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Timoney sworn in as Philly’s top cop

March 11, 1998

John Timoney, the NYPD's popular former first deputy who was banished by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for calling the current commissioner a "lightweight," was sworn in yesterday as the top cop in Philadelphia.

Timoney's former boss Bill Bratton said the Philadelphia job could serve as a stepping-stone to Timoney's return to New York City as police commissioner after Giuliani leaves.

"It's a two-year appointment," said Bratton, referring to the remaining term of Philadelphia's mayor Edward Rendell, who appointed Timoney."The leading Democratic mayoral candidates in New York Bronx Borough President Freddie Ferrer and Comptroller Alan Hevesi have the highest regard for John."

During his aborted mayoral campaign last year, Ferrer stated in this column he would appoint Timoney police commissioner if elected mayor.

While praising Timoney, Hevesi, regarded as the Democratic front-runner for the 2001 election, said recently it was too early to announce his selection for commissioner. Al Sharpton, another prominent Democratic candidate, has said he might appoint former commissioner Ray Kelly.

Both Bratton and Kelly shared center stage at Timoney's swearing-in ceremony with yet another NYPD commissioner under whom Timoney served, Ben Ward.

In addition, scores of NYPD officers - including two chiefs - attended but because of the Kremlin-like atmosphere that now pervades One Police Plaza under Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir, many asked that their names not be printed. "You print my name, and you can say good-bye to my career," said one officer.

One chief said he didn't mind if his name was printed. "This is America, isn't it?" he said. Still, for safety's sake, this column will omit it.

Former chief of Queens detectives Larry Loesch, who feels no such restraints because he recently retired, said, "This is John's field of dreams. He is living out his dream - as well as ours."

Explained a lieutenant: "Every cop who's ever worked a 4 to 12 footpost dreams of becoming a commissioner."

"Well," said Timoney, beginning his acceptance speech, "I finally made it." He also demonstrated he had learned something from Bratton, praising Mayor Rendell both at the beginning and the end of his speech. Giuliani had dismissed Bratton for not praising him enough.

Then addressing some remarks to Philadelphia's Hispanic residents, who Timoney said have been plagued with drug-related crime problems, Timoney, to the surprise of virtually everyone, spoke for three minutes in Spanish. He said later he had learned the language in an NYPD course in which he was valedictorian.

"Ray Kelly took the class before me and he was valedictorian also," Timoney said.

The liveliness and spontaneity of the event contrasted with the current atmosphere at Police Plaza. Despite Timoney's apology, Safir remains miffed by Timoney's "lightweight" remark.

Asked if Safir cared to comment on Timoney's appointment, his spokeswoman Marilyn Mode said, "The police commissioner has wished Timoney well. It's on record."

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© 1998 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.