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The police and political gain

January 24, 2000

It all began with an article in the Post saying Hillary Rodham Clinton had dropped the Police Department from her security detail as she campaigns for the Senate. The next day, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said that, unlike Clinton, "I want the NYPD. I like the NYPD. I want people seeing the NYPD with me."

That may be good election politics, but City Hall then tried to inject the Police Department and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association into the Senate race. According to reporters and sources close to the union, the mayor's spokeswoman, Sunny Mindel, and the department's newly appointed spokesman, Chief Tom Fahey, alerted reporters that PBA president Pat Lynch might be interested in speaking out on the matter.

"The mayor's press office was telling reporters to call the PBA," said a source. "They were trying to get the PBA to attack Hillary."

A city official denied Mindel played a role. (Mindel herself is apparently forbidden to speak to One Police Plaza.)

Fahey, who was recently dragooned into the department's public information office by his friend First Deputy Patrick Kelleher because Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Marilyn Mode hasn't been able to generate positive stories about the department, acknowledged he had suggested to reporters that they call Lynch. He says he was alerted that Lynch wanted to talk about Clinton by a lower-level officer he refused to identify.

Although a graduate of the former Deputy Commissioner for Public Affairs Alice T. McGillion Academy of Public Relations, Fahey appears to have violated two unwritten rules: First, don't involve the department in electoral politics; second, if you do, don't leave fingerprints. (In short, Mode should have done the dirty work.)

The PBA, meanwhile, like most New Yorkers, appears torn between its dislike of both candidates. While praising the department ad nauseam, Giuliani has stiffed its cops for raises. Clinton has called the highly publicized shooting of Amadou Diallo by four Street Crime cops "murder."

Still, no one has mentioned the reason Clinton wants no part of the Police Department as she campaigns. Her police escorts were from the department's Intelligence Division, now under the police commissioner. Their careers, grade money and overtime are contingent on the mayor. The way he uses the department, Clinton was afraid cops would report such campaign information as her schedule back to him.

Safir Speaks, but Not to Us. Police Commissioner Howard Safir helicoptered up to the Yale School of Management Friday - remember, his predecessor, Bill Bratton, often lectured at Harvard - to talk about how well Safir manages the Police Department. Since the commissioner did not inform Your Humble Servant of the event, we rely on Yale's public information office for highlights.

Safir discussed how, under him, crime has fallen dramatically. He did not mention that homicides rose 6 percent last year.

Asked what incentives he used to put 8,000 cops on Times Square duty for New Year's Eve, Safir said, "Overtime."

And of his favorite subject, the media, he offered such bons mots as: "They don't want to get it right. They want to get it first." And: "If you are honest, you will have difficulty, because you are not telling them what they want to hear."

Making Diallo Accessible. Leave it to Eve.
The Daily News' counsel, Eve Burton, is again riding shotgun for the town's media in protecting the public's access to the Diallo trial in Albany.

Specifically, she has appealed the trial judge's sealing of documents to the state's Third Appellate Department. Her expedited application will be heard on Feb. 2, the day after the trial begins, indicating, Burton says, "that the judges understand the seriousness of these constitutional issues."

Specifically, Burton says that the judge, State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi, "has sealed every crucial document so far filed by the parties. He has sealed things in the transcript that he said he wouldn't seal." One bit of information he has sealed involves evidence about three of the cops' prior shootings.

Why is full disclosure so important in this racial tinderbox of a case-where the four cops are white and Diallo black and where the case was transferred from the Bronx because five judges from the Appellate Division of the First Department ruled that 12 impartial jurors could not be found-never mind that the case would have been tried not before a Bronx jury but before Bronx Judge Patricia Williams?

In their ruling, the judges cited pre-trial publicity-brought on largely by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who led demonstrations outside Police Plaza resulting in more than 1,000 people being arrested. Imagine what will occur if without full public disclosure, the cops are acquitted as everyone now seems to think they will be.

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© 2000 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.