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Setting an old record straight

July 14, 2003

Let's hope Chief of Patrol Nicholas Estavillo is more successful in issuing new police protocols in the Battle of the Badges than he was in October in issuing protocols over no-knock warrants.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly designated Estavillo to issue those protocols, following raids on the homes of two innocent Queens families, based on faulty information. Estavillo's protocols never reached the proper commands, leading to Alberta Spruill's death two months ago in another faulty no-knock raid.

So that no one takes at face value all the department says about the badges controversy, here's what actually happened to John Gaine, the firefighter arrested in the first of the two recent clashes between the city's warring departments.

Yes, Gaine was dismissed by NYPD while a probationary cop, as the department stated. But he was set up and scapegoated, victim of a feud within the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and the department's attempt the year before to whitewash the actions of the son of a top police official. On April 23, 1985, Gaine was one of a dozen probies involved in a fight at Yankee Stadium with Patrick Cox, the driver for then-PBA president Phil Caruso. Cox's father, Walter, was the union's private investigator, then under indictment by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau for bribing witnesses.

Walter Cox felt Caruso wasn't backing him and used the Yankee Stadium incident to attack Caruso, forcing his son to file criminal charges. The department, meanwhile, came down on all errant probationary cops because the year before, they'd been caught covering for another probie whose father was a top police official. That probie's crime: He allegedly pulled a gun on a prostitute the night of his Police Academy graduation. That cop was allowed to stay on the job. Gaine was not as fortunate.

A Puzzler. Lots of questions surround the Friday arrest of Deputy Commissioner of Community Affairs Fredrick Patrick for allegedly using $112,000 from a little-known Corrections Department foundation to pay for prison inmates' collect and personal phone calls. According to the federal indictment, inmates placed collect calls to Patrick at his home. Patrick then allowed inmates to call someone else, with his home telephone number being used to pay for the calls. Corrections Department sources speculate the calls were not for counseling but for phone sex.

Question One: On what basis did Ray Kelly appoint Patrick a deputy police commissioner? Did Kelly know him as he did his two federal buddies, retired Marine Lt. Gen. Frank Libutti and former CIA spook David Cohen? Or was Patrick - whose alleged crimes occurred from 1997 to 2001 when he served as a deputy commissioner in the Corrections Department - a contract from the Giuliani administration via Mayor Michael Bloomberg? Was Patrick put in this window-dressing position at One Police Plaza because he's black? Kelly's spokesman Michael O'Looney did not return a call.

Question Two: Is Patrick connected to former top Correction Department officials who left under a cloud? Is he connected to Bernie Kerik? As corrections commissioner, Kerik was president of the nonprofit foundation while Patrick was treasurer with sole checking-writing authority. Reached in Baghdad, where he is training the Iraqi police, Kerik wasn't talking. His friends back home suggested Patrick's indiscretions were the result of a personal peccadillo. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney says the investigation is continuing.

Question Three: What did Patrick receive in return? At his appearance in federal court, he listed assets of $1,500 and was represented by a Legal Aid attorney. As deputy commissioner he was paid $',000. What happened to the money?

Question Four: Why was Patrick arrested at his home in Harlem and not allowed to surrender as most white-collar - and white - defendants are? Was this a dis of the NYPD, as one black officer suggested? Or, he asked, was it a dis of black people?

Family Courage. When Police Officer Dermot Brennan was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1991 and doctors told him he could no longer be a cop, his father, the late Chief Patrick Brennan, told him: "Nothing is written in stone. Don't let anyone destroy your dreams."

Dermot Brennan remained a cop for the next 12 years, while undergoing a series of operations, chemotherapy and radiation. In December, five days after yet another surgery, leaving his arm and leg partially paralyzed, he walked across the stage at Police Plaza to receive his final promotion, to first grade detective. Patrick Brennan died in 1998. On his deathbed, he told his son, "You are the bravest, most courageous man I have ever met." Dermot Brennan was buried last week in the same cemetery as his father.

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© 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.