One Police Plaza

The man with the plans

February 1, 1999

Poor Police Commissioner Howard Safir. Not for nothing did his predecessor, Bill Bratton, call him the Rodney Dangerfield of law enforcement.

First, there was his brainstorm in September, 1996, to use the U.S. Border Patrol to hunt Washington Heights illegal-immigrant druglords. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani backed him but the next day backed off after a community backlash.

Two months later came Safir's Dominican Republic sortie. This called for stationing city cops in the Dominican capital to nab NYC-fleeing fugitives. Again, the mayor backed the plan (even envisaging traveling there to close the deal). Three weeks later, it all went bust after Dominican politicians, including its president and Roman Catholic cardinal, responded to what The New York Times called "an outcry" in their own country.

Now we have Safir's Zero-Tolerance Drinking and Driving Initiative. In this one, police would seize the cars of arrested drunken drivers, as they do those of drug dealers.

Safir announced the plan with elan on WNBC-TV on Jan. 21. His spokeswoman, Marilyn Mode, assured the rest of the world it had the mayor's blessing.

But the next day - after Safir made the front pages of The Daily News, New York Post and Newsday - City Hall began grousing.

Initial signs of trouble were noticed the morning of Jan. 22 at a promotion ceremony at One Police Plaza when, with national and international reporters in the house, Safir canceled his news conference, claiming a "scheduling conflict." For the next half-hour, he was seen posing for pictures with the promoted cops and their families.

Next, a City Hall whispering campaign began. Mayoral spokeswoman Colleen Roche described the plan as "a concept that . . . has not yet been approved."

That afternoon, the mayor called Safir in for a chat that lasted two hours. When Safir emerged, he told reporters, "There is no disagreement. We just want to make sure we do it carefully."

An editorial in last Monday's Post indicated that vehicle seizure may be going the way of the border patrol and Dominican Republic initiatives. As a City Hall insider put it, the Post's editorials "reflect the views of City Hall more closely than any other publication."

The editorial's headline: "Wrong Approach to Drunken Driving."

The Fixer. Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rae Koshetz decision Friday absolving two cops in the 1994 alleged rape and sodomy of a Hasidic woman made passing mention of Rabbi Edgar Gluck, one of a sprinkling of Hasidic rabbis believed by cops to wield inordinate and insidious influence within Brooklyn's 66th Precinct.

Gluck is perhaps best known for his relationship with former Chief of Department Robert Johnston and the perception that he facilitated Johnston's rise in the 1980s under Mayor Edward I. Koch. He also led the Hasidic mob that took over the 66th Precinct over a perceived religious slight in the early days of the Koch administration, leading to the precinct's nom de guerre, "Fort Surrender." (The mob dispersed after former First Deputy Commissioner William Devine literally threw Gluck out the door.)

Although Gluck's influence has mercifully waned, he is still meddlesome. It was Gluck who in May, 1995, brought the Hasidic woman's rape and sodomy tale to 66th Precinct commander Sal Carcaterra. Or at least that's what Gluck told The Daily News he did. Despite the seriousness of the allegation, Carcaterra never informed the Internal Affairs Bureau. Instead, his integrity control officer, Lt. Jerry DiBlasio, transferred the two cops for what First Deputy Commissioner Patrick Kelleher described last week as "unrelated reasons." (Give us break, Pat.)

When IAB learned of the incident in 1997, DiBlasio had safely retired. Carcaterra had been transferred and promoted. And Gluck, who did not return a phone call, had changed his story, telling people he'd never informed Carcaterra of the incident.

A Medical Turn. The NYPD's "double dis" mystery involving Chief of Detectives William Allee and former Chief of Manhattan Detectives Kevin Farrell took a medical twist last week with the unexpected removal of Allee's gallbladder.

A top police official declined to say whether Allee's surgery Wednesday at Staten Island University Hospital resulted from Safir's transfer of Chief Farrell into Allee's office, replacing a mere inspector. Because Safir has difficulty communicating in the English language and has offered no explanation for Farrell's move, his transfer has been perceived at Police Plaza as a disservice (and slight) to both him and Allee.

Allee can return to work next week, the docs say. Meanwhile, Farrell is acting chief of detectives. And his successor at Manhattan detectives, Bill Taylor, received some pretty good ink yesterday for the capture of the 6-foot-10 rapist.

©1999 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.