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Safir’s stealth $7,100 payment

March 13, 2000

Well, well, well. So Police Commissioner Howard Safir says he has repaid his "friend," former Revlon chief executive George Fellows, who two months after meeting Safir comped him and his wife Carol for a trip to the Oscars-total cost of the Revlon corporate jet and five-star Beverly Hills hotel, $7,100.

Safir's stealth payment, supposedly made a few months ago, speaks volumes about how Mayor Rudolph Giuliani runs the city, to say nothing of his hypocrisy.

First, some questions. One, did Fellows cash the check? Has anyone seen the canceled check? Or do we merely have Safir's word? Second, why did neither Safir nor the mayor make public Safir's payment at the time? Third, why did neither Safir nor the mayor inform the Conflicts of Interests Board, which is supposedly conducting an investigation of the propriety of Safir's freebie?

No one in the administration-in particular mayoral press spokeswoman Sunny Mindel and police department spokeswoman Marilyn Mode-will answer those questions. So let Your Humble Servant explain why those questions deserve answers.

The issue here is not whether Safir deserves jail time. Rather, it is the double standard of acceptable behavior that our mayor encourages:one for cops, another for the higher-ups like the police commissioner.

By not publicly reprimanding Safir, how does Giuliani justify telling a uniformed officer he can't accept a free cup of coffee or free deli sandwich from a store owner, who also happens to be his "friend"? By his silence, the mayor is also saying there are two types of acceptable behavior for New York City police commissioners:one for Safir, whom he likes, another for Safir's predecessor, Bill Bratton. Angered by Bratton's appearance on the cover of Time magazine, the mayor forced Bratton from office for accepting freebies to the far-flung homes of his corporate "friends."

Revising Bill.
Speaking of Bratton, now an adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton, he was quoted in a recent New York Times article as bemoaning the Police Department's "lost opportunity" while crime declined by failing to reach out to nonwhite city residents through "community policing." Before Bill says any more, Your Humble Servant recalls it was Bratton who scrapped the community policing policies begun under his predecessors Lee Brown and Ray Kelly.

Bratton's crew publicly disparaged community policing as "social work."

Walking the Walk.
When Police Officers Damian Marcaida and James Caputo were charged in the Bronx earlier this month with beating a woman who had reported a domestic dispute, lawyers for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association reached agreement with top police officials that Marcaida and Caputo would surrender and be spared the indignity of a televised "perp walk" while rear-cuffed. Perp walks have been declared unconstitutional.

Rear-cuffing a suspect who has surrendered with an attorney at a police facility is prohibited under the Patrol Guide Section 110-02.

But Marcaida and Caputo were walked into the courtroom by Internal Affairs investigators, rear-cuffed and in full view of television cameras.

Last Friday, the PBA filed complaints with the Civilian Complaint Review Board against Internal Affairs Insp. Kevin Gilmartin, Deputy Insp. Patrick Biggins and the rest of the IAB team that participated in the walk.

The Final Call.
Steve Worth, the PBA's Big Legal Kahuna, says Deputy U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told him and PBA president Pat Lynch last week in Washington that Attorney General Janet Reno will personally decide whether the Justice Department will file federal civil rights charges against the four officers acquitted of murder in the fatal shooting of Amadou Diallo.

Although Reno may make the final call, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Mary Jo White is conducting the investigation.

Longtime feds say that Reno could veto a decision by White to prosecute. But it would be unprecedented, at least in New York, if Reno orders White to go forward if White concludes there is no case to be made.

Bottom-feeders Scorecard.
Here are the results of the lawyers who represented police officers in the city's three major crimes of the past year, two involving the sodomizing of Abner Louima, the third, the shooting of Diallo. Names in parentheses are those of defendants.

John Patten (Michael Bellomo, Sean Carroll) 2-0.

Jim Culleton (Richard Murphy) 1-0.

Steve Brounstein (Kenneth Boss) 1-0

Steve Worth (Ed McMellon, Charles Schwarz) 1-1

Stu London (Thomas Bruder) 1-1

Joe Tacopina (Thomas Wiese) 1-1

Ron Fischetti (Charles Schwarz) 0-1

Marvyn Kornberg (Justin Volpe) 0-1

Total score: 7-5

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© 2000 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.