One Police Plaza

With Armao Leaving, Who'll Watch the Cops?

June 27, 1994

Mollen Commission counsel Joseph Armao will soon return to private law practice, leaving what many believe was the most thankless job in city government.

Armao says he made "a personal decision." Others say no one asked him to remain after the commission issues its final report within the next few weeks. One of its recommendations will be the establishment of a permanent watchdog agency, like the Mollen Commission itself.

A graduate of Harvard Law School and a former Manhattan prosecutor, Armao leaves the commission a sadder but wiser man. He won't comment, but commission officials say their work was sabotaged by vested law enforcement interests who withheld information, refused to cooperate and upstaged the commission at every opportunity.

Armao's departure is viewed as a further indication that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani will not create an independent monitor. That function probably will be conducted by Giuliani himself - probably through the city's Department of Investigation.

"While the mayor believes the police deserve a lot of respect, when it comes to police corruption, he's no shrinking violet," says mayoral counsel Dennison Young Jr., who with Giuliani is discussing the creation of the recommended watchdog with commission chairman Milton Mollen.

Giuliani is fond of saying he prosecuted cops in the wake of the Knapp Commission scandal a generation ago. Young points out Giuliani later re-established the Public Integrity unit of the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District, which he headed in the mid-1980s. So outraged was Giuliani by official corruption that in 1986 he vowed to personally prosecute a young assistant U.S. attorney accused of stealing money and drugs, stored as evidence in the office safe. Wiser heads prevailed and Giuliani ended up coaching from the sidelines.

Bratton's Boswell. Besides having a private pension bill introduced for him in Boston, Police Commissioner William Bratton also has a biographer.

He is James Lardner, a scion of the Ring Lardner writing dynasty and cop himself for a couple of years in Washington, D.C. He was recruited to that job by corruption-fighting ex-New York cop David Durk, about whom Lardner wrote a fairly flattering piece in The New Yorker magazine not too long ago.

Bratton is apparently eager for Lardner to do the same for him and has allowed him some unprecedented access. Recently, Bratton included Lardner in a meeting with his executive staff in the Chief of Department's conference room, and even permitted Lardner to tape-record it. Most of the brass had no idea Lardner was a writer. At least one grumbled when he discovered it and realized his comments might end up in The New Yorker's pages.

Police spokesman John Miller downplayed the meeting's significance, saying, "We don't discuss nuclear secrets here. We could tape-record those meetings and sell them to induce sleep."

Lardner declined to discuss the matter. "I'd rather report than be written about," he said.

Where's my chief? That's what Chief of Patrol Louie Anemone was screaming at Yankee Stadium on Friday night, June 10, when 60,000 appeared for the first of two Pink Floyd rock concerts, and Anemone realized that Bronx Borough Patrol Chief Rafael Pineiro wasn't one of them. Pineiro had designated Inspector Walter Melnick as his top cop on the scene while Pineiro took the night off.

Melnick's rank wasn't high enough for Anemone, who was so pumped up he began directing traffic around the stadium himself. You bet Pineiro attended the Saturday night concert.

Desperate measures. An off-duty police officer climbed the steps of City Hall in the middle of the night Thursday, put her detective husband's .38-cal. revolver to her head and threatened to kill herself. Three days before she had been denied a disability pension on psychological grounds.

The officer's own gun already had been taken from her because of prior psychological problems and she had been placed on restricted duty at a desk job when she appeared before the psychiatric medical board last Monday.

Only one of the three doctors on what is known as the Monday Board is a psychiatrist, Julius Mandel of Great Neck, L.I. All three found her fit for duty. None could be reached for comment.

After a four-hour standoff Thursday night, the officer, Roberta McCartney, was disarmed by another cop, who wrestled the gun from her and seriously injured himself.

Chief of Personnel Michael Julian, who has already begun a review of department medical boards, was muttering in astonishment over the incident.

Baddest Bob. It wasn't bad enough that Sgt. Robert Santana, the cop / attorney of Brooklyn's 71st Precinct, was suspended without pay for allegedly providing protection and information to drug dealers. Last week Santana was arrested again, this time on allegations of "coercion and aggravated harassment." Don't let the legalese distract you. The alleged incident was serious - and disgusting. The complainant was his neighbor, who lived on the floor below him in Brooklyn. She claims Santana harassed her after she filed charges that a 13-year-old close relative of his had sexually molested her 9-year-old son.

©1994 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.