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3 cops on the outs are back on track

October 30, 2000

Bernie Kerik is commissioner of the New York City Police Department but the department's dynamic duo - First Deputy Joe Dunne and Chief of Department Joe Esposito - appear to be behind some backstage maneuvers to rehabilitate three cops with controversial pre-Kerik backgrounds.

Take Capt. Charles F. Dowd, recently assigned as the commanding officer of the communication's section of the Office of Technology and Systems Development.

Dowd, the former commander of the 88th Precinct in Brooklyn's Borough North-the home base of Dunne and Esposito-was sent to the 106th precinct in Queens in January as executive officer, or No. 2 man.

The reason: Kerik's predecessor, Howard Safir, accused Dowd of doctoring 88th Precinct crime statistics.

Dowd was not demoted in rank because Brooklyn North's borough commander was Esposito, who had the stats investigated by the borough's own inspections unit, rather than by the Quality Assurance Unit, which reports to the first deputy, who was then Patrick Kelleher.

Esposito then termed Dowd's "doctoring" merely "sloppy recordkeeping." Police sources say Dowd's new assignment to head the small technology unit puts him back on track to head another precinct.

Next, let's turn to Capt. Joseph T. Culbert, recently promoted from duty officer of Brooklyn North, where he'd been flopped, to the commanding officer of Brooklyn North's investigations unit.

Culbert, the popular commander of the 104th Precinct in Queens, found himself in hot water last April, stemming from a cell phone conversation with Deputy Chief Dewey Fong, the department's highest ranking Asian-American.

Culbert's cell phone failed to disconnect when the call ended and Fong overheard another officer ask Culbert how he could take orders from someone who was stupid and looked like a Chinese-food delivery man. Although Culbert made no racial remarks, he took what he said was "responsibility" for the call and lost his precinct command.

Finally, there is Deputy Chief Judy J. McGinn, recently appointed chief of Brooklyn detectives. McGinn, who was an inspector last summer, crashed her unmarked police car into a Brooklyn storefront while off duty.

Department spokesman Deputy Chief Tom Fahey said the accident was investigated by the Internal Affairs Bureau, which found no wrongdoing. Police sources, however, said the accident would have been investigated far more thoroughly had the driver been an ordinary cop.

To begin with, did Internal Affairs determine where McGinn had been before the incident and with whom? Sources told Newsday she claimed the car was defective but no defect was found.

"I have no comment on these issues," she told Newsday.

Man and Machine.
One of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's more blatant misstatements has been his assertion that "the greatest police commissioner in the history of the city," Howard Safir, revolutionized the Police Department's computer technology.

In fact under Safir-who hired Howard Baker, a civilian from San Mateo, Calif., to lead the revolution-the program has been a bust, most notably the crash of its 911 system and the $1 million in overtime for the department's Y2K project.

In apparent acknowledgment of this, Kerik has paroled the department's highest-ranking Hispanic officer, Chief Rafael Pineiro-under house arrest at One Police Plaza for the past five years-and placed him in charge of the department's technology efforts.

Kerik has also apparently dusted off the $300,000 report of Gordon Wasserman, the Rhodes scholar technology whiz whom Safir ignored. The report calls for a two-star chief to run the technology division and to report directly to the commissioner.

"I am setting realistic timetables," says Pineiro. "They had never had that down here. I have weekly meetings on every project. And he Kerik has given me full support."

The result: Baker has packed up and taken time off for surgery. "I don't know when he will be back," Baker's secretary said last week.

A Night at the Museum.
The Police Museum-chaired by Carol Safir, with her husband, the former commissioner now on its board-held a preview of two exhibits Thursday. A couple of dozen guests were on hand, as well as at least six police officers, including two sergeants.

While Safir's police van, police bodyguard in the passenger seat, idled outside, Your Humble Servant was stopped at the door by yet another officer and told the exhibition was "private."

Shortly afterwards, the Safirs swept down the elevator, accompanied by yet another bodyguard. Off Safir went in the van out to the Mets game.

Judging from the manner in which Kerik allows officers to service Safir, one gains an insight into who the real police commissioner is: Rudy Giuliani.

Staff writer Graham Rayman contributed to this column.

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© 2000 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.