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Skewed standards for chiefs

July 8, 2005

Here are two tales that reveal the NYPD's double standard between cops and the brass.

We begin with retired three-star Chief of Detectives William Allee, recently awarded a line-of-duty, tax-free disability pension for hearing loss supposedly suffered when the World Trade Center towers collapsed and he emerged covered with dust from head to toe.

In the latest revelation to Newsday culled from interviews and documents, it turns out that the Police Department's medical board turned down Allee's previous disability claim not just for heart and lung problems, as this column reported, but also for hearing loss - the very disability the medical board did a 180-degree on and said he deserved.

So how did Allee do it? Well, this time around, the three-man board took the unusual step of passing the case to Dr. Thomas Roland, an ear, nose and throat specialist at NYU Medical Center, and to Dr. Mark B. Kramer, a consulting audiologist for the NYPD and the FDNY.

Their verdict: Allee had disabling hearing loss.

But how did he get it? Was it caused by the falling towers? Could it have been caused by an off-duty incident? Is it part of the natural aging process of a man in his 60s, as is Allee?

Said Kramer: "The first question is, does a patient have a disabling hearing loss? The second question is, what is the likely cause? That is where you can have a problem."

The Fire Department, Kramer said, has periodic physicals in which officers' hearing is tested. There are no such periodic physicals for hearing acuity in the NYPD, police officials told Newsday, though in the past there have been for units such as those working at the department pistol range. So in the Police Department there is no recent baseline to test against.

But there are other indicators. When former Chief of Department Robert Johnston Jr. was awarded his hearing loss line-of-duty disability pension, after claiming he was impaired by noise at a Rolling Stones concert, he had at least complained the following day of ringing in his ears, said a former department official familiar with his case.

Allee made no such complaint, according to the official, who said he was aware of Allee's disability claims. "He just kept working," said the official.

The cops' union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, voted to support Allee's hearing loss disability, stating that it expected "the Allee standard" to be applied to cops as well. Time will tell.

Now, let's turn to the second top police official to get away with something no cop could - so far, at least. We refer to Deputy Commissioner of Operations Garry McCarthy, who had a February dustup with the Palisades Interstate Parkway (PIP) police in New Jersey. Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne immediately piped up that the department had no reason to investigate because the incident didn't rise to the level of a crime.

This column has reported that McCarthy and his wife, Gina, protested the PIP police's ticketing of their daughter Kyla for parking in a handicapped zone at a parkway gas station north of the George Washington Bridge, that Garry McCarthy was given a "personal violation" for blocking the gas station's single exit lane and that Gina McCarthy was ticketed for "unreasonable noise."

What also occurred but was not in the PIP incident report, police sources on both sides of the Hudson told Newsday, is that Garry McCarthy became so upset that a PIP officer disarmed him, taking his gun and placing it in his own patrol car. Gina McCarthy retrieved the gun, and that apparently precipitated her being ticketed.

The McCarthys all have pleaded not guilty and hired a New Jersey attorney, David Hoffman. Hoffman is said to be "conducting research" about the actions of one of the PIP officers in another case, according to police sources.

As for Browne's claim that the incident didn't rise to the level of a crime, let's just say that the department's Internal Affairs Bureau is conducting a full-court-press investigation.

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© 2005 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.