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Story not one for the books

April 26, 1999

From the archives of Anne Arundel County, Maryland's circuit court, case number C93-04841CN, we bring you the never-before-told life story of Police Commissioner Howard Safir - by Howard Safir.

C93-04841CN is the docket number of a 1993 lawsuit filed by Dan Moldea, Safir's ghostwriter - to whom a jury awarded $17,500 in 1995 because Safir neglected to tell him his story had already been rejected by a dozen publishers. Safir also shopped his story around for television and movie rights, according to the court filing, indicating he sought stardom long before he turned up at the Oscars last month.

"The church was filled to capacity," Safir begins in his 15-page book proposal. "As churches go it was ugly, one of those contemporary attempts at marble and glass, that came off cold and barren. In the front row was the Attorney General of the United States, the Director of the F.B.I., the Director of the U.S. Marshal's Service and other dignitaries. Behind them were over a hundred federal judges, their wives and other members of the eleventh circuit bar.

We were there for a memorial service to remember Judge William Vance, who had mistakenly opened a package bomb that blew him in half. This ceremony was the culmination of two days of hysteria in which I had sent over one hundred deputy marshals to provide round the clock protection to thirty very frightened federal judges.

"I was seated in the eighth row. As I looked around the perimeter of the church, I observed bright young and fit men and women with ear plugs in their ears and bulges under their arms. I had created this Special Operations group for just this type of event, calm, unobtrusive but totally competent and when needed, quick and deadly. About ten minutes into the service, Mickey Dahl, my detail supervisor, approached me and said, 'The police just got a call. There's a bomb in the church set to explode at 11:25. I quickly looked at my watch. It was 11:05.

"This was a unique experience for me. In 25 years of Federal law enforcement, I had made many decisions relative to evacuating or not evacuating buildings that were the subject of bomb threats. But this was the first time I ever was sitting in the place that was about to blow up. I felt a small bead of sweat begin to form on my forehead as I whispered to Mickey, 'Have you swept the place? He replied, 'Dogs and a complete physical search. I looked at him and said, 'That's why I get the big bucks. We'll sweat it out. "

Next week: How Safir survived the bomb threat and went on to think great thoughts about himself and his career in law enforcement.

The Rev. Butts Journey.
The Rev. Calvin Butts traveled a long road to reach his embrace of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani last week - longer than most people think. Everyone knows that Butts, who heads Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church, called Giuliani a racist a year ago. Not everyone knows that a decade ago Butts was under surveillance by the Police Department's so-called 'black desk, a unit that allegedly investigated what the police believed were radical black groups and their leaders.

According to a memo from the commanding officer of the Intelligence Division to the Chief of Department on May 15, 1987, on the subject of monitoring radio station WLIB, which reached a predominantly black audience:

"a) Rev. Calvin Butts and Father Lawrence Lucas both spoke aggressively in favor of blacks arming themselves in self-defense.

"b) Butts: 'Turn the other cheek, and 'Walk the extra mile are fine but when everyone is breaking the law, including law enforcement, it makes common sense to be armed."

Butts did not return calls.

Hedging Bets.
The Finest Foundation - a group of police buffs whose most notable accomplishment may have been paying Safir's dinner bill in 1997 at an allegedly mob-connected joint off-limits to precinct cops - took out a full-page ad in Friday's Post, issuing "A Vote Of Confidence" for the commissioner.

The ad was a slap at Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Jim Savage, who the week before had led an unprecedented no-confidence vote for Safir. Last Tuesday, however, Finest Foundation members joined a $100-a-head fund raiser for Savage, presenting him with an award named after The Finest's chairman.

He's So Cruel.
Chief of Department Louis Anemone became so enraged at last Wednesday's COMP-STAT crime-strategy meeting that he threw two Bronx precinct commanders out of One Police Plaza, then ordered them to return Friday for a penalty day. Explained the Dark Prince to One Police Plaza: "The meeting ended. I told them to come back."

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© 1999 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.