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High-ranking party poopers

April 19, 1999

In a move as unprecedented as the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association's no-confidence vote in Police Commissioner Howard Safir, none of the department's top brass attended union President Lou Matarazzo's retirement dinner Thursday.

As expected, Safir, smarting from the vote two days before, didn't show. Neither did First Deputy Patrick Kelleher, Chief of Department Louis Anemone and virtually every three-star chief and deputy commissioner - despite Matarazzo's friendship and support of many of them.

Under One Police Plaza's current Reign of Terror, many felt compelled to follow Safir's lead and boycott Louie's dinner. Unlike what you see on television shows, most top police officials are "yes" men, not heroes.

Kelleher's and Anemone's absences were particularly noted. Anemone said he'd learned of the dinner only the night before, a fact confirmed by the lone three-star chief who attended and asked his name not be made public for fear of retribution.

As for pusillanimous Pat, who didn't return a call, the line was he had been too busy with that day's Al Sharpton-led demonstration. Don't believe it. First, Safir's spokeswoman Marilyn Mode said the crowd size was below expectations. And when was the last time a first dep worked a demo?

One law-enforcement official brave enough to appear was Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson. Johnson, who's prosecuting the four cops who fatally shot Amadou Diallo, the unarmed African immigrant, said, "I respect Matarazzo and the men and women he represents."

In Safir's and Kelleher's absence, the role of police commissioner was played by Safir's predecessor, Bill Bratton; the role of first deputy was played by Bratton's first deputy, John Timoney, now Philadelphia's police commissioner.

Both referred to Matarazzo's support in implementing the department's crime-fighting strategies that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani takes credit for. In return, the mayor stiffed the cops for two years in raises - all the while crowing how he supports the NYPD.

Double Standard.
Police Officer Harold R. Newman, who this column reported last week could not be located, has been found in Room 110C of the police department's Legal Bureau, where he says he's been since returning from a leave as a Brooklyn assistant district attorney.

A former housing cop and treasurer of its union at the time of housing police's merger with the NYPD, Newman is suing PBA president Jim Savage for disqualifying him from running for union office, claiming the PBA constitution violates his rights.

Newman is represented by the law firm of Sgt. Thomas Gambino and Lt. Jeffrey Hoerter. That's where things become interesting. By day, Gambino is executive director of Safir's wife's police museum. But Savage argues that Gambino reports to the police commissioner and commands a small army of cops for the museum, which is another story.

Hoerter works in the NYPD's Special Prosecutor's Office, under Kelleher. In 1996, while a lead attorney in the Legal Bureau's criminal unit, Hoerter represented three cops from the Manhattan district attorney's squad who were accused in a civil suit of holding a hooker against her will for seven hours. Although he represented the cops on the department's time, he maintained he did so for free as a private citizen. Yet, the address and telephone number he provided state Supreme Court Justice Ira Gammerman was that of the Legal Bureau at One Police Plaza.

Because Gambino and Hoerter are connected to the highest levels of the department, Savage wants them thrown off the case. As his affirmation filed Friday in state Supreme Court in Manhattan puts it, "The very fact that both Gambino and Hoerter are active high-ranking members of the NYPD with access to confidential information . . . and are involved in prosecuting Savage, a police officer of the NYPD, strongly indicates an appearance of professional impropriety."

One last thing: In search of consistency, let's contrast Gambino's and Hoerter's representation of Officer Newman with that of Lt. Lloyd Thompson of Staten Island, also an attorney. Thompson is now under investigation for representing officers who are beneath him in rank. Gambino, Hoerter and Newman didn't return messages.

Fact and Folklore.
After this column quoted a black, top police official saying former Chief of Department David Scott, then the department's highest-ranking black officer, had been stopped near his Queens home by a white cop who condescendingly called him "homey," some people telephoned to say the incident never occurred. Scott, on vacation when the story was written, concurred. "It never happened to me," he said. "The Amsterdam News printed it, but it was folklore, not fact."

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© 1999 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.