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Race issue stews for Wansley

December 15, 1997

The vice president of the Guardians, the fraternal organization for black police officers, went on trial at Police Plaza last week, claiming the department wants him fired because of his position in the organization.

True or not, the issue of race simmered just beneath the surface of Det. Terrance Wansley's trial.

Wansley, a former Internal Affairs Bureau detective, is charged with forgery, tampering with a government record and impeding an IAB investigation. All are grounds for dismissal.

Specifically, he's accused of entering the license plate number of Amalika McCall, a civilian employee and Guardian member, into the 69th Precinct's Motor Vehicle computer log book in a botched attempt to help her. McCall had run her plate number through the computer without authorization to determine whether her car was sought in connection with a Brinks armored car company robbery in which her boyfriend was suspected.

"He Wansley sought no personal gain," says a top police department official. "He mistakenly thought he was helping a Guardian member." Apparently not confusing him with a rocket scientist, the official added that it was unclear why Wansley thought writing McCall's plate number in the log book could in any way have helped her.

Once upon a time, the Guardians were a force in advocating the breakdown of racial barriers within the department. More recently, the organization has been in decline - if not free-fall - with a recent president disciplined for stealing merchandise at last year's Olympic Games in Atlanta and her successor sent skedaddling because of internecine warfare.

More recently, the Latino Officers Association - a rump group of Hispanic officers unrecognized by the department - has taken up the Guardians' old standard, charging in federal court that minority officers are punished more severely than their white counterparts. Police Commissioner Howard Safir undertook a study last March but so far has produced nothing. Last week he said an expanded study would be completed next year.

At least in Wansley's case, the LOA may be on to something. Improperly running plates is not uncommon in the NYPD and penalties are often other than dismissal. Five years ago, for example, a white Internal Affairs officer ran a plate for his neighbor. His penalty: six days' lost pay.

Last week, the trial room was filled with Wansley's supporters. Virtually all were black, from virtually every rank in the department.

Many had their suspicions of prejudice confirmed by William Jantzen, a white IAB lieutenant investigating McCall. Because Wansley kept a picture of Malcolm X in his office, Jantzen testified, he posted a picture of himself in a common room, and beneath it wrote the words, "Malcolm Y."

Printable versionGoing out a winner. Former Chief of Queens Detectives Larry Loesch may have come out a winner in last week's top-level shake-up but that didn't prevent him from putting in his papers when someone showed him the money.

The someone is Paine Webber, which Loesch will be joining. In the grandest NYPD tradition, Loesch is seeking a line-of-duty disability pension, which would would earn him another $75,000, tax-free, above his six-figure Paine Webber salary.

One of the unsolved mysteries of the civilized world is how top NYPD brass can work 10 to 20 years behind a desk, then upon retirement announce they have been disabled all those years. Loesch says he recently fell down a flight of stairs and has had so many injuries he doesn't known which he'll apply for. Taking some time, perhaps, to decide, he spent last month on sick leave.

His boss at Paine Webber, ex-Police Commissioner Dick Condon, says he never questioned Loesch about his health. "He looked all right to me. I didn't take his pulse."

Howie dummies up. Commissioner Safir has developed a case of amnesia over his role in the Jay Creditor case.

Ten days ago, Safir fingered former First Deputy Tosano Simonetti as the man who reinstated Creditor, a Patrolmen's Benevolent Association delegate dismissed for missing 200 hours of work but reinstated after he paid an unprecedented $50,000 fine. This allowed Creditor to retire with a disability pension worth $1.4 million.

Safir's identification of Simonetti is at variance with a memo by Assistant Department Advocate Commissioner Kevin Lubin, who wrote on March 10 to Simonetti: "The Police Commissioner has reviewed this case and determined that . . . it be negotiated."

Asked last week about the apparent discrepancy at his in-house news briefing, Safir said, "We'll take a look at it. I look at thousands of disciplinary cases."

Translation: Give me a week to get everyone's story straight.

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.