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Can the movie be far off?

May 3, 1999

From deep within the archives of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, circuit court, we bring you part two of the never-before-published life story of Police Commissioner Howard Safir - by Howard Safir.

The information comes from a 1993 lawsuit filed there by Safir's ghostwriter, who successfully complained Safir had neglected to tell him the story had already been rejected by a dozen publishers.

In this passage of the book proposal, our police commissioner has resembling Indiana Jones and Woody Allen's Zelig:

"I thought to myself, what's a nice Jewish boy from the Bronx doing in a high Episcopal church in Birmingham, Alabama. My mother still had problems telling her friends that her son the lawyer had become her son the cop. Editor's note: Safir was never a lawyer. He attended Brooklyn Law School but failed to graduate, although a City Hall biographical sketch when he was appointed fire commissioner described him as having a law degree, an error revealed by the Daily News three years later.

"As my breathing returned to a normal pace," he continues, "I thought about all the events I had participated in during my 25 years as a federal agent, and realized that there were few major crimes, disasters or government conspiracies I had not had some contact with. From Watergate to Iran-Contra, from the Mariel invasion to the Panama invasion. I had spent time with Jimmy Fratiano a mobster , delivered John Hinckley the man who shot Ronald Reagan to prison, captured rogue CIA agent Ed Wilson and Soviet spy Christopher Boyce. I was the first person to greet Anatol Sharansky as he crossed the Glienke bridge to freedom in Berlin and I had worked undercover in pursuit of Robert Vesco. I walked the streets of Vienna with Simon Weisenthal and traveled the world in pursuit of the Nazi angel of death Joseph Mengele. I was not in every event the prime mover but I was in many and had the good fortune to survive them all and come out on top."

Next week: Young Howard.

Fear or Favor? The exchange between the Rev. Al Sharpton and 500 protesting cops lasted but a minute Friday, but it captured something of the meanness of the aftermath of the Amadou Diallo tragedy.

Following Friday's first pretrial hearing, Sharpton stood outside the Bronx County Courthouse dissing the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association for "stupidity" as its cops rallied just a few yards away for the four defendants, police officers who are charged with the murder of Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant.

Then the chant began, reverberating down Walton Avenue, where Sharpton was standing, "Ta-wa-na, Ta-wa-na." The reference was, of course, to Tawana Brawley, the black teenager whose claim to have been raped by a group of white men was rejected by a grand jury, and from disassociate himself.

Was Sharpton frightened by the taunt? Did he want to demonstrate he wasn't afraid? Or, as the savvy, street-wise cops had intended, did their taunting unnerve him? Whatever, the man who defines himself as a disciple of Martin Luther King's nonviolence teachings and who last month succeeded in focusing national attention on Diallo by leading protesters outside One Police Plaza with grace and dignity, turned toward the cops, raised his arms and shouted, "Louder! Louder! You got to get more energy!"

Then, he departed, escorted by a small entourage down 161st Street to Gerard Avenue, where a car and driver awaited him. Slipping into the front seat, he called out to this reporter, who had followed and who Sharpton perhaps sensed had been unnerved: "Are you all right?"

Unity and Dissonance.
PBA president Jim Savage and Manhattan North Trustee Ed Mahoney, who is running for "Doc" Savage's job, were in the courtroom Friday with the four Diallo cop defendants. Recording secretary Jim Higgins, also running, remained outside amid the protesters, "staying in the background," he said, for fear "people might think I was being political."

Would-be candidates Jay Lynch and Harold R. Newman, former housing cops, were preparing for today's session in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, where they are challenging the PBA's position prohibiting them from running. Although Newman's attorneys, Sgt. Thomas Gambino and Lt. Jeffrey Hoerter, were ordered off the case by "a top department official," as Hoerter described him, both are listed in court papers as "of counsel."

The Wrong Stuff.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board has apparently discovered a better way than Commissioner Safir's Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect to reduce complaints against the police. In its latest semiannual report, the CCRB misprinted its toll-free complaint hotline number.

It gave the number as 212-341-CCRB. The actual number is 1-800-341-CCRB.

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© 1999 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.