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Kerik’s move sends a cloudy message

September 11, 2000

In making three high-level appointments last week, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik supposedly sent a message. But what that message said is not entirely clear.

First, Kerik removed veteran Chief of Patrol John Scanlon, who was nominally in charge of police operations during June's National Puerto Rican Day Parade because then-Chief of Department Joe Dunne was vacationing with then-Police Commissioner Howard Safir in Sun Valley, Idaho.

When Safir returned, he blasted the officers in charge, including the three-star chief regarded as the department's so-called parade expert, for failing to curb marauding bands in Central Park, but made no mention of Scanlon.

While The New York Times stated with majestic certainty that Kerik ousted Scanlon because of his role in supervising the parade, others in the department say Scanlon's removal had more to do with his relationship with Dunne, now First Deputy Commissioner, who sources say objected to Scanlon's knee-jerk support of cops' actions.

Offered the job of heading the department's stepchild-like Transit Bureau, Scanlon announced his retirement last week. Speaking like a solider, he said: "I started in patrol. I finished in patrol. To retire as Chief of Patrol is a privilege. No sour grapes here."

Kerik also removed Assistant Chief Joanne Jaffe as Bronx Borough Commander. Jaffe, a Safir appointee, is the highest-ranking female in the department. Her removal leaves no female officer in a top leadership position.

Deputy Commissioner for Operations Garry McCarthy notes that Jaffe, who was criticized for morale problems that have led to a 52 percent rise in homicides in that borough so far this year, was "going against her own numbers." Homicides in the Bronx declined 17 percent in 1999, while rising 6 percent citywide.

Perhaps more important, as part of the Safir field plan that operated with a huge overtime budget, Jaffee was said to favor specialized units, leaving precincts with only two patrol cars covering the midnight tours. McCarthy says priorities have now changed. Kerik wants specialized units backing up patrol as in the past.

"There was way too much specialization," McCarthy said. "It was poor business management. Perhaps the key to future crime reduction is going back to basics."

Third, Kerik appointed Det. Tibor Kerekes, his former partner in the Midtown South precinct and a former bodyguard for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, to Deputy Commissioner for Administration. That position pays $122,000, on paper about double Kerekes' current salary. Insiders say, however, that Kerekes may be taking a pay cut because of the enormous amount of overtime he received for escorting the mayor and Judith Nathan to the Hamptons over the past year.

Kerekes replaces Al McNeil, Safir's buddy from the Marshal's Service in Washington, who will still be hanging around drawing a salary. Under Giuliani, the position of Deputy Commissioner for Administration has been institutionalized as Deputy Commissioner for Cronyism. As Kerik himself was appointed police commissioner for this very reason, the message he sends on Kerekes is painfully clear.

The Big One
Mark the date - Sept. 20. That's when the pension board votes on whether to award outgoing Chief of Personnel Mike Markman a tax-free, line-of-duty disability pension for a back injury he suffered in 1993.

In the early 1990s, this newspaper revealed the favoritism and corruption surrounding such disability pensions, as they were awarded disproportionately to union reps and top brass. Since then, the department has cracked down. Since 1994, only one three-star chief and above has been awarded a line-of-duty disability pension.

The exceptions are those with heart problems because of legislation known as the Heart Bill that holds, against medical evidence, that all heart problems are job-related.

Markman was especially hard on police officers seeking disability pensions for injuries like his, suffered in the distant past. He now needs seven votes of approval from the pension board, which is divided into six votes from the city and six from the police unions, four of which are held by the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

Normally, the city opposes and the unions vote for approval, but as PBA president Pat Lynch told One Police Plaza last week: "The issue is fairness. The same rules should apply to a cop as to a chief." Referring to pension approval of an injury suffered years before, Lynch said, "In past cases for a cop, the evidence doesn't point to its happening."

Former police spokeswoman Marilyn Mode shadowing her former boss, Howard Safir, at Kerik's swearing-in ceremony at City Hall last week.

Although she vanished from police headquarters with no formal announcement, department sources say Mode remains on the payroll, using up vacation and comp time. She is to return her police vehicle this week.

City Hall sources say she will move to the Office of Emergency Management, a subject apparently so sensitive that OEM's spokesman, Frank McCarton (442-9260), did not return a call on the matter for the second week.

Mayoral Counsel Denny Young again serving as master of ceremonies at a swearing-in ceremony and remembering this time to introduce Kerik. Four years ago Young went straight to the benediction, forgetting to introduce Safir.

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© 2000 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.