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Two versions of farewell

October 23, 2000

Farewell dinners for two top cops offer different perspectives on a job they both love.

Former First Deputy Patrick Kelleher had his $115-a-head send-off earlier this month at the New York Hilton. The evening was notable for the appearance of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who stopped attending such functions years ago, despite his professions of support for the men and women in blue. A year ago, Giuliani decided to attend a Mets game instead of the farewell dinner of former Chief of Department Louis Anemone, who many felt personified the mayor's zero-tolerance approach to crime.

Not that Giuliani mingled at Kelleher's dinner. He arrived late, sat in the balcony with his retinue, made his speech and departed. His newly appointed police commissioner Bernie Kerik did not attend.

Kerik was in Washington, lobbying Ford Foundation officials for an "Innovations in Government" award for a program he initiated as corrections commissioner to reduce inmate violence. The award was given to the Hampden County (Mass.) Sheriff's Department for a program helping inmates to lead more productive lives .

The stoic and courtly Kelleher spent the past three years walking a tightrope between his professions of support for the men and women in blue and his loyalty to former Police Commissioner Howard Safir. Safir has boasted that he fired more officers than any commissioner in history (especially since 1997 when federal prosecutors began threatening a takeover in part because of the Police Department's lax handling of errant officers).

In a tear-stained speech, Kelleher delineated the names of officers killed during his watch with the following litany: "Another death. Another hospital. Another visit to a widow."

History, however, will be the judge of whether Kelleher's closing the age-old "open door" connecting the first deputy's office to those of the city's police unions, urging leniency for favored cops, was a blessing for the department or a betrayal.

Yet, all his loyalty was apparently not enough for the mayor to ensure that Kelleher would succeed Safir as commissioner. We will probably never know the full tale, but the line out of City Hall that Kelleher had already accepted a blue-chip security job with Merrill Lynch when Safir announced his departure does not address the question of whether the mayor specifically offered the commissioner's job to Kelleher.

The second farewell, at $80-a-head at Russo's on the Bay in Howard Beach, was that of Ed Norris, former deputy commissioner of operations, who left the department earlier this year to become police commissioner in Baltimore.

Giuliani and Kerik passed up the dinner to attend a Yankees game.

Norris, of the blood-and-guts school, caused a stir last year when he publicly blamed a spike in homicides after the Amadou Diallo shooting on the media. In Baltimore, however, he says he has "opened up" the department to the media.

Referring to Safir's purposeful media antagonism and the results it brought, he added: "I've been through this once. I'm not going to go through it again."

In his farewell speech, Norris referred to the police life he has embraced as one of violence and tragedy, dignity and wonderment. "What makes it so painful," he said in a phone interview, "is what makes it so wonderful. What the rest of the world averts, we rush into. I regard our work as a privilege."

His remarks recall David Simon's book "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets," in which the author spent a year with Baltimore homicide detectives, a book Norris says Simon gave him and remains, as yet unread.

In it, a Baltimore detective recounts a murder investigation and the rousting of a clan of junkies from a garbage-strewn dope-house. As the junkies are marched off to jail, one of their children, a 9- or 10-year-old boy, asks the detective to allow him to gather his school books because he has to study for a test the next day.

The Mode Mystery con't.. According to the Police Department's Personnel Order 295 of Oct. 11, Marilyn Mode resigned her title of deputy commissioner for public information at midnight, Sept. 24. At 12:01 a.m. Sept. 25, she became a "provisional administrative staff analyst" in the operations division in the office of the chief of department, working at the Office of Emergency Management.

Police spokesman Tom Antenen said he did not know what work she does.

Police Museum count. Number of people who visited Police Museum and signed guest book on Oct 16: nine.

Number of people who visited Police Museum and signed guest book Oct. 17: five.

Number of police assigned to the museum: 25.

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© 2000 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.