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Latinos boil in bad blood

February 17, 2003

In its short, cacophonous life, the Latino Officers Association has been one of the few forces for change within the Police Department.

The association - an offshoot of the Hispanic Society, a fraternal organization of Hispanic police officers - was formed a decade ago after the society's president, Walter Alicea, endorsed Rudolph Giuliani for mayor. Alicea, along with some members of his executive board, then joined the Giuliani administration in high-paying positions.

The association, supported by the New York Civil Liberties Union, sued in federal court and won formal recognition from the department. It also won the right to march in the National Puerto Rican Day parade and to speak to the media without departmental permission.

In addition, the group engineered a number of federal discrimination suits that awarded its members hundreds of thousands of dollars. One of them was its former president Anthony Miranda, who received $90,000.

Miranda, who retired last year but remains the group's national executive chairman, is currently at the heart of an internecine dispute with the association's recently elected president, Raphael Collazo.

Things have become so disputatious that mediation attempts have begun by former NYCLU head Norman Siegel and police Lt. Eric Adams, who heads 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. Adams is aware of how such a dispute can weaken an organization. A few years ago, the Guardians - a fraternal group of black officers - was roiled in a similar battle when a retired president maintained executive status. The Guardians still haven't recovered.

Miranda and his supporters on the Latin Officer Association's executive board maintain their dispute with Collazo is over control of the organization. Miranda, since founding the association, has established dozens of related organizations, both statewide and national, that he and his supporters say Collazo is trying to take over.

On Jan. 23, Miranda wrote Police Commissioner Ray Kelly informing him that Collazo was suspended as president. A bill of particulars accuses him of "disclosing personal information" and "utilizing political connections in attempt to overthrow" Miranda.

"This is a personal problem, not a business problem," says Luis Arroyo, the association's acting president. "We have city and state corrections chapters outside of the NYPD. Why doesn't Ralfie [Collazo] concentrate just on the NYPD? He wants to control everything."

Collazo, who calls Arroyo a Miranda stooge, maintains that the dispute is about business - specifically, Miranda's business dealings.

He accuses Miranda of conflicts of interest, and he says that at a Jan. 27 meeting, Miranda refused requests to open the organization's books, allegedly telling members, "I don't have to show; you don't need to know."

Miranda, however, told Newsday the books are open to all members.

The Week That Was. President George W. Bush wasn't alone in suffering a bad week. It was not a good week for Giuliani Partners.

That's where the city's former mayor hangs his hat these days, with some of his top appointees and closest friends, such as former chief of staff Tony Carbonetti, former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and Giuliani high school pal Alan Placa.

Last week, newspaper reports said Carbonetti was under investigation for expense abuses stemming from trips he allegedly took with disgraced former Giuliani aide Russell Harding.

Another newspaper report accused Kerik of finagling with a Corrections Department foundation while he was Corrections Commissioner.

And a Long Island grand jury report alleged that a priest whom Newsday has determined to be Placa had made sexual advances toward boys and, while serving as vice chancellor of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, portrayed himself as a protector of children while secretly working to kill their litigation against the church.

Giuliani likes to say he stands by his pals. Let's see how long Placa remains when Rudy runs again.

The Long Goodbye. With the retirement of William Allee as chief of detectives, Your Humble Servant made a remarkable discovery. Of the department's top star chiefs, three - Allee, Charles Campisi and Mike Scagnelli - are of Italian descent. So are Chief of Department Joe Esposito and First Deputy George Grasso.

In a traditionally Irish-dominated department, virtually all the top slots are now held by Italian-Americans. All but one, that is. There never has been an Italian-American police commissioner.

Getting It Straight. Department spokesman Michael O'Looney disputes this column's assertion that last fall the department changed its policy to ban all protest marches in Manhattan.

He says department policy remains the same - each application is treated on a case-by-case basis.

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© 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.