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Election was revolutionary

June 7, 1999

With some help from the spoiler candidacy of PBA trustee Ed Mahoney, the reformer Pat Lynch won the presidency of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, an event last week that can only be described as revolutionary.

Lynch, 35, a community affairs officer in Brooklyn's 90th Precinct, won with 6,458 votes to Jim Savage's 4,528 and Mahoney's 3,795 in a turnout considered heavy by union standards. Jim Higgins, the candidate of Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari and former Deputy Mayor Peter Powers - i.e., of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir - ran last with 1,970 votes.

With no exit or telephone polling (Cops aren't about to give out their home numbers.), the election gives rein to all sorts of speculation as to why Lynch won. Theories range from a younger work force who can identify with him, to cops blaming incumbent president Savage for no pay raises, to Savage's role, tangential as it was, in the election fraud scheme of Transit PBA President Ron Reale that sent the PBA's former law firm partners of Lysaght and Kramer to prison.

This column's speculation - and it is nothing more than that - is that Savage, an educated, low-key guy with a modern outlook, lacked the force to keep Mahoney off the ballot and lacked the charisma to bring out the membership in large enough numbers to vote for him.

At a news conference yesterday, Lynch was noncommittal about his plans and personnel, so it remains to be seen what role his attorney-adviser Ed Hayes and his public relations firm of Dan Klores will play. The multimillion-dollar contract with the PBA's law firm of Worth, Longworth and Bamundo expires next year. A lot may ride on the Abner Louima trial outcome, in which the firm's attorneys, Steve Worth and Stu London, are representing officers Charles Schwarz and Thomas Bruder.

"We made a lot of history here," Lynch said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I am the youngest PBA president in history, and we have the first Latino officer in the top five," he said of Joe Alejandro, who was elected treasurer.

"We have a mandate for change, and we plan to make that change. On July 1 when we take over, we're going to sit down and evaluate. We're going to have open competitive bidding for the law firm , and the members will know all about it."

Numbers Games. Now we know why Police Commissioner Howard Safir refused for months to reveal the racial breakdown of the Street Crime Unit. Of its 360 members, only nine were black.

That stark figure was provided Friday by Safir's spokeswoman Marilyn Mode to show how Safir has increased the unit's minority representation since the fatal shooting by police of Amadou Diallo on Feb. 4.

In the past few weeks Safir has increased the unit's number of black cops to 47 and the number of Hispanic cops from 47 to 55. Mode's figures show the number of white Street Crime cops fell from 243 to 186.

At Friday's promotion ceremonies - in which Safir made the entire unit of Street Crime cops detectives (save for five under investigation for shooting civilians) - Safir said he had raised the percentage of nonwhite officers to no less than 45 percent.

His arithmetic, however, doesn't add up. Of the 292 officers promoted, Mode listed 186 as white, 47 as black, 55 as Hispanic and four as Asian. That computes to 106 minority officers - or 36 percent. If we include the unit's virtually all-white supervisors, the figure falls to less than 30 percent. That's a hell of an improvement, but it doesn't explain why Safir can't add.

From the Archives
of Anne Arundel County, Md.'s circuit court, we continue the never-before-published story of Howard Safir's career in law enforcement. (When you read it you'll see why.)

The story so far: Safir survives a church bomb scare. He describes himself as having been involved in virtually every event since the Cold War. Today, we bring you his search for fugitive financier, Robert Vesco.

"The Eastern 727 banked sharply as we began our approach into Big Caicos Island," he begins. "As I gazed out the window I was astonished at the contrast, the crystal clear green water of the Caribbean surrounded a flat, brown island, almost devoid of vegetation . . .

"As I deplaned I carefully checked my Irish passport . . . The customs officer, a large black man with a thick island accent said, 'What is your business in Caicos. I replied 'vacation. He looked at me with the bored look of civil servants universally. I said 'one week, hoping to myself that by midnight we would be on our way back to Miami with Robert Vesco in custody."

Next week: the Vesco chase continues.

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© 1999 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.