Rudy’s First Responder: Oh No, It’s Howard Safir!
September 3, 2007
So Presidential Candidate Rudy Giuliani has picked his national leadership team, known as “First Responders for Rudy.” If you thought there was even the remotest possibility that Rudy had somehow undergone a metamorphosis of character or judgment because of 9/11, think again.
As national chairman of this so-called leadership team, Rudy selected none other than our old friend Howard Safir. According to Giuliani’s press release, Safir “helped achieve a 38 per cent reduction in major crime and a 44 per cent reduction in homicides.” God only knows where Rudy came up with those figures.
Once, Rudy called Safir “the greatest police commissioner in the history of New York City.” God only knows where Rudy came up with that.
What we do know is that Safir succeeded Bill Bratton, who effected the NYPD revolution that led to the city’s crime reductions, and that Giuliani then forced Bratton to resign. When it comes to Rudy, no good deed goes unpunished.
Safir spent the next four years trying to out-Rudy Rudy in belittling Bratton’s accomplishments. With Rudy at his side, Safir called him “some airport cop from Boston,” while maintaining he himself had hunted the Asian drug lord, the Khun Sa.
Bratton pointed out that, so far as he knew, the Khun Sa had never been captured. He called Safir “The Rodney Dangerfield of Law Enforcement.”
As we know, Giuliani recently traveled to Los Angeles, where Bratton is currently police commissioner, to persuade Bratton not to badmouth him. So far Bratton has agreed. One can only wonder what Rudy offered him to keep his mouth shut.
Safir also tried to show Rudy what a shtarker he was. That’s Yiddish for tough guy. But although Rudy claimed he’d appointed the city’s first Jewish police commissioner, Safir refused to play along. You had to threaten to break his legs to get him to attend a breakfast of the Shomrim Society of Jewish officers.
In fact, Safir brought out the worst in Rudy. Like Rudy’s, Safir’s sole priority was reducing crime. His three-fold expansion of the Street Crime Unit without the requisite training of officers led to the 41 shots that killed the unarmed immigrant Amadou Diallo. [We’ll skip for now Safir’s release of Patrick Dorismond’s juvenile record after Dorismond was fatally shot by an undercover officer who was attempting to sell Dorismond drugs, as well as Abner Louima’s 70th precinct sodomy, an act of such extraordinary brutality that even Safir was shocked.]
Still, Safir never got it. After Diallo was shot, he took off for Hollywood to attend the Oscars, pleading a “scheduling conflict” to avoid testifying at a City Council hearing the following week. It turned out his hotel charges and plane fare were comped by Ronald Perelman’s Revlon Corporation. The City’s Conflict of Interest Board [with some weekly pressure from Your Humble Servant] forced Safir to reimburse the city $8,000.
Leaving office he remained clueless. In “Security,” perhaps the worst book ever written, Safir singled out for criticism current Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Kelly’s crime: he disbanded the Street Crime Unit.
Finally, despite calling Safir the greatest police commissioner in the city’s history, Giuliani ignored Safir’s recommendation for his successor — Chief of Department, Joe Dunne, a 30-year veteran [who, for reasons known only to himself, has also signed on to Rudy’s First Responder team].
Instead Rudy selected Bernie Kerik. Need we say more.
The official PBA line is that Kelly never received his invitation, an explanation not as far-fetched as it may seem, as this reporter didn’t receive his either.
True, in his second term as commissioner, Kelly has attended only one PBA convention [where he was booed]. But merely the fact that he skipped a preeminent police event while three weeks ago he attended another at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s place leads one to view each Kelly appearance or no-show as part of his nascent mayoral strategy, which appears in bolder relief with each passing day.
Beginning with the accidental fatal shooting in 2003 of unarmed black teenager Timothy Stansbury on his Brooklyn rooftop by police officer Richard Neri, Kelly has taken positions to boost his popularity with civilians rather than with the department.
Before the police concluded its investigation of that shooting, Kelly labeled it”not within department guidelines,” an accusation rejected by a Brooklyn grand jury, which refused to indict Neri. While the city’s media praised Kelly for his so-called candor, every law enforcement official in the city, within and without the NYPD, criticized Kelly’s rush to judgment [although none had the courage to say so on the record.]
In response, the PBA issued Kelly a no-confidence vote. Neri was elected a PBA delegate.
Kelly apparently got the message. In last year’s 50-shot police killing of Sean Bell, another unarmed black male — which was clearly not within department guidelines — Kelly has kept his mouth shut.
Many in the department see Kelly’s recent appointment of Wilbur Chapman as Deputy Commissioner of Training as a way of mitigating criticism that the department — i.e., Kelly — remains insensitive to African Americans. Chapman, the former Chief of Patrol, was once the NYPD’s highest ranking black officer.
But Chapman has baggage. In 1995, after a domestic dispute with a female detective, he also became the only Chief of Patrol to have his guns taken from him.
Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt