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Color line seen in black, blue

May 11, 1998

In the animal farm sometimes known as the New York City Police Department, all officers are created equal but some are created more equal than others.

How else to explain that of its 38,000 members, there are fewer than 20 black chiefs, inspectors and captains combined? That none of them - not one - is in a policy-making position? And that none has direct access to the police commissioner?

God forbid that racism could ever be a factor in the NYPD with Commissioner Howard (Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect) Safir on the job or with First Deputy Patrick (Open Door) Kelleher.

As first deputy, Kelleher heads the department's Promotion Advisory Board, which approves all deputy inspectors and above. He also runs the entire disciplinary show. His moniker refers to former Patrolmen's Benevolent Association Vice President Richie O'Neil's description of the special access he enjoyed to cut deals for favored cops with past and present first deputies. Of Kelleher, he said, "His door is always open."

Just in case you doubted the fix was ever put in, recall L'affaire Creditor. Ex-PBA delegate Jay Creditor was fired for missing 200 hours of work by Trials Commissioner Rae Koshetz on March 7, 1997, but permitted by Kelleher's predecessor Tony Simonetti to buy his job back that evening by paying a $50,000 fine. The deal was so unbelievable his own attorney Stu London - hardly a neophyte - said he thought it was a joke. Three days later, Creditor was awarded a tax-free disabilty pension - lifetime worth $1.4 million.

To date, Safir has given three differing explanations of his role. The last of which had him having a "recollection" of telling Koshetz to negotiate the case. Since Safir was undergoing heart surgery when the deal was cut, this means he told Koshetz to settle during Creditor's trial or before. If Safir indeed did this - and isn't merely posturing so that people may think he is more hands-on than he actually is - he subverted the entire disciplinary process.

Even the Big Man himself, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, is running away from Creditor. Although Giuliani is known for micro-managing the department and his police commissioner, his spokeswoman Colleen Roche said last week that "no one at City Hall, including the mayor, knows who Jay Creditor is."

Now let's turn to discipline for black cops, who somehow never seem to pass through the open door. With so few blacks in the higher ranks where the fixes are put in and the deals are cut, they have no one to approach. On the contrary, in a number of cases described to Newsday, the department appears to have used the disciplinary process to retaliate against them.

Printable versionLet's examine the case of a 27-year black lieutenant, whose name we'll omit for the moment and who refused to be interviewed for fear of retribution.

His career was progressing well enough that he was one of former Mayor David N. Dinkins' security detail. He then headed the Intelligence Division's gang intellignce unit. A Swedish delegation was impressed enough with the lieutenant that he was invited to Sweden. Instead, a white officer was sent. The knock on the black lieutenant was that he too "militant."

After the lieutenant wrote to the Swedish delegation, suggesting the decision was based on race, the department charged him with failing to supervise a detective in his unit. The detective's direct supervisor, a white sergeant, was never charged.

The lieutenant was found guilty and fined 10 days' pay. He then filed a claim with the federal Office of Equal Opportunity, which determined he could sue the department.

Late last year, he appeared before the Career Advancement Review Board, which all captains must face if they've been disciplined. The board rejected him. The word came down that he wasn't "contrite" enough.

Last week, a top police official said he expected the lieutenant to be promoted at the next go-round. Stay tuned.

Our No. 1 Reader. Leaving his weekly non-news conference at One Police Plaza, Police Commissioner Safir snapped to this reporter, "April has passed and we're still having them." He explained that this column had predicted that Safir's weekly news conferences, begun after Giuliani's re-election last November, would end by April.

In its annual New Year's fantasy column, One Police Plaza had indeed predicted that Safir's news conferences would end - not in April but in August. The prediction read: "Safir cancels his weekly news conferences, saying that in the six months he has held them not one newspaper or television station has reported anything he has said."

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1998 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.