One Police Plaza

Often bounced, he bounces

November 29, 1999

Chief Mike Scagnelli, lying low these days in a back room deep inside the chief of detectives' office, has almost as many lives as a cat. We bring you four of them.

Life No. 1, early 1990s. While heading the Honor Legion, an organization of decorated officers, Scagnelli uses the organization's stationery to write a New Jersey sentencing judge, seeking leniency for a convicted criminal. Scagnelli signs his name and adds his NYPD title of deputy inspector-a no-no without the police commissioner's permission.

After an investigation is begun, divine intervention occurs in the form of phone calls from some Hasidic rabbis in the 66th Precinct in Brooklyn, which Scagnelli had commanded. No formal charges are filed. He receives a slap on the wrist.

Life No. 2, 1994. Enter Bill Bratton as police commissioner. Bratton promotes Scagnelli to assistant chief, heading the city's Traffic Control Division. In 1996, Bratton's successor, Howard Safir, bounces Scagnelli, saying he negotiated a pact to share a traffic-control center in Long Island City with the city's Department of Transportation without Safir's knowledge.

Life No. 3, January, 1998. Assigned to the No. 2 spot in the Transit Bureau, Scagnelli is transferred after Safir announces that high-ranking transit officials knowingly underreported subway crime for decades. Scagnelli is not one of them, but that doesn't stop Safir.

Life No. 4, the present. Now executive officer of Patrol Borough Manhattan South, Scagnelli is escorting the widows and children of slain officers during the recent Yankee parade when a cop from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's security detail stops him at a "frozen zone." Scagnelli says something resembling, "You work for the Police Department, not the ... mayor." The detail's head, Lt. Don Henne, is summoned. Mayoral counsel Denny (The Enforcer) Young is informed. Scagnelli, accused of insulting the mayor, is also described in The New York Times by an unnamed city official as having committed the sin of "hob-nobbing" with celebrities.

Safir bounces Scagnelli again, this time to the Chief of Department's office at One Police Plaza. Empathetic Chief of Detectives Bill Allee provides him with a back office, perhaps because last year Allee was himself on the ropes.

Angered that the Irene Silverman murder had not been solved, Safir assigned Chief of Manhattan Detectives Kevin Farrell to Allee's office. No one was certain if Safir meant to dis Allee or Farrell, but Farrell didn't wait to find out. He contacted the department's Fixer Without Portfolio, Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari. Farrell is now commissioner of sanitation.

As for Scagnelli, City Council Speaker Peter Vallone has recently interceded for him with Giuliani. So has Molinari. Scagnelli may get a fifth life if he can wait out Giuliani.

Our Honored Marine. Faced with yet another frisson of embarrassment last week - this one over Your Humble Servant's disclosure that Howard Safir's marine corps service was less than meets the eye - the commissioner turned to Steve Dunleavy of the Post and to the enduring, if not endearing, Sgt. John Clifford.

From Steve's column of Nov. 21: "Last week, Safir was honored in Washington by U.S. Marines celebrating the 224th anniversary of the corps." Dunleavy then quoted Safir: "'When I was invited to be honored, my friend and aide John Clifford made it quite clear to the Corps in telling them I did not finish my officer training, did not see combat in Vietnam and finished my six-year stint in the reserves,'" (What Safir omitted was that he failed out of Officers' Candidate School during a six-week course in Quantico, Va., and spent the rest of his hitch in a reserve unit in Garden City, L.I. He not only did not see combat in Vietnam-he never saw Parris Island.) Asked which Marine Corps group had honored Safir, his spokeswoman Marilyn Mode said, "Combat Development." She refused to elaborate. "I have nothing for you - ever," she said.

Our Schnorring Commissioner. Dates of Safir's and wife Carol's $7,000 freebie Oscar trip paid for by the Revlon Corp.: March 19-21.

Last Conflicts of Interest Board meeting at which matter remained unresolved: Nov. 19.

Number of days matter has gone unresolved: 249.

Possible solution: Disband the Conflicts of Interest Board.

Reason this issue is important to New Yorkers: Safir justifies the freebie, saying Revlon does no business with the city and the executive who paid for the trip was a "personal friend," although he and Safir met only last year. How does this differ from uniformed cops accepting free cups of coffee or cases of liquor at Christmas from "friendly" merchants in their precincts who also do no business with the city? In the past, cops were fired for this. It used to be called "graft."

©1999 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.