One Police Plaza

Lategano puts mark on NYPD

August 6, 1997

Whatever Mayor Rudolph Giuliani did or did not do with his communications director, Cristyne Lategano, there is no question Lategano did plenty of damage to the image of the NYPD.

Her finest, if not most vituperative, moment occurred on Feb. 22, 1995, when she excoriated former commissioner William Bratton in language so harsh ex-mayor Edward I. Koch questioned how the greatest law enforcement official of the decade if not the century - as Bratton's agent described him - could remain as commissioner.

Here is what Lategano, then 30 years old, said to Newsday that day about Bratton and his spokesman John Miller:

"Public relations was put before any kind of substance. When you put glamor over fighting crime, it leads to serious problems. This is a reality check . . . If police officers would rather be on TV or on the covers of magazines instead of fighting crime then their priorities need to be straigtened out . . . We're here to fight crime, not to be Hollywood stars."

Then, referring to the ABC television cop show, Lategano said, "This is real life cops, not NYPD Blue.' "

Lategano's outburst was apparently precipitated by a New Yorker magazine article that credited Bratton, not Giuliani, with the city's crime decline. Her pronouncements led to Miller's resignation and brought to public awareness Giuliani's envy of Bratton, whom the mayor subsequently forced to resign after Bratton's mug appeared on the cover of Time magazine.

Bratton never did appear on "NYPD Blue." But his successor Howard Safir did, flying out to Hollywood to play himself.

Although City Hall selected Miller's successor, Tom Kelly, he too tangled with Lategano - most notably in a shouting match after the crash of two subway trains on the Brooklyn Bridge, where Lategano blamed him for holding a news conference without the mayor.

Lategano also forced Kelly to hire a couple of stiffs from her City Hall press office, though neither lasted at One Police Plaza. One left after just two days, having been chewed out by Bratton's chief-of-staff Peter LaPorte for clowning during a memorial ceremony for slain cops.

With Safir selecting his own spokeswoman, Marilyn Mode, and straining to be treated by the media as something other than a "lightweight," as former First Deputy John Timoney refered to him, Lategano's influence has become more subtle. After Safir and Mode had the grand idea to bar a Daily News reporter from Safir's only in-house news conference of his tenure as police commissioner, Lategano dispatched another city hall aide, Lenny Alcivar, to assist Mode.

Since Alcivar had failed to complete college and suffered short-term memory loss when Newsday asked him about his former city residency, Mode described him as having been selected "because of his extensive experience in police matters." Alcivar is 25 years old.

Alcivar is as concerned about the mayor as Lategano is and (when his guard is lowered), as hostile to reporters. When this reporter appeared on television Monday, commenting on Giuliani's relationship with Lategano, as described in Vanity Fair magazine, he began shouting, "You've sunk to a new low. Even for you."

©1997 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.