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Where candidates stand on the cops

September 10, 2001

With the mayoral primary tomorrow, here's a quick look at how each candidate stands on police issues.

Democrats: Mark Green. Although perceived as anti-police, Green says he's actually anti-brutality. As public advocate, he sued the Police Department and former Commissioner Howard Safir for withholding the records of officers who were found guilty of misconduct but went unpunished. He also demanded that Safir resign after the fatal shooting of Amadou Diallo.

But since declaring his candidacy, it's been difficult to pin Green down on such issues as whether he'd return the officers who shot Diallo to patrol. When, earlier this year, former Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy endorsed Green and then, in response to a question, offered that he'd send the four white officers to low-crime Staten Island, Green immediately disassociated himself from Murphy's remarks.

More recently, Green issued a well-publicized report criticizing Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for intervening in the department's disciplinary proceedings of the Diallo officers, who remain on modified assignment without their guns. But when asked what he himself would do if elected mayor, Green has refused to say.

Perhaps coincidentally, Green's most famous law enforcement booster, former Commissioner Bill Bratton, vanished when Green issued his Diallo report. After Bratton surfaced in Los Angeles the next week, the reason became apparent. Bratton said he favored returning the officers to full duty.

WouldGreen reappoint Bratton police commissioner? That's the $64,000 question. Green remains coy, but a top aide recently told One Police Plaza the answer is yes.

Freddy Ferrer. The Bronx borough president, with his so-called black and Latino coalition, was first, and loudest, in calling for the Diallo officers' firing. He's also blaming Bratton for dismantling community policing - whatever that is - and for the death in 1994 of Anthony Baez by Officer Francis Livoti when Bratton was commissioner.

But back in 1997 when he ran unsuccessfully for mayor, Ferrer announced he would appoint Bratton's first deputy, John Timoney, police commissioner. He told One Police Plaza then, "John's a cop's cop." Now, with no explanation, Ferrer says he's ruled out Timoney, who is currently police commissioner of Philadelphia.

Ferrer now says he'll pick his police commissioner from the Police Department's current ranks and says he'd consider First Deputy Joe Dunne and Chief of Department Joe Esposito as well as other top commanders.

One of those says of Ferrer: "He's full of it. He's never even met me."

Alan Hevesi. Probably the word that best describes the city comptroller when it comes to police issues is "clueless." Hevesi said he "didn't get it" about Diallo, meaning he didn't understand why people - blacks in particular - wereso offended. He also said he'd consider appointing Bratton police commissioner, suggesting he hasn't given the matter much thought. (Can you imagine a mayor appointing a police commissioner who backed another candidate?)

Still, being an intelligent man who knows nothing about the department is not necessarily a handicap. Former Mayor Edward Koch didn't know anything, either. Instead, he took the advice of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau and appointed Robert McGuire, who was considered an outstanding police commissioner.

Peter Vallone. The City Council speaker obtained the support of every police union because he bottled up a bill from the council's Public Safety Committee to impose stricter discipline on officers. Need anyone say more?

Republicans: Both Michael Bloomberg and Herman Badillo decry the department's secrecy under Giuliani. Bloomberg says he believes in "an open department" and presents himself as a professional manager, lacking expertise in police issues. Instead, he says he would rely on police experts he knows to select a commissioner whose "values and ethics" Bloomberg shares.

His police brain trust includes Safir, McGuire, former Deputy Commissioner Ed Norris, now police commissioner of Baltimore, and former Commissioner Ray Kelly, with whom Bloomberg is said to be especially close. Bloomberg says his brain trust has advised him to maintain such specialized units as Street Crime, despite allegations that its rapid expansion led to Diallo's death.

As for the Diallo officers, Bloomberg says, "Legally, you cannot fire them. I personally would not put them on the streets with a gun. I'd find a way to avoid that if I possibly could. It sends the wrong message."

Herman Badillo. He says department secrecy under Giuliani and Safir led to racial polarization. "Secrecy hurts the department," he said. "You can't have a city agency that acts like the CIA."

Badillo also criticizes Giuliani's and Safir's refusal to meet with members of minority communities they dislike, specifically the Rev. Al Sharpton.

"Ridiculous," Badillo said. "You have to talk to your opponents."

He says the minority community's "lack of trust" in Safir helped fuel the Diallo demonstrations. "Controversial situations can be alleviated by trust built up in the form of good relations with the community that the mayor and Safir never had," Badillo said.

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© 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.