One Police Plaza

Too distracted to help Safir

April 22, 1996

Police Commissioner Howard Safir says he wants to reach out to minority communities. But he shouldn't expect much help from the NYPD's two largest minority fraternal organizations, the Guardians Association of Black Officers and the Hispanic Society.

The reason: Both are in civil war.

Let's begin with the Hispanic Society, whose support for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was crucial to his election and whose then President Walter Alicea and other top officers were given sinecures inside and outside the NYPD.

Without Alicea, the society was recently booted from the Grand Council of Hispanic Groups, which claims to represent 30,000 public service workers. The council recognized a rival group, the Latino Officers Association, whose turnouts at meetings have surpassed those of the Hispanic Society.

Alicea's hand-picked successor, Wanda Burgos, is also feuding with the Bronx power-monger Ramon Velez over the upcoming Puerto Rican Day Parade, of which Velez is president. Burgos wants her cops marching at the head of the parade and, says Grand Council President Luis Gonzalez, an NYPD lieutenant, if Velez objects, she's threatened to ask Commissioner Safir to forbid all Hispanic cops from marching.

Attempts to reach Det. Burgos over the past months have been unavailing. Supposedly, she works for an inspections unit in the Office of Community Affairs, which had been headed by Alicea, whom Giuliani had appointed deputy commissioner. Now that Giuliani has promoted him to a $120,000-a-year job in the city's Housing Authority, joining former Society Second Vice President Henry Coira, who earns a shade less, perhaps the mayor will permit Safir to investigate what exactly Burgos does to earn her $60,000 detective's pay.

Moving on to the Guardians and its civil war, First Vice President Terrence Wansley has recently wrestled the presidency away from newly elected Eric Sanders. According to a letter by the Guardians' Board, Sanders was suspended for 15 violations, which included demanding the group's financial records that he says he wants an outside accountant to audit. (His other alleged transgressions include preventing the board from participating in his installation ceremony at John Jay College, altering the newsletter's logo and talking to Newsday.)

Board Chairman Noel Leader says Wansley and Treasurer Jacqueline Parris were prohibited by the Guardians' constitution from releasing the financial records, lest someone doctor them. "Any member can see the records," explains Leader, "but no one can have them."

Leader and Wansley say that despite his election three months ago, Sanders has no membership support. "He's attended one meeting all year," says Wansley. "He speaks on his behalf alone." Wansley adds that previous audits have been conducted but he refuses to say when or by whom.

When Sanders didn't show at his disciplinary hearing last week, Wansley took over. Says Sanders: "Either I will resign and start some other group or I'll stay and remove all the board members, or I'll stay and they will remain and we will go to court."

Commissioner Rudy. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani swore himself in as police commissioner last Monday under the name Howard Safir. His counsel, Dennison Young, serving as master of ceremonies, acknowledged the mayor's ascension by skipping to the benediction after introducing Safir, apparently forgetting Safir might actually say something for himself.

Last Friday, Giuliani held his first news conference under Safir's new title. The subject: an arrest by the Bronx' 48th Precinct squad detectives in the rape of a Fordham Unversity student. The news conference, however, was held at City Hall. "I was surprised," said a top chief.

A year ago, 16 cops from the 48th Precinct were indicted on corruption charges. Some at the rape arrest news conference questioned whether it might have been more appropriate to hold the event at the precinct, as had been planned, in recognition, perhaps, of its recovery from last year's scandal.

At City Hall, the mayor, as usual, did the talking. At his side, Safir, a tall, severe man, spoke a couple of words, then shut his mouth for the duration.

Silent treatment. Staten Island District Attorney William Murphy and the borough's top cop, Chief Kevin Farrell, found themselves seated next to each other at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week. The two have feuded since last year's election, when Murphy accused Farrell of favoring his opponent, Guy Molinari. Though their rapport is essential for effective law enforcement, they barely spoke.

©1996 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.