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Protecting Rudy: nearly $1m a year

May 6, 2002

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has at least a dozen police detectives protecting him and his family at an estimated cost to taxpayers of nearly $1 million a year, a high-ranking police official has told Newsday.

Besides Giuliani, police protection exists for his two children; his estranged wife, Donna Hanover; his girlfriend, Judith Nathan; and his mother, Helen Giuliani, the official said Friday.

The official refused to divulge the exact number of officers assigned to the Giuliani clan except to say that the number exceeds that of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's security detail.

He said he believed the protection accorded Giuliani and his family was "around the clock." That means a minimum of two detectives, each working four hours of overtime, for him and each family member, seven days a week. Based on an estimated annual cost per officer of $80,000, including overtime and benefits, that comes to about $960,000.

Police officials say the cost is even higher because additional detectives are assigned as Giuliani's "advance" team when he travels about the country.

Giuliani was unavailable when Newsday contacted his office.

His spokeswoman Sunny Mindel said, "We never discuss security measures," referring questions to the Police Department's Office of Public Information.

When asked why Giuliani - who's believed to have earning potential of millions of dollars a year from speaking and consulting - was not paying for at least part of the protection, Mindel said she'd provide an answer but never did.

Police spokesman Michael O'Looney justified the department's protection of Giuliani, saying, "The mayor remains one of the highest-profile people in the country, and with that come security concerns for him and those closest to him."

But O'Looney made no mention of credible threats to either the mayor or his immediate family.

Protecting high-profile people is part of why the department is touted as "the greatest police department in the world," but Giuliani's coverage is without parallel. Edward Koch had a six-member, 16-hour detail after leaving office, but the protection was deemed no longer warranted and was withdrawn after six months and $180,000 in public expense. Former Mayor David Dinkins' temporary security, for its part, consisted of one detective driver.

In 1980, former president Bill Clinton's buddy Vernon Jordan, then president of the Urban League, was shot by a sniper in Fort Wayne, Ind. Because of that, when Jordan began a law practice in New York City, he was given police protection, says a former head of the Intelligence Division, the unit that provides protection.

Last month, former Staten Island borough president Guy Molinari was given police protection after he told Commissioner Ray Kelly he'd been threatened. Instead of conducting a formal threat assessment, Kelly said he used "common sense" in agreeing to Molinari's request. His protection lasted three weeks. It was canceled on April 25, the same day this column inquired about it.

Contrary to popular opinion, three former Intelligence Division chiefs say, police protection has less to do with security than with politics.

One chief, who asked for anonymity, said, "With public officials, it [police protection] comes with the territory. If they never had a threat, they still get it."

Police sources say only one public official in recent years has received credible threats warranting protection. That is State Supreme Court Justice Leslie Crocker Snyder of Manhattan, whose life was threatened by a drug gang over whose trial she presided.

"Compare the protection a public official gets to the woman who comes in and says her husband is a psycho and is going to kill her," says the former Intelligence head. "She gets nothing but an order of protection.

"Ask yourself how many women have been killed in the past five years by their husbands or boyfriends. Then ask yourself when the last public official was killed in New York state. It was President McKinley at the turn of the century." [Former Mayor William Gaynor was shot in 1910 and lingered for three years before dying.]

For 16 months after he retired last year, former police commissioner Howard Safir received police protection. Giuliani, then mayor, said he provided it because of threats to Safir's life. Top police officials said privately there were no credible threats.

After a Freedom of Information request filed earlier this year, Chief Michael Collins of the department's Public Information Office told Newsday he could find no written documentation to explain Safir's security.

Collins added there had been 39 recorded "incidents" involving Safir, some of which he described as "direct threats to Safir and/or his family." He said he did not know if the threats were deemed credible.

Former Intelligence Chief Daniel Oates said, "I don't recall doing a formal threat assessment for Safir or any other city employee who became a protectee. The process for people in city government who received protection wasn't formalized. We made a judgment."

Asked the criteria for providing protection to people, Oates, now chief of the Ann Arbor, Mich., police department, said: "That's a good question. It's not one I would want to get into."

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© 2002 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.