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When a legend leaves the job

April 28, 2003

Insp. Arty Storch's retirement dinner was celebrated with no official Police Department recognition or acknowledgment.

His was a modest affair, with three ex-chiefs on the dais and scores of undercovers who had worked for him in the narcotics division in the crowd.

Storch had been valedictorian of the class of 1979, a remarkable cadre that because of the 1970s fiscal crisis was the department's first in years. Many, like Storch, had advanced degrees and varied job experience. Many, like Storch, were service-oriented.

As Storch put it in his farewell speech: "This is the best job in the world. We get paid to help people."

Besides his narcotics work - he was the citywide coordinator of the investigation into the Latin Kings - Storch may be best remembered for the tenacity with which he defended his people at the meetings held to discuss the crime statistics program known as COMPSTAT. His bravery was legendary. He never bent to COMPSTAT's fearsome Torquemada, Chief of Department Louis Anemone.

To Queens' Guyanese community, he will be remembered as the captain of the 106th Precinct who stopped the beatings of their children at Junior High School 226. When school officials refused to help, Storch directed the arrest of 70 students for muggings and robberies, acts the school's principal had never reported to authorities. Although this occurred in 1995, Chan Jamoona, a Guyanese community leader, did not forget and attended his dinner.

Despite those successes, Storch's career was abbreviated in part by some bad luck, in part by departmental politics that he never mastered.

First, there was a sexual harassment suit brought by Lt. Bobby Brown and his wife Michelle Jarman-Brown against his narcotics unit. A jury dismissed it but it caused a rift with Brown's boss, then-Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters George Grasso, also a 1979 graduate.

The rift was exacerbated when Storch tried to help Capt. Tim Donovan, whose boss, Deputy Commissioner Sandra Marsh, had been forced to retire after refusing former commissioner Howard Safir's order to rewrite her report critical of two chiefs. Grasso had been Marsh's prime pursuer. The city subsequently paid her $1 million after she sued in federal court.

Donovan, the commanding officer of Marsh's office, became persona non grata. As former chief Aaron Rosenthal wrote in a report, there was a taint on him because of the Marsh incident. The city subsequently paid him $500,000 after he, too, sued.

Donovan's taint spread to Storch, who had tried to bring him into his narcotics unit. Under Safir's successor, Bernard Kerik, Storch was transferred to patrol.

When Ray Kelly became commissioner, Storch tried to call him. When Kelly didn't return his calls, he sought a meeting through Kelly's chief of staff Joe Wuensch.

"At Joe Wuensch's suggestion, I wrote a letter to Kelly. Wuench had a copy delivered to him. What I wanted was a chance to talk to him," Storch said.

"People from the Hispanic Society went to him. Chan Jamooda wrote him a letter. Judge [John] Walsh spoke to Wuensch and Grasso. He said, 'Artie just wants five minutes.' He [Kelly] never responded. The bottom line was Grasso," whom Kelly had promoted to first deputy. "He made it impossible."

Walsh, Wuensch and Kelly's spokesman, Michael O'Looney, declined to comment.

Grasso did not return calls for comment. In Grasso's defense and sadly for Storch, Kelly has shown himself quite capable of not returning his own phone calls.

Top Secret and Classified. What was in those top secret, classified documents allegedly faxed by Sgt. John Galasso of the Joint Terrorism Task Force to WB11's Vince DeMentri?

Sources say the documents - currently the subject of a federal investigation involving national security - revealed that on the eve of the Iraq war, teams of counter-terrorism NYPD officers were staking out high-end Manhattan restaurants because of fears of suicide bombers.

How did the department learn of the leak? Sources say that when WB11 called the department for comment, a wily police official persuaded the caller to fax him a copy. On them was the fax number Galasso had used.

Who was that wily official? Deputy Chief Mike Collins declined to comment.

The Who Do You Believe Corner. Someone is actually publishing Howard Safir's book. "Security" begins with a quote on the front cover by former mayor Rudolph Giuliani: "Safir is the greatest police commissioner in New York City's history."

Safir's second paragraph says that from 1996 to 2000 when he served as police commissioner, the city "experienced a drop in major crimes not seen since the mid-1960s."

Safir attributes the drop to the department's COMPSTAT program. No mention that COMPSTAT was begun by his predecessor, Bill Bratton. No mention that crime began falling in 1993 - under Kelly.

[To be continued.]

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© 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.