One Police Plaza

Unusual Tack In Raid Probe

July 7, 2003

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association attorney Stu London is taking an unusual tack in his defense of police Officer Bryan Conroy, who fatally shot an unarmed African immigrant in a Chelsea storage building two months ago.

London said he is cooperating fully with the Manhattan district attorney's office and will allow Conroy to be questioned by prosecutors and testify before an upcoming grand jury.

London can take such a risk because Conroy is the only witness to the shooting, which occurred during a police raid.

Conroy, who was not in uniform but, according to police, wore a badge around his neck, said he shot Ousmane Zongo, who restored artwork, because Zongo tried to take his gun. Zongo had no criminal record, and police officials have speculated that each mistook the other for a robber.

London said that although the district attorney's office has not yet provided him with its forensic evidence, he believes it will show the shooting occurred at close range, as Conroy has said.

"It will support Conroy's version," London said.

On Tuesday, London traversed the third-floor hallway crime scene with Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Armand Durastanti, a 23-year veteran of the office, who is to prosecute the case.

London said he's also taken the hallway walk with Conroy to familiarize him with the crime scene in preparation for his grand jury appearance and questioning by the district attorney's office. The questioning will be conducted by Durastanti and two detectives from the district attorney's office, London said.

No comment from the district attorney's office.

Paying for Safir. New Yorkers are still paying the bill for Howard Safir. And if Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has his way, they'll continue to.

Last week, City Comptroller William Thompson Jr. released his "Claims Report 2001-2002." Buried in parentheses amid the pie charts and bar graphs, was a line that said the city paid out $141.7 million in claims against the Police Department in fiscal 2001 - $63 million more than before or since.

The reason was a class action suit involving 7,000 citizens. Cost to the city: $50 million.

The case involved the strip-searching of 65,000 people for such minor first offenses as littering under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's "quality of life" crime crackdown.

The strip searches were conducted over a 10-month period between 1996 and 1997 when police turned the job at Queens and Manhattan Central booking over to correction guards.

Former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik - currently of Baghdad - was the Correction Department's first deputy. Safir was police commissioner.

In his book "Security," to be published later this month, and which could be subtitled "How I Alone Reduced Crime in New York," Safir has forgotten the strip-search fiasco.

He has also forgotten the contributions of his two predecessors, Bill Bratton and Ray Kelly, under whom the crime rate began falling. Safir makes no mention of them as well.

Nor does he mention Spitzer's "Stop and Frisk" report, which concluded that the department's Street Crime Unit under Safir engaged in racial profiling.

But Safir is not the only one with a short memory.

Spitzer seems to have forgotten the report as well.

Last week he announced he had hired Safir, now in the private sector, to supervise the New York State Racing Association.

Viva Giuliani. Here's the latest from Mexico City where Giuliani's $4.3-million contract to reform the Mexico City police department is concluding its second phase. Recommendations are to be delivered soon in a report by Maureen Casey, the former NYPD deputy commissioner now with Giuliani Partners. A third report on "implementation" is due this fall.

And what's the report expected to say?

"More supervision and more structure," said a person familiar with it. "There is a total lack of supervision, and there is corruption on both sides, cops and civilians."

Giuliani is soon expected to travel to Mexico City with his own security detail. Best news for New Yorkers: Giuliani, not the city, is paying for them.

The Right Man. Here is another indication that Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes may not be the right man to probe the errant Brooklyn Democratic Party. In 1997, the party endorsed Sal Albanese for mayor against Ruth Messinger.

Albanese ended up using a longtime legislative aide on his mayoral campaign. The aide was Sean Hynes, the district attorney's son. For the record, Albanese says he thinks Hynes is the right man.

©2003 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.