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Top banana invokes law of the jungle

August 28, 2000

Marking his territory in the police jungle, the city's 800-pound gorilla, otherwise known as Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, appeared at One Police Plaza Friday for the swearing in of Joe Esposito as chief of department.

The mayor planted himself on the dais next to Bernard Kerik, his former driver and bodyguard, whom he appointed police commissioner Aug. 19.

The mayor's counsel and factotum Dennison Young sat next to Joe Dunne, the 31-year police veteran Giuliani passed over for the top job and appointed instead as Kerik's first deputy.

Esposito was Kerik's first appointment, and Kerik minced no words in defining the law of the police jungle. "I wanted someone who was loyal to me, a friend," he said of Esposito. Perhaps without realizing it, he had reiterated the mayor's requirements in selecting him.

Kerik then compared Esposito's career in patrol, anti-crime and narcotics units and the Drug Enforcement Agency task force to his own-despite the fact that Esposito, a 30-year veteran, had risen to the rank of chief while Kerik had left the department after eight years as a third-grade detective.

Esposito proved himself wise in the ways of the jungle protocol. "I pledge my loyalty 1,000 percent," he proclaimed.

Covering all his police-jungle bases, he said of the mayor: "What you have done for this city...what you have led us to do for this city has never before happened in history."

Dunne, meanwhile, received a standing ovation from the police rank-and-file. Giuliani joined in, though it was uncertain whether the mayor felt relieved at having kept Dunne under his tent or unnerved by a display of loyalty to someone other than himself.

In an unguarded moment the day before appointing Kerik, the mayor had revealed his wariness of the Police Department, saying: "Civilian control of the police is important. So the mayor being in control of the Police Department is important. The police commissioner being in control of the Police Department is important."

At issue now is who will run the department-most importantly, whether Kerik or the mayor will control the flow of police information.

With the new commissioner's outgoing personality, the normally secretive department appears more willing to provide information to the public than is the mayor.

So here are three questions Your Humble Servant poses.

Will Kerik need the dozen detective bodyguards assigned to his predecessor Howard Safir? Safir wandered even the halls of One Police Plaza accompanied by no fewer than three bodyguards, as though headquarters was not a secure building. Kerik recently turned up at City Hall accompanied by only one.

Will Kerik divulge the size and cost of the detective detail Giuliani approved for Safir for the next six months, paid for with your tax dollars? Giuliani cut off former commissioner Bill Bratton's detective detail the day he left One Police Plaza.

Will Kerik explain the disappearance of Safir's former Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Marilyn Mode, who vanished with her police vehicle last week with no announcement of her resignation? City Hall sources say she plans to return to the Office of Emergency Management, run by Safir ally Richie Sheirer. What will Mode do there to earn her taxpayer-funded $133,000-a-year salary, since OEM has its own spokesman, Frank McCarton? So sensitive is the subject that neither McCarton, who is paid $71,000, nor the mayor's spokeswoman Sunny the Silent Mindel, who is paid $141,000, returned calls.

On the Mark.
Since 1994 - when Newsday exposed the department's line-of-duty pension abuses, especially those of top brass - only one three-star chief or above has retired with the lucrative disability pension, except for those diagnosed with heart disease.

This exception is permitted under the state legislature-passed Heart Bill, which holds that any cop's heart disease is job-related.

Next month however, Chief of Personnel Mike Markman may become the second three-star chief to obtain the tax-free disability pension when he appears before the city's pension board because of a back injury sustained in 1993.

Sources say Markman has taken time off from work twice a year for treatment of his injury and recently quit the police gym, where he had been outperforming cops 20 years younger.

When was the last time a police officer was awarded a disability pension for a seven-year-old injury?

Seen. Abner Louima, the man sodomized with a broomstick inside a bathroom at a Brooklyn station house in one of the most notorious acts of police brutality in memory, declined to say what recently brought him to the Pistol Licensing Division of One Police Plaza.

"I have been here before," he said. "I previously held a pistol license. I have no problem here. The cops are all right."

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© 2000 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.