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In the long run, hobnobbing pays

January 14, 2002

Chief Michael Scagnelli has shot a bear in Canada, a leopard in Zimbabwe and a Himalayan tahr in New Zealand.

Last week, he bagged another prize he'd had in his sights - Lt. Don Henne.

Henne, who headed the City Hall security detail under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, crossed Scagnelli's path at the Yankees' World Series championship parade in October 1999.

While escorting widows and children of slain police officers through what was known as a restricted, or "frozen" zone, where celebrities were gathered, Scagnelli was halted by one of Henne's underlings and told he lacked proper credentials.

Scagnelli uttered the fateful words, "You work for us - not the mayor."

Henne was summoned. He, in turn, summoned his boss, Giuliani's counsel and factotum Dennison Young. Since Scagnelli's words could be construed as having insulted Giuliani, Young telephoned First Deputy Police Commissioner Patrick Kelleher. Scagnelli was relieved of all duties.

An unnamed official (believed to be Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Marilyn Mode) delivered the coup de grace, accusing Scagnelli in the New York Times of the sin of "hobnobbing."

For the next 26 months, Scagnelli hid from Giuliani in the back office of Chief of Detectives William Allee. Henne, who joined the force in 1984 and who can't collect a pension until 2004, continued working at The Hall right through Mayor Michael Bloomberg's New Year's Day inauguration.

The next week, he was summoned by Allee, who transferred him first to the morgue, then to the Fresh Kill's landfill on Staten Island to help in the recovery of evidence, human remains and personal property from the World Trade Center attack.

For Henne, the assignment was not merely hazardous and unpleasant. It also involved what is known as "highway therapy," or as they say in the department, a "double toll transfer." Henne lives on Long Island. He did not return a phone call last night.

Allee dismissed any suggestion the transfer was payback.

"That's not in my nature," he said. "It's a privilege and an honor to work with these people at the landfill, many of whom are volunteers."

Perhaps to give himself cover, Scagnelli was said to be hunting buck in Texas.

December Surprise. In a private ceremony five days before leaving office, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik awarded the department's Medal of Valor to 13 officers for their actions on Sept. 11.

They included members of his and Giuliani's security detail, Kerik's former detective partner and three of the department's top brass - First Deputy Commissioner Joe Dunne, Chief of Department Joseph Esposito and Assistant Chief Tom Fahey.

The Medal of Valor is the department's third highest award, the intricacies of whose process make up 10 pages of the Patrol Guide.

Those who receive the medal need the first endorsement by a superior, recommendations by a precinct and borough commander and final approval by a committee that includes the first deputy, chief of department and three-star chiefs. The process takes more than a year. The awards are given in a public ceremony known as Medal Day.

But obviously not for the Kerik 13, including the three top brass.

This is not to suggest that the three are unworthy. Fahey was with Kerik and Giuliani as they fled the World Trade Center for their lives. Dunne was there on crutches. Esposito was said to have saved at least one person's life. All of them bleed NYPD blue.

But they were no more heroic than the hundreds, if not thousands, of officers who also rushed to the site. Esposito, in fact, has recommended people from his own detail for the medal. Unlike him, they'll have to go through the normal process.

Appoint a guy police commissioner solely because he knew Giuliani and you get chiefs who receive medals solely because they know Kerik. It cheapens everyone.

Squeegee or Not Squeegee.
For eight years, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has been furious at Bill Bratton for what Kelly believes was Bratton's refusal to credit him with the squeegee crackdown, which began in the fall of 1993 after a squeegeeman spit on a car in which Kelly and his wife, Veronica, were riding.

Last week, Bratton telephoned One Police Plaza to refer readers to page 214 of his book "Turnaround" to show his hands are clean on the subject. You be the judge.

"This turnaround was effected by [former mayor David] Dinkins and Kelly," Bratton wrote. "Ironically, Giuliani and I got the credit for their initiative, but understandably Giuliani was happy to take credit for making squeegee people an issue during the campaign ...

"I saw the squeegee population as a fitting symbol of the sad state of the previous NYPD. They had given up. It was a damning confession: the world's greatest police force hadn't been able to handle seventy-five street people toting rags and sticks. Only politics prevented David Dinkins and Ray Kelly from receiving their due."

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© 2002 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.