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Pressure mounts on horse unit

January 16, 2004

A shake-up is under way in the NYPD's Mounted Unit.

It follows reports in this column of the deaths of six horses last year, some possibly due to poor feed and improper deworming. Two of the horses died last month, one on Dec. 24 from colic following the horse's deworming, sources said; the second from an injection after he became excited while being shod.

A seventh horse is said to be in distress from colic following his deworming. The horse - named Donnie - was described by a source in the unit as "hanging on." Last Monday, Donnie was moved from Troop B in Manhattan to Troop F in Queens so he could be treated by the department's veterinarian, Dr. Dennis Farrell.

Meanwhile, on the Mounted Unit's human front, the Internal Affairs Bureau is conducting an investigation into a recent incident at Rudy's bar at 627 Ninth Ave., where two mounted officers were reported to be drinking while in uniform. According to sources, IAB was notified about the incident, but the cops were declared fit for duty by a captain from Midtown South, the precinct where the bar is located.

Another source said that the investigation remains open, seeking to determine on what basis the captain made that decision.

A source in the Mounted Unit told Newsday the information about the incident was provided to three chiefs - Deputy Chief Edward Cannon of the Traffic Control Division, Chief of Transportation Michael Scagnelli and Chief of Department Joseph Esposito. Cannon did not return a phone call, Esposito did not respond to two visits to his office and Scagnelli has not returned repeated calls.

Two months ago, after this column reported the deaths of the four horses through November, Scagnelli - who is nominally in charge of the unit - stated no human error was involved and that he had been assured by Mounted Unit commander Capt. Christopher Acerbo that the horses were properly dewormed every two months. Acerbo did not return a call from Newsday last week.

Last week, however, a police official told Newsday, "Everything your source in the unit told you was correct." The official - who asked for anonymity - confirmed that the transfer of sergeants and lieutenants in the unit is under way and that Troop G, located in the 102nd Precinct in Richmond Hill, is to be closed and its officers transferred to Troop B in Manhattan for closer supervision. No one answered the phone at Troop G yesterday.

Commissioner Ray Kelly has not publicly discussed what appears to be the rash of equine deaths or problems in the unit. A source said he had told top officials not to discuss the incident with Newsday.

Calls to a top NYPD spokesman, Insp. Michael Coan, and to his boss, the department's newly appointed Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Paul Browne, were not returned yesterday.

Up and out. Deputy Chief Jim McShane has called it quits after 24 years in the NYPD, a victim of departmental politics and pettiness.

A lawyer and a teacher, McShane was considered a rising star until 1996 when, as an inspector, he had the misfortune of organizing the retirement dinner of First Deputy John Timoney. Timoney, in a moment of blinding clarity, passed over for police commissioner by then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for Howard Safir, had called Safir a "lightweight."

A few months after Timoney's remark and shortly before the dinner, Safir took his revenge. He transferred McShane from the first deputy's office to Manhattan South Narcotics and then to the Traffic Division. He was buried there for the next four years.

When Kelly became commissioner in 2002, he promoted McShane - who had worked for Kelly in 1992 and '93 when he was commissioner - to deputy chief. But he kept him in traffic another year.

Last year, Kelly transferred McShane back to Manhattan South Narcotics as executive officer, or No. 2 man. But it was never the same for McShane, whose rehabilitation was too little, too late, observers say. Said a former ranking official: "Here is a case of a man's ability being underutilized."

McShane's new job is assistant vice president for public safety at Columbia University.

Saved by the bell? A funny thing happened during the sergeant's exam at Evander Childs High School in the Bronx on Dec. 13. With about a half hour remaining, a school bell went off. Since it approximated the time the lengthy exam was to end, proctors mistakenly dismissed the sergeant candidates and collected their exams.

Fifteen minutes later, the proctors realized their error and allowed the disgruntled test-takers milling outside the building to return and complete the exam. Problem: Before returning, the officers could discuss their answers with each other.

Bigger problem: Sources say Kelly wants to certify the test results and not conduct a new exam.

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© 2004 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.