One Police Plaza

A vacuum on corruption

February 12, 1996

With veteran corruption prosecutor Nicholas Scopetta taking over the Child Welfare Administration, who will succeed him as head of the mayoral commission to monitor police corruption?

The answer, at least for now, say City Hill sources, appears to be no one.

An independent monitor with investigative and subpoena powers was the key recommendation of the Mollen Commission on Police Corruption, which exposed pervasive corruption in Manhattan's 30th Precinct. As a federal prosecutor, Rudolph Giuliani agreed that an independent monitor was the most effective way of deterring corruption. Then he became mayor.

When City Council President Peter Vallone backed the Mollen Commission's plan for an independent monitor who would report to the City Council, Giuliani vetoed it. What emerged instead was a five-man commission, appointed by and responsible to the mayor, whose members merely review calls about police corruption. They also attend corruption briefings held by police officials and assistant district attorneys.

Scopetta said he'll remain as head of the commission until it issues its first report. "It's still in draft, some weeks away," he said.

When appointed, Scopetta tried to effect a compromise between the mayor and Vallone over the commission's make-up and scope, but people around City Hall say the mayor wasn't budging. Now the only chance for tougher supervision resides in the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, which will decide whether the City Council has jurisdiction.

New era? Describing himself as the youngest president in its history, 31-year-old Eric Sanders was sworn in at John Jay College last week as president of the Guardians, the Association of Black Police Officers.

With 200 people attending, including Police Commissioner William Bratton, Sanders gave a brief history of the Guardians, an organization that began, he said, with the merger in 1949 of two separate groups of black officers, "The Centurions" of Manhattan and the Bronx and "The Wandering Boys" of Brooklyn and Queens.

Since then, the organization has been a political force both inside and outside the department. Recently, however, its membership and influence have dwindled as the number of Hispanic officers (with their own fraternal organization) has surpassed that of blacks. In electing Sanders last year, barely 400 of the 4,000 black officers in the NYPD voted.

Stu and Lou. Less publicized than the Guardians' ceremony was the swearing-in last month at Brooklyn's El Carib Country Club of Stuart Gang as president of the Shomrim Society, the organization of Jewish police officers. Chief of Department Louis Anemone kept his remarks short and sweet. His sole word to Gang: "Congratulations."

Colin and Bill. This column erred when it suggested last week that Commissioner Bratton's junket to Palm Springs, Calif., for a Business Week magazine seminar was to hustle a future corporate job. Turns out that "the most significant law enforcement leader of our time and perhaps the 20th Century," as his attorney, Ed Hayes, modestly described him, spent his most valuable moments schmoozing with Colin Powell, the seminar's keynote speaker, discussing the general's best-selling autobiography, "My American Journey.

Bratton returned from Palm Springs with his own version of American Journey (and a six-figure advance from Random House). "It's about a kid from Boston who goes through policing at a time of change and evaluation in the profession," Bratton explained after news of his Random House windfall leaked out.

The mayor's grumblings notwithstanding - his initial reaction was to berate Bratton for not obtaining clearance from the Conflict of Interest Board - Bratton promises he'll work on his book (he's already searching for a ghostwriter) only in his spare time. "Weekends at the beach, in the Hamptons or Cape Cod," said the most significant law enforcement leader of our time.

The complainer. In his 25 years as a civilian employee of the Police Department, Joseph Garber developed a reputation for writing letters complaining about people. One of Garber's more notable letters to the department complained that former Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward did not wear his ID card.

Last week, Garber, 47, an associate staff analyst in the recruitment section, was arrested and charged with harassing Andrea Cohn of the Housing Authority after he allegedly wrote her threatening letters about her management of his Williamsburg housing project.

Garber was taken to the 90th Precinct station, then kept overnight at Central Booking, where he says he observed violations of department rules. Suspended for 30 days, he says he's writing a letter of complaint.

©1996 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.