One Police Plaza

Officer's Fate In Kelly's Hands

March 18, 2002

The police department's Firearms Review Board has recommended no disciplinary action against Mark Conway, a white Street Crime Unit cop found guilty in state court of accidentally shooting an unarmed black teenager in May 1999 in the Bronx.

Chief Michael Collins of the department's Public Information Office said Friday that the review board had found "no violation of department firearms guidelines" in Conway's shooting of Dantae Johnson, then 16.

The shooting occurred three months after Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant, was shot and killed by four white Street Crime cops.

The Diallo cops, acquitted by an Albany jury, also were cleared by the Firearms Review Board last year. Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who ran the department through former commissioner Bernard Kerik, cited the board's decision in reinstating the officers. Three are on modified assignment without their guns; the fourth joined the Fire Department.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said earlier this month that the three cops would remain without their guns, at least for the near future.

But what Kelly chooses do about Conway remains to be seen.

Kelly appears responsive to the concerns of non-white New Yorkers. Last week he publicly acknowledged for the first time - and then denounced - the department's original sin of racial profiling.

He also met with the Rev. Al Sharpton, who reportedly urged Kelly not to reinstate two cops - Thomas Bruder and Thomas Wiese - whose convictions in the Abner Louima torture case were overturned by a federal appeals court.

At his trial last year, Conway testified that his gun accidentally discharged after he reached out of the driver's side window of his unmarked patrol car and grabbed Johnson while steering the car and switching his gun from his left to his right hand.

Acting Bronx State Supreme Court Justice Troy Webber, who heard the non-jury case, convicted him of third- degree negligent assault, a misdemeanor that no cop has ever before been convicted of in New York State. Conway is appealing the decision.

Collins said that in recommending no discipline against Conway, the board ruled the shooting was accidental. The decision, in effect, prevents the department from firing Conway without a departmental trial.

The board also called for a review of Conway's status. He is on modified duty, with no gun, assigned to the taxi unit of the Special Operations Division. Although department charges have been filed, Collins said that no trial date is scheduled.


Busted. What were those worthies at the Police Foundation thinking when they paid $3,000 for 30 busts of Bernie Kerik to be given as gifts and mementos to friends of the former commissioner?

Yes, that's right. The Police Foundation paid $3,000 for 30 7-pound busts of Kerik in uniform with his mustache and nameplate.

Its good works notwithstanding, if the foundation has a weakness it's indulging the whims of this town's police commissioners. Remember the $1,000-a-day consulting fee it paid ex-commissioner Bill Bratton's crony John Linder to draft Bratton's so-called crime strategies? Or, at Kelly's urging, the $25,000 it paid Professor George Kelling to write a report on squeegee men after Kelly began rousting them in 1993?

As for Kerik's busts, most of them appear to be in storage at Police Foundation headquarters, although some are being passed around to great guffaws at One Police Plaza.


The $10 Million Man. The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association's counsel, Stephen Worth, is apparently so flush with his $10 million PBA retainer, he's defending an alleged rapist in Nassau County pro bono - or as they say in English, for free.

It's a mere coincidence that the suspect worked in the communications office of Nassau's newly elected Democratic County Executive Thomas Suozzi, says Suozzi's spokesman, Bruce Nyman. Nyman says Worth (who did not return a call seeking comment) took the case because he has known the suspect "for years."

Taking the case puts Worth squarely at odds with the PBA's sister union in Nassau, which already is battling with Suozzi over what the union president, Gary DelaRaba, has charged was Suozzi's improper use of a patrol car. There are those who say it was Suozzi who importuned Worth to take Smith's case.


'Cookie' Connection. Debra Phillips Kunkel is one of five people who filed a notice of claim against Kerik and the city after Manhattan homicide detectives rousted her at her home in search of the supposedly stolen cell phone of Judith Regan, the editor and publisher of Kerik's autobiography. Debra Phillips Kunkel is also the sister-in-law of "Cookie" Kunkel, aka Deputy Chief Joellen F. Kunkel, commander of Queens detectives. Cookie did not return a call from Newsday about her sister-in-law's visit from police or impending lawsuit.

©2002 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.