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Tension over Bratton ties

November 9, 1998

The NYPD has attempted to prevent television reporter Cheryl Fiandaca, ex-wife of former police commissioner Bill Bratton, from attending commissioner Howard Safir's weekly news briefings, two news sources at ABC television told Newsday.

The sources say Safir's closest adviser, department spokeswoman Marilyn Mode, complained to Fiandaca's superior at WABC / 7 s Eyewitness News after Fiandaca attended Safir's briefing on Aug. 19 at One Police Plaza.

"They called and said they prefer she Fiandaca not go to his in-house press conferences," one of the sources told One Police Plaza. "They said she made Safir 'uncomfortable. They made a habit of calling each time she did a police story, complaining and trying to find mistakes. They don't want her in the building."

Bart Feder, Eyewitness News news director, said, "There might have been a call. I believe there was a conversation between Kenny and Marilyn but I don't know the exact nature," referring to Eyewitness News managing editor Kenny Plotnick.

Plotnick denied Mode had requested Fiandaca not be sent to One Police Plaza or on other police stories. "Marilyn and I talk all the time," he said.

He recently accompanied Mode to the retirement dinner of chief Larry Loesch. He acknowledged he had "received calls of complaints" from the police department about Fiandaca's stories - "hers and others."

"People have called here," Plotnick said, referring to Mode and other department officials he declined to identify. "But in my opinion they are not after Cheryl."

Fiandaca, a former criminal attorney, started working with Channel 7 as a legal analyst more than two years ago. She now works as a freelance general assignment reporter, Plotnick said. "She's very good, very intelligent. We like her," he said.

Both Fiandaca and Mode declined to comment other than to say neither bore animosity toward the other.

Fiandaca's appearance at Safir's news briefing Aug. 19 led the Post's Page Six gossip column to note that Safir "looked embarrassed when Ch. 7 s Cheryl Fiandaca turned up . . . with a crew yesterday."

The column added that Safir "had just finished fending off questions" about remarks he had made about Bratton. Safir had described his predecessor in The New York Times as "P. T. Barnum" and said Bratton "didn't know what the hell was going on in this building" as commissioner.

Besides disparaging Bratton, Safir has had a contentious relationship with the media that has worsened since he began holding weekly news briefings a year ago. Last week when One Police Plaza asked whether he regretted remarks about Bratton, Safir refused to answer, then launched into an attack on this reporter.

Printable versionQuestioned about Fiandaca last Wednesday, Plotnick said that he, not the police department, determined what stories she covered. Two days later, at the department's salute to the Marine Corps at One Police Plaza, Plotnick assigned Fiandaca.

The Shill Commissioner. It's not enough that Commissioner Safir had the police department honor Sen. Al D'Amato in a ceremony the day before the election. He's also been shilling for Yankee owner George Steinbrenner.

When Darryl Strawberry underwent colon surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan last month, your tax dollars - not Steinbrenner's - paid for NYPD detectives to guard his hospital room. Safir assigned them despite the fact that Columbia-Presbyterian, which has a perfectly capable security staff, expressed no concerns about Strawberry's well-being to the NYPD.

Safir acknowledged assigning the detectives at a news conference on Oct. 28, saying, "There was concern there would be threats on Mr. Strawberry . . . My view is that whenever a member of the public is in danger, if we have information, we act appropriately."

"You had information he was in danger?" a reporter asked. For an answer, Safir walked away.

Broken Windows. The "broken windows" theory is supposedly the philosophical underpinning for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's zero-tolerance crime crackdown in New York City. The theory holds that if a community allows outward decay, such as a broken window, inner decay - crime, fear, more crime - follows.

Well, over at One Police Plaza, the glass on each of its two revolving front doors is broken. So's the lock on a third door. Only one door works.

Heard. Friday from Jack Maple, Bratton's former deputy commissioner, seated in the office of Philadelphia's Police Commissioner John Timoney after the Republican National Committee selected Philly to host its convention this summer: "Mayor Giuliani and Commissioner Safir can take solace in knowing there is no shame in being second best."

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1998 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.