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Commish finds skies friendly

June 21, 1999

Is Police Commissioner Howard Safir becoming Lee Brown? Should New Yorkers call him "Out of Town" Howard?

Brown, police commissioner under Mayor David Dinkins, was given the "Out of Town" sobriquet because of his frequent-flier miles.

Well, over the past four months, Safir has been flying out of town: to Palm Beach, Fla., Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles (twice). We all remember his first trip to L.A. immediately after the Amadou Diallo shooting Feb. 4, a trip he had to cut short after Newsday discovered him and wife, Carol, at a police chiefs conference. His second trip - aboard the private jet of a Revlon Corp. executive who paid for his and Carol's hotel room - was also cut short after he was photographed at the Oscars. It is now the subject of an as-yet-unresolved investigation by city Corporation Counsel Michael Hess.

And these are only the trips we know about, as Insp. Michael Collins of the department's Public Information Office refused your humble servant's request to provide a listing of Safir's travels. (A Freedom of Information request is coming.)

Last week Safir was in Israel with Carol as a guest of the Israel police. Brig. Gen. Hezi Leder, Israel's police attache at its embassy in Washington, says Safir gave a presentation about the department's highly touted COMPSTAT computer statistics program (begun under his predecessor Bill Bratton) in which Chief of Department Louis Anemone acts like Torquemada, grilling commanders on their crime strategies. Despite reported protests by Israelis over the Diallo and Abner Louima cases, Safir apparently enjoyed himself so much he didn't tell Collins he returned Friday.

Howard and Louie (Con't).
Safir is not Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's first top NYPD official to visit Israel. Posing as an anti-terrorism expert following a spate of terrorist bombings, Anemone accompanied Giuliani in March, 1996, the month before Safir's appointment.

Anemone so impressed the Israelis they feted him with a dinner, serving a local fish delicacy. When Israeli officials visited New York, Louie hosted a breakfast at Ratner's on the Lower East Side, where he ordered the fish - gefilte fish. When the Israelis asked where it came from, he told them it was "an East River fish."

Last October the Israelis invited him back as part of Israel's 50th anniversary celebration. Leder said Anemone asked him to forward the invitation to Safir for approval.

Reached by telephone in Israel on Saturday, Leder said he did so, but yesterday he said, "I made a mistake. I didn't forward it because I thought Safir was a civilian."

At any rate, Anemone didn't attend. Police sources say Safir didn't allow it. Anemone announced his retirement two weeks ago, amid department scuttlebutt that Safir had dissed him one time too many.

The More Things Change ...
Giuliani's attempt to alter the city charter's provision on mayoral succession if Rudy runs for Daniel Patrick Moynihan's U.S. Senate seat recalls a past chapter in the mayor's life. In 1988, while U.S. attorney for the Southern District, Rudy also mulled running for the Senate - against Moynihan. He decided to remain as prosecutor, however, saying he was unhappy with then-Sen. Alfonse D'Amato's choice of Giuliani's successor.

Giuliani had urged D'Amato to recommend Giuliani deputy Howard Wilson. Instead, D'Amato recommended Otto Obermaier, although D'Amato later said Obermaier wasn't aggressive enough. Their wrangling sparked the D'Amato-Giuliani feud, which in 1989 affected Giuliani's run for the mayor's office because D'Amato backed an opponent in the Republican primary. Now the feud could affect Rudy's Senate bid because with D'Amato's backstage prodding, the Republicans may back U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio from Long Island.

Safir's Last Try.
Besides unsuccessfully touting his life and times to a dozen publishers, Safir sought to interest them in the federal Witness Protection Program that he directed in Washington and in which his spokeswoman Marilyn Mode served as associate chief.

"Between them," Safir writes (Mode cleaning up his grammar and spelling errors), "they have dealt with every major witness in the most important prosecutions of this century."

In this book, writes Safir, he and Mode would describe "the inner workings of the program in human terms. For example: the story of the two daughters of one of the countries (sic) most infamous drug trafficking couples. Both parents were given long prison terms. . . . The girls had to be relocated to prevent them from being murdered. Suddenly Marilyn found herself with two new children. They came to rely on her as their surrogate mother. She provided advice and guidance in everything from schooling to birth control."

Next week: Safir's "literary" letter.

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© 1999 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.