NYPD Confidential - An Inside Look at the New York Police Department
Home Page
All Columns
Contact Leonard Levitt
Search this site
Printable versionSend to a friendEmail Leonard Levitt

Safir out of town during the parade

June 19, 2000

Let's cut right to the chase. The issue for the Police Department over the post-National Puerto Rican Day parade violence is not the public flogging of four or five hapless police officers, as Police Commissioner Howard Safir has promised. Rather, it's assigning responsibility for the failed deployment and strategy that led to the chaos.

As occurred after the shooting of Amadou Diallo, Safir was out of town when these plans were formulated.

In the week before the parade, the police commissioner was at an FBI- sponsored, all-expense-paid junket of police chiefs in Sun Valley, Idaho. With him was the department's top uniformed cop, Chief of Department Joe Dunne, the NYPD's deployment expert.

They were in the friendly skies returning to New York when the violence occurred.

Were either First Deputy Commissioner Patrick Kelleher or Acting Chief of Department John Scanlon brave enough to disturb Safir out in Idaho to discuss the deployment strategy? Did either contact Dunne to discuss plans for the parade? If anyone knows deployment and strategy it's Dunne, the successor and protigi of former top uniformed officer Louis Anemone.

No doubt it was coincidence that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, in defending the conduct of the NYPD, never informed the public of Safir's and Dunne's absence. And if their absence was not embarrassing enough, it now turns out that one of the victims of the violence was the daughter of another top police official at One Police Plaza.

The department does not release the names of crime victims and neither do we, but perhaps the girl's parent might have something to say to police spokeswoman Marilyn Mode, who has pooh-poohed the violence, asking why none of the victims used their cell phones to call 911 while under mob attack.

The Week That Was.
Excepting the Civil War draft riots, the Crown Heights riot or the 1977 post-blackout looting where the police were ordered to take no action, last week may have been the worst on record for the department. Besides the Central Park violence, here's what else occurred:

The previous weekend, 61 people were shot or stabbed in the city. Six of the victims died. The violence appeared to be part of a small but rising trend of increased citywide homicides, up about 6 percent over last year.

Last Wednesday, Stephen Gardell, the just-retired treasurer of the Detectives Endowment Association, was indicted for allegedly taking bribes from organized crime figures and leaking information about federal investigations.

According to the indictment, Gardell, who was apparently caught on a mob wiretap, also "corruptly agreed to defraud the DEA pension plan for the benefit of the mobsters and for personal profit." On the day of his indictment, Gardell was awarded a lucrative line-of-duty disability pension, which allows him an annual payment - tax-free - of three-quarters of his estimated $65,000 detective's salary.

Last Thursday, a jury found the department guilty of racial discrimination after Safir's decision to transfer 24 black cops into the 70th Precinct, solely because of their race, after Abner Louima was sodomized in a station house bathroom. The jury awarded each officer $50,000.

Last Friday the Justice Department's Civil Rights Commission accused the department of racial profiling and recommended an outside monitor.

Nab That Pension.
Police officials were furious that the FBI apparently failed to tip off the department to Gardell's impending indictment. Had he known, said one police official, "I never would have allowed him to have walked out the door with a pension."

What he meant was that when a police officer files for retirement, the department has 30 days to bring charges against him, thus blocking a pension. Or, the department can delay the pension process until the charges are resolved. If found guilty, his pension can be taken away.

Gardell, who knew the intricacies of the system, was able to obtain what is known as a "service" retirement - one-half taxable pay that all cops accrue - when he retired earlier this month. With the department unaware of his impending indictment, he was then able to change his "service" pension into a line-of-duty disability with no department interference.

Unanswered question: How did the pension board hear his case only days after he retired? It usually takes months.

The First Casualty?
In response to this reporter's question, Safir said at a news conference Friday that the department learned of Gardell's indictment only on the day it occurred.

In response to this reporter's question, FBI spokesman Joe Valiquette said: "Our policy is not to discuss publicly whether there were in fact communications between the FBI and the NYPD on a pending investigative matter. Or if there had been, what the contents of these communications might have been." Are these guys saying the same thing, or is there something more here?

« Back to top

© 2000 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.