One Police Plaza

Howard Safir: Still No Respect

February 1, 2016

Somewhere around 1999, Bill Bratton described his NYPD successor, Howard Safir, as “The Rodney Dangerfield of law enforcement.”

Today, two decades later, Safir still isn’t getting much respect.

Jane Mayer, a writer for the New Yorker, Jane Mayer has fingered his security company, Vigilant Resources International, of which Safir is chairman, as the source of false plagiarism allegations against her. Apparently, the allegations were in retaliation for a 2010 story Mayer wrote that revealed the role of the billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles, in the Tea Party movement.

Mayer makes her charge against Safir in her just-published book on the Koch brothers, “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.”

In a telephone interview with NYPD Confidential, Mayer did not make clear how she learned of Vigilant’s role in the allegations, or what specific actions Vigilant took against her.

Post media columnist Keith Kelly, who wrote two articles about the smear in Jan., 2011, said last week he had been provided with an anonymous email, stating that Mayer had allegedly plagiarized the work of four journalists. “It was bull,” he said last week. “The journalists who supposedly accused her all denied it. It seemed very clear that it was an orchestrated campaign to try to smear a good journalist's reputation.”

Howard Safir’s son, Adam, who is Vigilant’s president, did not deny the firm’s involvement to reporters. “As far as what we do, we don’t talk about clients, whether we have them or don’t have them,” he told the NY Times’s Jim Dwyer.

Neither Safir returned this reporter’s phone calls.

Smearing Mayer is reflective of Safir’s contempt towards reporters and the media in general when he served police commissioner from 1996-2000. Testy and taciturn, the six-foot-three-inch, asparagus-thin former federal marshal had a perennial scowl as though he’d just bitten into a lemon.

“Get on the train or get under it,” became his mantra after former mayor Rudy Giuliani appointed him.

As commissioner, he had two priorities: first, denigrating Bratton, whom Giuliani had forced out. Second, keeping crime down. Safir succeeded at both, but at a price. His crime-fighting culminated with the fatal police shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant, in the Bronx — probably the single worst shooting in the NYPD’s history.

As for Bratton, Safir called him “some airport cop from Boston,” while noting that, as a federal marshal, he himself had tracked down the Asian drug lord, the Khun Sa. Bratton retorted that so far as he knew the Khun Sa had not been captured, and then compared Safir to Rodney Dangerfield.

So now media mogul Rupert Murdoch is encouraging Michael Bloomberg to run for President. Former Mayor Mike had best be cautious. He’s a serious, decent guy but he’s no counter-puncher. Neither his billions nor Mr. Murdoch’s support will stop Donald Trump and the NRA from gang-tackling him. Furthermore, the rightward-leaning Mr. Murdoch is famous for juicing up politicians, their politics notwithstanding. Ask Ed Koch. Back in the 80s when he was riding high, Mr. Murdoch and his NY Post pushed him into running for governor against Mario Cuomo. Cuomo creamed him. 

Then there’s Tony Blair, Britain’s Labor Party Prime Minister from 1997-2007. Murdoch’s support was crucial to his election. But it ended badly between them. Blair, it turned out, had been “shagging” Mr. Murdoch’s third wife, Wendy Deng. [Shagging is British slang for sexual intercourse.]

, there is Mayor Bill de Blasio, off to Iowa to campaign for Hillary Clinton. Poor de Blasio. He still hasn’t learned to tie his shoelaces. Early on, when he fancied himself the nation’s “progressive” avatar, he passed up endorsing Hillary, saying he wanted to hear more about her so-called programs. [As if he didn’t know enough about them.] When months later he did endorse her, her staff was so piqued at him, she all but ignored it. 

In Iowa he’ll be campaigning against his ideological soul mate, Bernie Sanders. How he squares that with his progressive credentials will be interesting to see.  And he’s not campaigning with Hillary, which may tell you something about their relationship..

Copyright © 2016 Leonard Levitt