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Report card for commish

November 10, 1997

With Mayor Rudolph Giuliani winning big and praising Howard Safir to the heavens, here's a truer evaluation of Safir's 19 months as police commissioner.

Effectiveness. Even his detractors acknowledge Safir has caused no lasting harm to the NYPD. National trends and the innovations of his predecessor Bill Bratton notwithstanding, Safir has presided over continued crime decreases. Last year's bellweather murder rate was 984, the lowest since 1968. This year's numbers through October came in at 645, which could mean a decrease of 25 percent from 1996 to '97. On the other hand, the first pockets of sustained crime increases are appearing. With the merger of transit cops into the NYPD, subway grand larcenies, including thefts and pickpocketing, have risen 13 percent over last year. Grade: B+

Appointments. Unfamiliar with One Police Plaza, Safir appointed as his first deputy the wily Tosano Simonetti. And nobody could carry a contract better than Tony the Tiger. After Deputy Trial Commissioner Rae Koshetz recommended the dismissal of Patrolmen's Benevolent Association delegate Jay Creditor for missing nearly 200 hours of work over 6 months. Simonetti reinstated him while Safir underwent bypass surgery so that Creditor could obtain a $1.4 million, tax-free, line-of-duty disability pension.

Simonetti himself retired on a six-figure line-of-duty disability - courtesy of a PBA-sponsored scam called the Heart Bill, a law that mandates that virtually any heart problem is job-related, even if like Simonetti, you are 63 years old. Safir replaced him with Pat Kelleher, who fortunately for city taxpayers may be too straight an arrow to perpetuate Simo's back-door ways.

Safir also appointed his friend Marilyn Mode as deputy commissioner for public information. No words can adequately describe the damage Mode has caused the department's image, beginning with her bright idea to bar a Daily News reporter from the only in-house news conference of Safir's tenure, to falsely charging that a whistle-blower who exposed a Bronx speed trap had been guilty of sodomy. In her defense, it should be noted that Safir is something of a stiff when it comes to speaking English. When asked embarrassing questions, he stalks off or responds with such non-sequiturs as, "Nice hat." Grade: C

New Ideas. OK, so Safir is no original thinker. People howled at his plan to enlist the federal Border Patrol to arrest illegal aliens in Washington Heights. Politicians in the Dominican Republic howled when he announced (on Page One of the Post) a plan to open an NYPD sub-station to roust fleeing Dominican felons. They howled so loudly he never mentioned the plan again. Grade: D

Independence. Well, nobody can say Safir is not a company guy. And that company is owned and operated by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani has courted Brooklyn's Hasidic Jews, so when Hasidim demonstrated outside a Brooklyn precinct after a perceived slight, Safir removed the Brooklyn South borough commander George Brown.

Printable versionGiuliani despises Bratton, so Safir returned Bratton's check to attend a public police-type seminar known as COMPSTAT, which Bratton originated. When Bratton attended a ceremony at One Police Plaza, he wasn't permitted to sit in the first row as is customary for past commissioners. Nor was he even announced. Grade: F

Personal integrity. Safir recently accepted a few thousand dollars in a legal freebie from celebrity lawyer Raoul Felder, who waived his customary $450-an-hour fee to represent Safir and his wife, who allegedly cheated a relative out of $80,000. Only after this column pointed out that the Patrol Guide forbids cops from accepting even a wristwatch did Safir pay. But Felder, who originally said he'd comped Safir for two weeks of work, billed him for only two hours. Grade: C-

Physical Health. Let no man say Safir has no heart. Just weeks after undergoing triple-bypass surgery, he tooled about the St. Patrick's Day parade in a golf cart. And if you believe Assistant Commissioner Kevin Lubin's memo to Simonetti on Creditor's reinstatement, Safir was reviewing Creditor's file the day after his surgery while flat on his back at New York University Medical Center. Grade: A-

Mental Health. Excellent. No ego displacement when forced to serve as first deputy. Grade: A+

Legacy. Will Safir be remembered for his sincere, yet ineffectual Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect Committee, which he announced the day Amnesty International reported systemic NYPD brutality against minorities? Or will be he remembered as the commissioner on whose watch cops allegedly shoved a stick up the rectum of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant, in the bathroom of the 70th Precinct? Grade: Incomplete.

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.