One Police Plaza

Another shot at lip service

August 20, 1997

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani unveiled an amorphous new commission yesterday following last week's outrage in a Brooklyn police precinct in which a cop allegedly shoved a stick up a Haitian immigrant's rectum.

Giuliani's announcement - to say nothing of the incident itself, which allegedly occurred in the bathroom of the 70th precinct while another cop allegedly held the victim down - appeared to tacitly acknowledge that the year-old brainchild of Police Commissioner Howard Safir known as "Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect" is a failure.

The best the mayor could offer of Safir's much ballyhooed "CPR" committee - which Safir announced the day Amnesty International issued a report critical of the NYPD for its systemic brutality to minorities - was the description of CPR as a "sincere effort."

In fact, Giuliani's new "Police / community relations task force," as his media office billed it, has elements resembling Mayor David N. Dinkins' "Community Policing," a policy based on community input but ridiculed by top NYPD officials under Giuliani as turning cops into social workers.

Exactly how the commission will be organized or what it will accomplish is unclear. "Over the next six months," read a City Hall news release announcing the new body, "members of this Task Force will participate in discussion forums that will have every single police officer in New York City talking with community residents in their precincts about how they are mutually perceived and how they should relate to each other . . .

"At the conclusion of this dialogue, police officers in this City should know that when an officer acts improperly, criminally or disrespectfully, that officer is not entitled to his colleagues' support in any way."

The mayor's promises, however, are belied by his past actions - or rather, non actions - in the case of Police Officer Francis X. Livoti, dismissed from the department earlier this year for using a department-banned chokehold that led to the death of 28-year-old Anthony Baez on Dec. 22, 1994.

Although a Bronx judge referred to "a nest of perjury" involving officers who testified for Livoti, neither Giuliani nor Safir has pursued charges against those officers. Specifically, six officers, including a sergeant, testified they witnessed the confrontation between Baez and Livoti but didn't see Livoti use the fatal chokehold, which according to the city's medical examiner lasted more than a minute. Safir said earlier this year he had no recollection of any perjury and had no intention of pursuing an investigation.

The new commission has 28 members, ranging from the feisty Norman Siegel of the New York Civil Liberties Union to the normally garrulous Tom Reppetto of the Citizen's Crime Commission, who disappeared from yesterday's City Hall news conference without speaking to reporters. Also in the group are such Giuliani allies as Staten Island president Guy Molinari and three writers for favorite media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

One is Eric Breindel, the former editor of the New York Post's editorial page, who, in an editorial, blamed Baez' death on his resisting arrest. "If Baez had refrained from resisting arrest, there wouldn't have been a physical confrontation," he wrote.

©1997 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.