One Police Plaza

Safir for mayor? Some pitch idea

April 27, 1998

Police Commissioner Howard Safir for mayor?

Preposterous as that sounds, more than one person says a top Safir aide is touting that suggestion about town.

And none other than The Big Man, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, seems to think it is a swell idea.

"The mayor believes Howard Safir is one of the best police commissioners in the history of the city," said a mayoral spokeswoman, "and as far as his future is concerned the sky is the limit."

The Safir aide, Richie Sheirer - whom Safir discovered as a lowly fire dispatcher and elevated to a deputy police commissioner - has spoken to at least one former municipal union head about the possibility.

And at least one top official in the Giuliani administration is said to be aware of Sheirer's maunderings.

"Richie spoke to me last month," says the ex-union official, who knows Sheirer from the Fire Department and who asked that his own name not appear in print. "Richie said, Howard would like to be mayor.' I don't know what they are drinking over there at police headquarters these days but that's what he said."

The ex-union official said Sheirer also spoke to others from the Fire Department about the idea. "Do you have to put Richie's name in the paper?" he said. "I don't want to get him in trouble."

Whether Sheirer is heading a rogue political operation out of the 14th floor of One Police Plaza secretly sanctioned by Safir, or more importantly, by The Big Man himself, remains unclear.

Sheirer denied Friday ever having spoken to the ex-union official about a Safir candidacy. "I haven't spoken to him in months," said Sheirer. "He's a liar. I'm going to call him up and tell him that."

Asked what reason the ex-official might have to lie, Sheirer said, "I don't know."

Safir, who is registered in New York as an Independent, scoffed at suggestions of a mayoral candidacy last month, saying he was "very happy being police commissioner." An aide acknowledged that the subject "is occasionally broached by citizens at town hall meetings."

Safir's spokeswoman Marilyn Mode said she knew nothing of Sheirer's moves. "It's not true. You are being misled," she said.

Safir is, of course, not the first police commissioner to consider (or to have his aides consider for him) the mayoralty.

His predecessor Bill Bratton toyed with the idea, buoyed by a Quinnipiac College poll that showed him with a higher popularity rating than Giuliani, which reportedly sent the mayor into one of his customary paroxysms.

The Quinnipiac polls show Safir is also regarded favorably as police commissioner. The most recent, taken Feb. 11, showed 36 percent of people regarded him favorably but 30 percent did not know who he was.

Bratton was regarded favorably by about 50 percent of people polled. Only 17 percent or 18 percent of people did not know who he was.

But while Bratton considered running against Giuliani, Safir's likely opponents would be such lesser lights as City Comptroller Alan Hevesi or Bronx Borough President Freddie Ferrer.

Hevesi's political consultant Hank Morris called it "outrageous that anyone would try to politicize the police department by running for office while commissioner." Hevesi, though, said Safir "will get serious consideration because he is a very talented man."

Ferrer also questioned the water supply at One Police Plaza, adding that he might even support Safir for mayor. "But only if Giuliani takes the job he is destined for - police commissioner."

Lies of the Week. Here are the versions of three government spokeswomen, each attempting to conceal the reasons Mayor Giuliani banned media coverage of Vice President Al Gore's visit to a COMPSTAT crime conference at Police Plaza.

Police spokeswoman Mode: "There was a lack of space. The decision was mutally agreed upon by our office and the vice president's."

Pat Ewing, Gore's deputy chief of staff: "The media was barred because of sensitive issues that were discussed."

Mayoral spokeswoman Cristyne Lategano: "The purpose of the meeting was for the vice president to attend a very serious law enforcement event, not a partisan political photo op."

That Dog (Con't). The wee dog Lil returned to work with Deputy Commissioner Mode last week, apparently recovered from a bout of dietary indiscretion that followed her stealing the pasta lunch of a cop in Mode's office. Mode says she wants to pay for the lunch but laments the cops in her office won't tell her whose was stolen. The cops say they just want the matter to go away, to say nothing of wee Lil.

©1998 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.