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Elimination by association

October 8, 2001

Bill Bratton may have cost his old friend John Timoney another shot at being the city's police commissioner.

This time, Timoney can also thank flip-flopping Freddy Ferrer.

Running for mayor in 1997, the Bronx borough president said his choice to lead the NYPD would be Timoney, Bratton's former first deputy. Ferrer said he knew Timoney - now police commissioner in Philadelphia - from the Bronx, where Timoney came up in the force.

This year, running with the backing of a black and Latino coalition, Ferrer said in April he would select his commissioner from the current ranks of the department. He named First Deputy Joe Dunne, Chief of Department Joe Esposito, Chief of Patrol William Morange and Bronx Borough Commander Patrick Timlin as candidates, even adding current commissioner Bernie Kerik to the list.

Of Timoney, Ferrer said: "Then was then and now is now." He did not mention that Bratton, Timoney's former patron, is now one of Democratic rival Mark Green's more visible supporters.

Timoney has paid a price for his association with Bratton before, when he left the NYPD unceremoniously just after Mayor Rudolph Giuliani forced out Boston Bill in 1996.

Last week, Ferrer announced a blue-ribbon panel to make a "binding" recommendation to him for commissioner. Members so far include Staten Island District Attorney William Murphy, former Chief Joe Leake, once one of the NYPD's higher-ranking blacks, and former Commissioner Robert McGuire, who served under Mayor Ed Koch, a Ferrer backer.

The panel's purpose, say Ferrer aides, is to allay white voters' fears that Ferrer's most controversial supporter, the Rev. Al Sharpton, would play a role in selecting the commissioner.

Some law-enforcement folks allied with Green, however, view the panel as a ploy to placate Sharpton. They say the panel will likely recommend former Commissioner Ray Kelly, who was not named to Ferrer's selection committee.

In 1997, when Sharpton ran for mayor, he said Kelly - who served under Mayor David Dinkins and traveled to black churches seeking more black recruits - was a white commissioner with whom he "would not have a problem."

Victoria's Secret. Bill Bratton may be remembered for reducing crime in the city. He should also be remembered for transforming the role of the commissioner into that of celebrity.

Bratton became the city's first PC to make the gossip pages regularly by hanging out at upscale East Side restaurants like Elaine's and Campagnola. He was the first PC in recent memory to publish a memoir.

Successor Howard Safir tried to emulate him by writing his life story, but no one - other than this column - seemed interested in publishing it.

Now Bernie Kerik is about to publish "The Lost Son," a book he is busy revising to include his role after the World Trade Center attack. No less a literary figure than New York Post columnist Victoria Gotti says it's destined for best-seller territory.

Gotti - whose father led the Gambino organized-crime family and whose estranged husband, Carmine Agnello, was convicted as a corrupt king of the city's scrap-metal yards - said in a Sept. 30 column that she had a conversation with Kerik about his book.

Kerik refused to discuss the conversation other than to say he's never met Victoria, although he's seen her at Campagnola.

Poor Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Tom Antenen and Chief Tom Fahey were left to explain that Gotti phoned Kerik at his office "asking about a news story," as Fahey put it.

Neither explained why Kerik took the call. Both swore, categorically, that Kerik did not promise to help Gotti's ailing cancer-stricken father in federal prison.

Meanwhile, Bratton, Kerik, Dunne and Kelly were all up at Campagnola's last week. Kelly was dining with the celebrity detective Bo Dietl, no less.

Calling Joe Dunne.
Eclipsed, if not ignored, during his 14 months as first deputy, Dunne struck just the right note at Friday's memorial service for Officer Vincent Danz, one of 23 city cops lost at the Trade Center.

Dunne was asked to speak by Danz' widow, Angela.

"I am in this awful place, helping people," Dunne quoted Danz as telling his wife in his last phone message from the Twin Towers. "Pray for them. Pray for me."

Of Angela Danz, whose strength was remarked upon by veteran chiefs who'd seen their share of tragedy, Dunne said: "Truth be told, we haven't supported you. You have supported us."

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© 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.