One Police Plaza

Reuther hangs in – for now

July 1, 1996

Police Commissioner Howard Safir last week appeared to have yanked Charles Reuther from the jaws of Chief of Department Louis Anemone.

Reuther's two years as chief of detectives has produced the highest arrest and the highest clearance rate of solved homicides in 40 years. But for the past year he's been stalked by the hungry Anemone.

The department's dark prince last month appeared to have his teeth so deeply implanted in Reuther's 61-year-old neck that Police Commissioner Howard Safir was rumored to have ordered up a full new three-star superchief menu at Police Plaza. Internal Affairs Chief Patrick Kelleher was to have replaced Reuther; Chief of Personnel Mike Markman was to have replaced Kelleher; and Queens North commander Gertrude LaForgia was to have become the NYPD's first three-star female chief, replacing Markman.

Anemone's attack on Reuther seems a continuation of the attack on the detective bureau that began under ex-commissioner Bill Bratton. When Bratton's Deputy Commissioner for Operations Jack Maple initiated the so-called "Cold Case Squad," its stated purpose was to revive dormant unsolved homicide cases. Its actual purpose, many believed, was to embarrass the detective bureau.

Last month Safir gave the squad's head, Ed Norris, Maple's old title. (Safir is more imitative of Bratton than his boss, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, may care to admit.) But in an apparent sop to the detective bureau, Safir returned the Cold Case Squad to its auspices.

Still, nobody is betting on Reuther's future. Department sources say he was spared temporarily because of the bureau's recent cracking of two high-profile cases.

Perhaps sensing the department's new currents, 35-year veteran Ray Abruzzi, chief of Brooklyn detectives, announced his retirement last week. The respected Abruzzi had been promised a transfer by the Bratton team to head Manhattan detectives, the bureau's most prestigious job after chief of detectives. Instead, the job went to the equally respected Kevin Farrell, who, although lacking detective experience, had a hook at City Hall that Abruzzi didn't: current Giuliani ally, Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari.

And Safir is more pliant than Bratton regarding City Hall's political wishes.

Ron, not Richie. FBI agents executed a search warrant on the PBA's Long Island-based law firm, Lysaght, Lysaght and Kramer, last week. But quicker than one could say the name Richie Hartman - the PBA's former counsel until he was caught stealing clients' escrow funds to pay his gambling debts - PBA spokesman Joe Mancini maintained, "I don't know what this is about, but I do know it has nothing to do with the PBA."

Turns out, the subject of the raid was Ron Reale, the former Transit Police union president, who went out of business when the Transit Police merged with the NYPD and whose union negotiations were handled by Lysaght and Lysaght. Reale is under investigation for financial improprieties as both outgoing union head and unsuccessful public advocate candidate.

Getting Real. Eleanor Bumpers may well have been needlessly shot to death by a New York City police officer, but Amnesty International's rendition of her death in a report citing 90 cases of NYPD "alleged ill-treatment or excessive force" suggests the London-based body might better serve mankind by confining its investigations to the Russian Gulag.

Its report described Bumpers as an "elderly, mentally disturbed woman shot dead in October, 1984, by armed police who broke into her Bronx apartment to evict her after she had fallen behind with her rent." Omitted was the fact that she attacked the cops with a nine-inch-long carving knife.

Respect? The day Amnesty International issued its report, Commissioner Safir did exactly what his predecessor did when the Civilian Complaint Review Board announced a year or so ago that cops were increasingly bashing New Yorkers about: He formed a "Respect" committee.

Bratton's best-known Respect committee member was Robert Johnson, the head of an armed guard service that now employs Bratton. Safir's is Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the love doctor, who, when asked what advice she had for cops said, "I want you to be safe, but I'd rather you wear a vest than a condom."

At a news conference at Police Plaza last week, Safir maintained there was no connection between Amnesty International's report and his his Respect committee's announcement. Such nonsense was actually reported in two full columns in The New York Times. (No wonder Safir says he doesn't believe anything he reads in newspapers).

©1996 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.