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Sober thoughts on a relocation

August 31, 1998

After 25 rent-free years at John Jay College, the Police Department's alcohol counseling unit is to be moved out, and at least one person - the unit's founder, Msgr. Joseph A. Dunne - is not happy about it.

The unit, established in 1967 under Police Commissioner Howard Leary, returns 200 recovering alcoholic cops each year to full duty, says Dunne. "At the 30th anniversary last year, 8,000 cops had been restored, many with promotions."

The key, Dunne says, is the unit's separation from the department. "The reason the unit is not somewhere within the department is that John Jay provides confidentiality. A cop has to be persuaded all his records are confidential - otherwise he won't come forward. If it becomes known we took a man's guns, he couldn't get a job in law enforcement or security work after he retired. But at John Jay those records are not part of his departmental medical record."

All this is to change Sept. 11, when the unit moves to a Brooklyn location that is rented to the Police Department and formerly housed the Transit Police Internal Affairs Division, Dunne says.

Ostensibly, the reason for the move is money. With John Jay's success as a criminal justice powerhouse (ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report), space is at a premium, says John Jay vice president, Rob Pignatello.

John Jay's president, Gerald Lynch, "offered the department the low rent of $5,000 a month, or $60,000 a year," says Dunne. "That's the cost of rehabilitating just one cop. If they return 200 a year, the value to the department is 20 times that."

Lynch took his proposal to First Deputy Commissioner Patrick Kelleher, Dunne says, but Commissioner Howard Safir rejected it. (Law enforcement and John Jay sources say tensions exist between Lynch and Safir over other matters.) Lynch was in Ireland. Kelleher didn't return a call, and Safir's spokewoman, Marilyn Mode, refused to comment.

"Depriving the police officer of confidentiality is robbing the unit of its success," says Dunne. "The other day someone arbitrarily painted the unit's new space Police Department blue. That is exactly the color we don't want."

Who's a Liar? The Rodney Dangerfield of law enforcement - as his predecessor Bill Bratton dubbed Safir after our commissioner referred to Bratton in a New York Times article as "P.T. Barnum" - became nearly apoplectic last week after this reporter sought to have him place his hand atop a Bible at his weekly news conference before he answered questions.

The week before, Safir had maintained he never said he didn't respect Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, as the The New York Times reported. Anyone who believes Safir should ask Times reporter Jeffrey Goldberg to repeat Safir's on-the-record statement about Johnson - one that Goldberg didn't see fit to print.

Printable versionApparently aghast that anyone could suggest that he didn't tell the truth, Commissioner Dangerfield's face changed color and his sentences became jabberwocky. This is what he said: "I spoke to Jeffrey Goldberg, who also told me that when he spoke to you, he made it clear that he never asked me whether I respected Johnson. And you used a few expletives and then said it didn't matter and then went ahead and did a false column as usual. The only one who lies here, mister . . . what's his name? Levine? Levitt. The only one who lies here, Mr. Levitt, is you."

The Wall (Con't). Back in May, this column reported on retired Sgt. Mike Bosak's attempt to include on the memorial wall at One Police Plaza the names of nine forgotten 19th-Century cops who he says died in the line of duty but were omitted. The department dispatched a detective to check it out but didn't get very far.

As a top chief explained, "What's all this concern for the 19th Century? We have more urgent problems."

Now Bosak says he's discovered two dozen more forgotten officers who died in the line of duty.

"What I do care about," he writes in a letter to One Police Plaza, "is getting these dead hero cops honored. And I do care about these frauds and fakery the department performs in honoring its own. It is showing its contempt for all the brave, honest and hard-working officers out there."

A Chief's Farewell. Charlie Reuther's send-off racket is scheduled for October, and all the top brass are listed on his honorary committee. That includes Chief of Department Louie Anemone, whom Reuther holds responsible for deep-sixing him as chief of detectives into the backwater of the Criminal Justice Bureau, where he finished out his career.

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1998 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.