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'Prince' quietly bridged divide

November 17, 2003

When Bill Morange commanded the 28th Precinct in the 1990s, he was known admiringly by residents as "the white prince of Harlem."

When the Rev. Lawrence Lucas served as a priest at the Resurrection Church in Harlem in the 1980s, he waltzed into the Bronx courtroom with a class of schoolchildren where Larry Davis, a black teenager, was on trial for shooting six white cops. Lucas walked over to Davis' lawyer, William Kunstler, and gave him a bear hug. At Davis' sentencing for murdering a drug dealer, Lucas served as a character witness.

That Lucas, who had embraced an accused cop shooter, was introduced at Morange's retirement dinner Friday night is an indication of what a remarkable institution the NYPD is.

Officers like Morange - and there are many others - have bridged New York's racial divide in ways the public never sees. These officers offer more insight and personal connection to the city's nonwhite citizens than most white New Yorkers, who live basically segregated lives.

Former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik was another of them. After becoming police commissioner in August 2000, he promoted Morange to chief of patrol. It seemed a perfect fit. He succeeded John Scanlon, whom he transferred and who retired in a huff.

Kerik's successor, Ray Kelly, who also knows something about New York's nonwhite citizens, transferred Morange to the Organized Crime Control Bureau, replacing him with Nicholas Estavillo. Kerik and his pals felt that Kelly was retaliating against Kerik for his transfer of Scanlon, an old friend. Others said he sought to place the department's first Hispanic officer in that position.

Morange was described as "surprised" by his transfer but never uttered a word of complaint.

Earlier this year he retired, replacing ex-NYPD chief Louis Anemone as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's director of security. He makes a ton of dough and through a waiver collects his police pension.

But would he have stayed in the Police Department for the final three years until the mandatory retirement age of 63 had he remained chief of patrol?

Horse story. Chief Mike Scagnelli acknowledged that two horses, ages 8 and 10, in the department's Remount Unit died of colic in May, but he disputed allegations in Newsday that the deaths were caused by human error.

He suggested that sudden weather change might have caused the colic - the most common and unexplained cause of equine death - rather than poor hay, lack of exercise and improper deworming, as two officers in the Mounted Unit have alleged to this column.

Dr. Andrew Lott of Waitsfield, Vt., the animal care coordinator for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, explained that colic was the generic term for abdominal pain due to what he termed a horse's "complicated digestive system."

"Even in the most ideal circumstances horses can die of colic," he said.

He added, however, there was a direct link between colic and improper deworming schedules. Horses, he said, should be dewormed minimally every three months to prevent parasites from building up. Questions, he said, could be resolved by examining the horses' deworming schedules.

Scagnelli said he had been assured by Capt. Christopher Acerbo, commanding officer of the Mounted Unit, that horses were dewormed every two months. But the department has refused to show the schedules to Newsday, which has filed a Freedom of Information request for them.

Making nice. Departing Democratic Staten Island District Attorney William Murphy met Friday with his Republican successor Dan Donovan and came away impressed.

"He has no intention of massacring my staff and he asked the right questions," Murphy said.

Equally important, said Murphy, Donovan, the borough's deputy borough president, made no mention of his mentor Guy Molinari, for whom Donovan served as chief of staff and who lost to Murphy in 1995.

Meanwhile, retired Chief of Detectives William Allee, who publicly backed Donovan with three other retired Staten Island chiefs, is seeking a lucrative line-of-duty disability pension due to heart and lung illnesses and hearing loss he says he suffered from the World Trade Center attack. The department's medical board rejected all three.

Blacklisted. One Police Plaza Confidential is no longer among the press clippings distributed daily by the department to its top brass at One Police Plaza. Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Michael O'Looney refused to say who made that decision. So far as we know, Commissioner Kelly has not put locks on the department's Xerox machines, which means that the column can be passed around like Samizdat. That's the term for the underground manuscripts printed secretly in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin.

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© 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.