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The politics of self-promotion

May 12, 1998

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani yesterday opened a self-promoting extravaganza known as the New York City Police Department's second annual spring COMPSTAT conference.

This year's conference, at the Marriot Marquis hotel, got off to a better start than last year's, when the mayor barred COMPSTAT's founder, ex-police commissioner Bill Bratton.

Bratton, then in the private security business after Giuliani railroaded him out of his job at One Police Plaza, had paid his $325 fee to attend but the mayor ordered worker bees in the NYPD to refund it, saying that only those in law enforcement were welcome. Since numerous other private security officials had paid their $325, the mayor was forced to refund thousands of dollars.

This year, Bratton, who has moved his base of operations to St. James on Long Island, said he wasn't interested.

Instead, some 400 law enforcement officials from 30 states and 13 countries, including a uniformed contingent from Brazil, turned up, ostensibly to learn about such conference topics as "Driving Drugs Out of New York City" and "Proactive Internal Affairs." So far as is known, the name Bratton was never mentioned.

While the conference workshops were barred to the media, reporters were permitted to cover the mayor's speech in the hotel's sixth-floor ballroom, though they were not permitted to sit there. Instead, they were ordered to observe from a darkened balcony.

Prowling the corridors, Deputy Police Commissioner for Public Information Marilyn Mode told a reporter to leave a hallway on the seventh floor.

Meanwhile in the ballroom, each visitor found upon his seat a copy of Sunday's Parade magazine, which featured on its cover a picture of the mayor and Police Commissioner Howard Safir standing beneath the Brooklyn Bridge with the caption "They've made big changes that are making the city safer." Somehow in the picture, Giuliani, who stands 5 feet, 9 inches, appears taller than Safir, who is 6-foot-3.

Printable versionThe picture's symbolism was not lost on some at One Police Plaza. Two years ago, Bratton, in his trenchcoat, with the city behind him, graced the cover of Time magazine sans Giuliani. Many believe it was that picture that prompted the mayor to dismiss him.

Yesterday, Safir introduced Giuliani as "one of the greatest mayors this city has ever had," and said, "There is no better time to be police commissioner." Nothing, he said, could have been accomplished in New York without Giuliani's "political will."

Perhaps posturing for his next job outside New York City, Giuliani spoke of expanding the war on crime to an expanded war on drugs.

"New York City sets the direction for the rest of the country," the mayor said. "I believe we helped lead America in fighting crime . . . We are deliberately trying to do this with drugs."

Giuliani said it was no coincidence that last year over 100,000 arrests were made of drug-sellers at the same time that crime had fallen to a 32-year low.

"We have failed to think clearly about drugs," he added. "Marijuana, cocaine and heroin are not a plague. . . . It is not a supernatural problem. It is a human one . . ."

"We can turn it around," he added. "It's a doable task. We can cut drugs the way we cut down crime."

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© 1998 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.