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Putting a name on skepticism

June 18, 2001

In what may be the most contentious line-of-duty disability case in recent Police Department history, the Police Pension Board last week again remanded the application of ex-Chief Michael Markman to its medical board, which twice before approved his disability.

Markman, the former Chief of Personnel, claims he merits the lucrative disability pension, which would pay him an annual tax-free income of more than $100,000, because of a 1993 car accident while on duty. The claim comes although Markman never called in sick and was more recently observed running miles on the police gymnasium's treadmill, leaving officers 20 years younger in his wake.

Eyebrows were raised when Markman, nearing retirement last year, ordered the three-doctor medical board to conduct his physical examination in the office of Supervising Chief Surgeon Dr. Robert Thomas, who reports to Markman.

Around One Police Plaza, the term "pulling a Markman" has acquired the same currency as that of a "Fugazy" [after the limousine operator who in 1997 pleaded guilty to a federal perjury charge]-i.e., something fake or inauthentic.

A year ago, when former Chief of Patrol Wilbur Chapman sought a similar disability pension courtesy of the medically challenged Heart Bill and was compared in a newspaper story to Markman, Chapman responded indignantly: "I'm no Markman. I didn't fall down in the squad room seven years ago."

To underscore its contention that the medical board approved Markman because of his rank, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association last week also remanded to the medical board the cases of other injured officers the board had previously disapproved.

One is that of Joseph Holt, the partner of Matthew Dziergowski, who died in February 1999 after his radio patrol car was broadsided by a car at more than 80 mph. PBA treasurer Joseph Alejandro read Holt's injuries into the record, contrasting them to Markman's.

"This officer has been under constant medical treatment, in constant pain, on restricted duty since the accident," Alejandro read of Holt. "He was examined in March 2001 and had zero degree of motion."

However, Alejandro continued, the board concluded at the time that Holt was not disabled, saying: "There is no true objective laboratory evidence and the physical exam did not demonstrate any overt neurological deficits."

Compare this to Markman's injury, which occurred March 25, 1993. After the incident, Alejandro read into the record, Markman went to work.

"Five days after the accident, he goes to the emergency room, where he is treated and released. He never went sick and was never on restricted duty," Alejandro read.

'The Lost Son.' That's the title of Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik's autobiography, and if it's one-tenth as arresting as his publisher Judith Regan's press release, it's a best-seller material.

"When Bernard Kerik walked into my office and told his story, my life was transformed," Regan's press release reads. "Kerik's story is a uniquely American tale that barrels from the sagging row houses of Paterson, N.J., to the cocaine fields of Colombia, from the razor wire on Rikers Island to the heights of power as New York City's 40th police commissioner."

The title stems from the fact that in one of those sagging row houses, Kerik's mother abandoned young Bernie.

With his six-figure advance, Kerik joins such Police Department authors as Bill Bratton ("Turnaround") and Bratton's former deputy Jack Maple ("The Crime-Fighter"). Maple is also the co-writer of CBS-TV's weekly series "The District," based on his life.

Unless Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who is reportedly receiving $3 million for his autobiography, objects, Kerik might even start appearing at Bratton's and Maple's Upper East Side saloon and home away from home, Elaine's restaurant.

Kerik's literary eminence contrasts with that of his predecessor, the department's best-known failed author, Howard Safir, whose autobiography was rejected by a dozen or so publishers before excerpts appeared in One Police Plaza Confidential.

Gene Devlin 1967-2001.
A veritable Who's Who of the department turned out Thursday night to honor Staten Island Borough Chief Gene Devlin, who was politely retired after 33 years.

Devlin, who previously served in the first deputy's office under five commissioners-three of whom attended the dinner-was known as a "contract" man, which to those who knew him meant loyalty, fairness and compassion.

Ironically, it was these qualities that hurt him in the end. As Staten Island borough chief, he was swept up in a sexual-harassment tide of dubious merit.

He went his own way and ignored the department's convoluted guidelines. A report by former Equal Employment Deputy Commissioner Sandra Marsh described his explanations as "evasive."

There were also tensions between Devlin and Borough President Guy Molinari after Devlin rejected a Molinari-sponsored offer to become sanitation commissioner, although Molinari has maintained he played no role in Devlin's departure.

And there were tensions with Kerik, who was noticeably absent from Devlin's dinner. Ditto Chief of Department Joe Esposito, who conveyed Kerik's message to him that it was time to go.

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© 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.