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Dunne: no quibble with 9/11 report

July 29, 2002

Before anyone gets bent out of shape over the upcoming McKinsey report that criticizes the top police command's response to Sept. 11, let's listen to former First Deputy Commissioner Joe Dunne, who was out there on crutches with his ankle in a cast.

The report, ordered by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, questions the actions of the top brass in rushing to the site, including former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, Chief of Department Joe Esposito and Dunne.

It also questioned whether Kerik should have been with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in those early minutes.

"The report is a good thing," Dunne said. "We want to know how to do it better. There are lessons to be learned. I am not defensive about it. I probably shouldn't have been there. We do have to become more disciplined. But I know what I did and I am proud to say I was there."

Dunne, who had been voting in the Democratic primary that morning, responded to the scene through the Midtown Tunnel after the first plane struck. He headed for the Office of Emergency Management command post in Seven World Trade Center, which later collapsed.

"The moment I got out of the car, the second plane hit. By the time I got down to Building Seven, I was flagged away. I saw some equipment on Church and Vesey streets and headed there. As I was getting out of my van, the first tower fell. It was raining debris and I hobbled under Building Six.

"I went back to Church and Vesey. That's where I met up with Joe [Esposito]. A lot of our executive staff had assembled there. I saw [Chief of Patrol] Billy Morange and, I think, [Deputy Commissioner for Legal Affairs ] George Grasso. Barry Mawn from the FBI was there. Many of the leaders of the city.

"I heard Kerik had gone to the fire command on West Street with the mayor, but when I got there I was told they had relocated to 75 Barclay St. It was fortuitous for us because the fire command took a direct hit. When I got to 75 Barclay, I saw Kerik. The mayor, I remember, was on the phone with the vice president."

Of the report's criticism of the top command's actions, his own included, he said: "I know what I did that day. I know what the executive command did. I know what the men and women of the department did. There was no gridlock. We cleared the emergency routes so that equipment could come in and people could get out. We put 16,000 people in the field within 24 hours. We secured hundreds of vulnerable spots.

"We did everything a police department would do in the normal course of the day. We showed from the start that the cops were in control. That is an indication of leadership."

Moving Up. The appointment of Mubarak Abdul-Jabbar to the upper governing board of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association shows what a tightrope a black man must walk to rise in the police union.

Abdul-Jabbar, 46, a 19-year transit veteran known as "AJ," is one of but 25 to 30 minority union delegates out of 400. Most, like Abdul-Jabbar, came into the union in 1995 when the NYPD, Transit and Housing police merged.

PBA president Patrick Lynch appointed Abdul-Jabbar to the five-member executive board to finish the term of an outgoing member, much as former president Lou Matarazzo appointed Warren Binford as the first black to the lower board in 1995. Despite Matarazzo's backing, however, Binford was defeated by a white candidate when he ran for election.

Matarazzo's successor, Doc Savage, appointed Abdul-Jabbar to the lower board after a kickback scandal involving the transit PBA a few years later. But unlike Binford, Abdul-Jabbar became the first black to win election to the board in 1999.

Lt. Eric Adams, who heads the semi-radical group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, said of Abdul-Jabbar: "He was an elected PBA member during [Amadou] Diallo and [Abner] Louima and although he has taken positions contrary to those popular in communities of color, he took them with a level of class that one cannot criticize."

Asked his views on the Diallo shooting, in which four white officers fired 41 bullets that killed an unarmed black man, Abdul-Jabbar acknowledged that his stated position ran contrary to that of his own family, who he said "shared the sentiments of the majority of people, black and white, who are not police officers."

"I am a professional," he said. "I can understand the tactical discharge issue," or why the officers felt it necessary to shoot.

Asked about Louima - specifically whether he thought a second cop had been in the bathroom when Louima was sodomized by a white police officer in the 70th Precinct station house - Abdul-Jabbar said: "No comment."

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© 2002 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.