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Safir breaks a long silence

December 8, 1997

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani celebrated his re-election by taking a cataclysmic step: He spent three days with his wife and children.

Over at One Police Plaza, an event of equally cataclysmic dimensions was unfolding. On Friday, Police Commissioner Howard Safir held a news briefing for in-house reporters.

The briefing - a weekly tradition with Safir's predecessor Bill Bratton - was Safir's first in a year and a half. Just before the last briefing, he barred Daily News reporter John Marzulli, who quoted Bratton's first deputy, John Timoney, as calling Safir a "lightweight."

Reporters learned of Friday's briefing that morning when Safir's spokeswoman, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Marilyn Mode, swept through the second floor press offices, holding her dog Lil on a leash, to announce it.

Asked whether the mayor had been consulted about the briefing, the ever-charming Mode answered, "Get real. Your level of garbage never ceases to amaze me."

Safir gave no sensible explanation for the briefing and in fact there was less to it than met the eye. A half-dozen of his staff attended, including the enduring, if not endearing, public relations specialist extraordinaire, Sgt. John Clifford, who harbors a lower opinion of reporters than even Safir.

Not to be outdone by a subordinate, Safir began by terming a question about the unprecedented reinstatement of Police Officer Jay Creditor "gossip." Creditor, a Patrolmen's Benevolent Association delegate, was dismissed in March for missing 200 hours of work but reinstated after he paid a $50,000 fine. This allowed him to retire with a $1.4 million tax-free disability pension.

Safir finally acknowledged that the decision to reinstate Creditor was not his but that of his former first deputy Tosano Simonetti. His explanation was at variance with that of Simonetti, who said recently that the decision "had already been made" - presumably by Safir.

Safir also answered a question about his wife Carol's payment of a legal fee to the celebrity divorce attorney Raoul Felder with "none of your business." Felder represented the Safirs in a civil suit filed by Safir's sister-in-law alleging the Safirs cheated her out of $88,000. Carol Safir paid Felder shortly after Felder told Newsday that he had compensated the Safirs for a few thousand of dollars in legal fees (based on his customary $450-an-hour rate for two weeks of work) because of his friendship with the commissioner.

Safir's "none of your business" response indicated he may still be unfamiliar with Section 104.3 of the NYPD Patrol Guide, which prohibits department officials from accepting "any reward, gratuity, gift or other compensation for any service performed as a result of or in connection with their duties as public servants."

Printable versionHe also appears unfamiliar with the name Henry Kravis. Kravis is the billionaire financier who paid for vacation trips for Bratton and his wife, which the mayor cited as a basis for forcing Bratton's resignation.

Here's to the winners. The following is a look at the winners and losers after last week's top-level department shake-up. Among the winners are:

Joe Dunne, promoted to three-star of chief of the Housing Bureau.

Al Hoehl, awarded a third star in Manhattan South.

Larry Loesch, transferred from chief of Queens detectives to executive officer of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, where he is expected to become its commanding officer when current commander Patrick Brennan retires next year.

Jane Perlov, promoted from the 30th Precinct to become the first female detective borough chief, succeeding Loesch in Queens.

Douglas Ziegler, promoted from executive officer of Patrol Borough Queens South to commanding officer of Queens North, making him, after the retirement of Jules Martin, the second highest black officer in the NYPD.

And the losers:

Mike Scagnelli, transferred from commanding officer of the Transit Division to executive officer of Manhattan South.

Gertrude LaForgia, the department's highest-ranking female, transferred from commanding officer of Queens North to executive officer of the Transportation Bureau.

Out of Purgatory: George Brown, transferred as operations commander of the Patrol Services Bureau to commanding officer of the Transit Division.

Going Home. And perhaps the biggest winner is ex-NYPD commissioner Lee Brown, who was elected mayor of Houston Saturday night. Brown was the city's top cop during the Crown Heights riots and the collapse of the Internal Affairs Division.

Brown's victory has made a loser of Giuliani, who was invited to Houston by Texas Republicans to badmouth Brown.

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.