One Police Plaza

Which commish will run in 2001?

November 30, 1998

Former police commissioner Ray Kelly comes to town again this week, speaking to the Union League Club and to the business group A Better New York. Two weeks ago Kelly was here hosting the first Jim Fox memorial lecture, named after the late head of the FBI's New York office, and scheduled to be an annual event. Their appearance together on television after the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 projected a memorable image of calm and competence to frightened and bewildered New Yorkers.

OK, so why's Kelly spending so much time in New York when he works in Washington, heading the U.S. Customs Service after serving as Treasury undersecretary? Someone close to him says he's "not uninterested" in running for mayor in 2001. Kelly, who maintains his residence in Battery Park City and describes himself as an "independent," declined to comment.

Besides his blue chip law enforcement credentials, Kelly has credibility among black voters through having served as David Dinkins police commissioner. His aggressive, though ultimately fruitless, campaign to recruit black police candidates still resonates.

Even Al Sharpton, who ran for mayor last year, said that if elected he wanted "someone like Kelly" as his police commissioner.

With crime still an issue and with the same tiresome field of politicians (Rudolph Giuliani is precluded from running for a third term), 2001 may be the year of the police commissioner candidate. Kelly's police successor, Bill Bratton, is also "considering," friends say.

Bratton, who thought long about running in 1997, is believed to be bored silly in his Long Island Joe Blow security job. He didn't return a phone call.

Last (and least) is current Police Commissioner Howard Safir, whose factotum, Deputy Commissioner Richie Sheirer, was making mayoral inquiries for Safir at the Fire Department earlier this year. After this column called the notion of Safir as mayor "preposterous," Sheirer backed off. Some say Safir's still dreaming.

Sgt. Joe and Rising Star. If Commissioner Safir is serious about protecting whistle-blowers, as his recent department order indicates, he might begin by chatting with Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters George (Rising Star) Grasso.

Earlier this year, Sgt. Joseph Alvarez sued the department in federal court for retaliation because he'd objected to an alleged cover-up of a brutality case involving two detectives. Rising Star Grasso then charged Alvarez. He charged Alvarez departmentally with lying in his federal suit. If he's found guilty, Safir could fire him.

Last week, city lawyers agreed before federal judge Denny Chin to urge Grasso to halt disciplinary proceedings against Alvarez, pending his federal suit's outcome. Chin's courtroom was packed with supporters from the Latino Officers Association, the only organized resistance to such bully-boy tactics. The LOA has beaten Safir and Giuliani in federal court over the department's refusal to allow officers to speak publicly without Safir's permission. Its president, Tony Miranda, also won a separate $96,000 retaliation settlement.

Giuliani refuses to recognize the LOA, an offshoot of the Society of Hispanic Officers, whose president, Walter Alicea, engineered a coup to back Giuliani for mayor against Dinkins in 1993. The LOA now claims 15 times the Hispanic Society's membership and is suing again in federal court - for recognition.

Where Is Irene Silverman? That's the question Commissioner Safir asks Chief of Detectives Bill Allee at the beginning of every executive staff meeting, which consists of top chiefs and deputy commissioners.

Silverman is the missing East Side woman presumed dead, allegedly at the hands of Sante Kimes and son Kenneth, although no one has found her. Supposedly, Safir asks the question as a joke to jab at Allee. No one's laughing.

Undisclosed: The police department's crowd estimate for Macy's Thanksgiving parade following this column's suggestion that Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Marilyn Mode made up the "well over the 3.5 million" estimate for last month's Yankee parade.

Unseen: Commissioner Mode's wee dog Lil, after nipping the foot of a sergeant in her office.

Unknown: Whether Mode voluntarily kept Lil at home (unlikely). Whether she was ordered to by Commissioner Safir (more likely). Whether Safir was ordered to by the mayor (most likely).

©1998 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.