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A farewell to arms, or not

February 28, 2000

Police Officer Sean Carroll, who mistook Amadou Diallo's wallet for a gun, starting the 41-bullet shooting barrage, has told people he wants his job back.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, already has called for immediate reinstatement of Carroll and his three Street Crime Unit buddies, who are on modified duty.

And Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, suddenly praising the judiciary in connection with the officers' acquittal after years of bad mouthing judges who ruled against him, must now figure out what the Police Department should do with Carroll and the other three so as not to hurt his chances for the U.S. Senate.

Carroll and the others are not Frank Livoti, whom the department fired after he was acquitted in the Bronx of the choking death of Anthony Baez. Nor are they Michael Meyer, another Street Crime cop, acquitted in the Bronx of the off- duty shooting of an unarmed squeegee man; the department fired Meyer the day of the Diallo verdict.

Neither Livoti nor Meyer had any public or union backing. Livoti's "rabbi," or protector, then Chief of Department Louis Anemone-whom Livoti called "cuz" (as in cousin)-was forced by Police Commissioner Howard Safir to publicly disavow Livoti.

But the Diallo case is different. First, Safir has publicly spouted the PBA's slogan-that the shooting was a "tragedy, not a crime." Second, he and the mayor appear to be hostages to their own defective policies: the Street Crime Unit's use of aggressive tactics and its three-fold expansion in 1997 over the protests of its former commander, Richard Savage, who feared the new officers would not be properly screened or trained. Safir responded by transferring Savage, who then retired.

All four officers involved in the Diallo shooting-as well as Meyer-came to the unit after the expansion. Criticizing the Diallo 4 means criticizing Giuliani and his policies, and you know how far that will get you.

No doubt that explains Safir's refusal to admit he has disbanded the unit or that its disbanding was related to the Diallo shooting. Instead, within the past year, Safir, with no credible explanation, put the unit into uniform, promoted its members to detective specialists, then transferred its last commander, Insp. Bruce Smolka, who on his own time attended the trial as a gesture of support for the four officers.

On the other hand, department officials realize how difficult, if not impossible, it would be to reinstate the four officers, much less return their guns, which must be done if they are returned to full duty. God forbid Printable versionthe political fallout if Carroll or any of the others were involved in another shooting! Already the department is paying for a scooter patrol and a marked car outside each of the officers' homes, at least the two who live in the city, with supervisors visiting them because of threats. Imagine the investment the department would have to make to continue protecting them if they were returned to full duty.

With their Stalinesque security, blocking all public access, both City Hall and One Police Plaza seem increasingly like islands apart from the rest of the city. Both City Hall and the department appear to have abandoned all community outreach efforts after the verdict. One is struck by the invisibility of the department's deputy commissioner for community affairs, Yolanda Jimenez.

But say what you will about him, Giuliani is no fool. He appears to recognize how tricky reinstating those officers could be for him. He seems expert at voicing support but keeping his distance.

During the trial, both he and Safir visited the Albany Capitol while Giuliani did some politicking. Although just five minutes away, neither visited the courthouse.

Freeing David Bookstaver. David Bookstaver, the ubiquitous spokesman for the Office of Court Administration who managed to satisfy virtually all of the media horde during the Diallo trial in Albany, may, like his friend John Miller, the police spokesman under then-Commissioner Bill Brattton, have done his job too well.

Just before the verdict was announced, Bookstaver says he was literally kidnaped by Albany County sheriff's deputies and held in an anteroom of State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi, his cell phone taken from him. Teresi apparently was afraid Bookstaver would somehow leak the verdict to the media.

Bookstaver called Teresi's actions "unacceptable" and said he was considering taking legal action.

Teresi could not reached for comment. Bookstaver said he did not have his home number.

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 2000 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.