One Police Plaza

Investigating Squeegeegate

December 4, 1995

One of Police Commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's proudest and repeated boasts is that they solved the so-called "squeegee" problem.

Both point to their squeegee solution as proof they have successfully cracked down on what are known as quality-of-life crimes.

Alas, it turns out this looks like nothing but an upscale "testi-lie," that troublesome new word in the NYPD lexicon that refers to the department's persistant problem with perjurious cops.

Our story begins in the fall of 1993 when Bratton's predecessor Raymond Kelly was police commissioner and squeegee men, those once-ubiquitous car washers, were an ongoing joke on the David Letterman show.

That October, after a squeegee man spit on a car in which Kelly and his wife were riding, Kelly decided it was time to rid the city of them.

First, the department located the squeegee trouble spots. "We identified 70 squeegee people Manhattan-wide and seven locations, all entrances to the city," said Michael Julian, then the coordinator of community policing, whom Kelly brought in to run the program: the Holland, Lincoln and Midtown Tunnels, the George Washington Bridge, Houston and 2nd Ave., 56th and 12th Avenue and 96th and the FDR Drive.

"The worst area was 12th Ave on 56th, on the West Side highway," Julian said. "The most docile people were on Houston and 2nd Ave."

Then, says Julian, "We surveyed the dates and numbers of people to learn something about them. Half had prior drug arrests. Half had prior arrests for other larcenies. Almost all had criminal records."

The department next began chasing and warning the squeegeemen. "When that didn't work, we tried serving them with summonses," said Julian. "But none of them responded. So, we began arresting them. That was the only thing that worked. They all disappeared."

Within six weeks, the squeegee men were gone. The program had started in October. The problem was cleared up by November.

"And we continued to monitor every four hours," Julian said. "Our program became a model for all future quality-of-life programs."

Kelly, meanwhile, felt he had to address civil libertarians' concerns that the department was acting illegally against a largely non-white population, and he sought an academic imprimatur.

Enter Bratton's Boston buddy, George "Six-Figure" Kelling, the Northeastern University professor subsidized by the Metropolitan Transporation Authority with a half-million dollars in police-consulting contracts. With another $25,000 consultancy from the Police Foundation, Kelling was fed Julian's information. He regurgitated it back as a 29-page report entitled "Managing Squeegeeing."

But there was a glitch. Kelling didn't produce his report until Giuliani was elected mayor and Bratton was designated police commissioner.

Since then, Bratton and the mayor have ignored it, boasting instead that they solved the squeegee problem. Kelling's contrary protests were viewed as sour grapes.

Kelling himself has done nothing to clarify the matter. Rather, in a recent article for the Manhattan Institute, he compared Bratton not to Pinnochio but to the Greek philospher Plato.

But here's what his report says. Judge for yourself who's telling the truth.

"Although Police Commissioner-designate William Brattton recieved considerable publicty as a result of his promise to eradicate [squeegee-men]," Kelling wrote in 1993, "it was former Commissioner Raymond Kelly, after all, who initiated this problem-solving exercise to determine how best to solve . . . the problem."

Hatfields and Rodriquezes. There are the Montagues and the Capulets and the Hatfields and McCoys. In the NYPD, there are the Pinieros, Burgoses, Aliceas and Rodriquezes vs. the Collazos, Mirandas, Torreses, and Martinezes.

Those eight people belong to the Hispanic Society of police officers who have been going at it with each other for years. Most recently, an argument erupted at the group's general-membership meeting last week leading to a 911 call and a full-scale police investigation.

According to a Nov. 27th report by Captain James A. Clark, duty captain of Patrol Borough Manhattan North, the trouble began after Rafael Collazo and Anthony Miranda pushed their way past Peter Pinierio and Wanda Burgos, who were checking credentials. Police responded, broke it up, recorded no injuries or property damge and brought witnesses to the 23rd precinct for questioning.

Clark's report noted that a similar incident occurred on Oct. 30 during the Society's previous general meeting and recommended that "no further general-membership meetings be scheduled until this internal fraternal organization matter is resolved."

Next expected flashpoint: the Society's annual Christmas dance, on Dec. 14 at Club Broadway II in Queens at which the Collazos, Mirandas, Torreses, and Martinezes have said they will protest.

©1995 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.