city council member - including its chairman and so-called police expert, Sheldon Leffler - asked Safir about the only measure that would provide a check on police corruption and brutality: an independent body with subpoena powers to monitor the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau, which botched the initial call of Louima's brutalization. Such a body was recommended by the Mollen Commission and is favored by every law-enforcement pro familiar with the NYPD. Giuliani opposes it.

Printable versionRandy's Shot. Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro - who, friends say, is eyeing a run for Manhattan district attorney - recently wrote to Public Advocate Mark Green, who suggested the NYPD apologize to James Schillaci, who had dimed an NYPD speed trap to the Daily News, prompting Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Marilyn Mode to release his rap sheet to the media.

"Nowhere in your three-page letter," wrote Mastro, "do you mention Schillaci's lengthy criminal record, which includes 17 arrests and 11 convictions . . . for such offenses as burglary, possession of stolen property, aggravated harassment, criminal possession of a controlled substance, attempted grand larceny and obstruction of governmental administration. Moreover, you fail to note that Schillaci was also arrested for sodomy . . . and plea-bargained' down to a possession of a controlled sustance' conviction . . . Once again you betray your anti-cop bias by jumping to unwarranted conclusions and seeking to demonize the Police Department without basis or justification. In short it is you who owes the police department an apology."

Those who knew Mastro before he joined the Giuliani administration considered him quite sane.

Heard: That Giuliani personally directed his commissioners to call a police hotline should they spy any squeegeemen, his last campaign symbol of what ails New York.

Heard: Mode's mutt, Lil, had a wee accident at One Police Plaza. Mode compares this assertion to slurs on President Franklin Roosevelt's dog, Fala. Paraphrasing FDR, she says, "Lil is offended by this."

Sources say the building's custodian refused to clean up Lil's mess. It is believed a slave from Mode's Public Information office did.

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© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.