New York

Howard Safir Must Resign



With another black guy deposited in the gutter, courtesy of New York’s spiraling blue-on-black crime rate, Police Commissioner Howard Safir turned his attention last week to New York’s more pressing public safety issue. After he and fellow necrophiliac Rudolph Giuliani defiled Patrick Dorismond’s corpse by waving around the dead man’s rap sheet, Safir set out to protect Brooklyn’s church statues. A special NYPD task force and the department’s entire bias unit have been detailed to apprehend whoever has been smashing the limbs off these poor, defenseless icons.

Perhaps Safir feels a certain kinship to these cold, white objects. Or maybe he just wants to pander to his boss’s Catholic constituency. Whatever Safir’s motivation, these statues have done what Diallo and the others couldn’t do: Four years into his stay as commissioner, Safir has finally stumbled upon an unarmed victim he cares about.

And that’s why Safir must go. When the situation calls for compassion, he spews contempt. As a leading voice in Giuliani’s amen chorus, Safir has shown he has no sense of decency. He offers no apologies for his department’s most troubling equation: black man=likely suspect. Because, in his heart, Howard Safir knows you are guilty.

When he moved into 1 Police Plaza in early 1996, Safir promised to “instill respect at all levels of the department.” You remember, it was part of the new guy’s campaign to combat the NYPD’s reputation for verbally abusing and disrespecting the public. Safir’s program, of course, was a fraud, a classic New York bait and switch. If his troops have been imbued with a newfound decorum, they sure have a funny way of showing it. Because instead of polite patrolmen, Safir leads a department packed with trigger-happy pistoleros, guys who’ll shoot at the drop of a wallet (or a candy bar or a set of menacing keys). Oh, for the days when a barrage of sharp words, not bullets, was the ammo to be avoided.

Compared to his predecessor William Bratton or former NYPD chief John Timoney, Safir has repeatedly gone out of his way to antagonize the city’s minority communities. In fact, he seems to actually enjoy doing it—not unlike Giuliani, who also gets his jollies from a spot of racial unrest. In tone and action, Safir refuses to acknowledge that many New Yorkers are outraged by the NYPD’s profiling of black men. Dorismond was approached by that undercover cop looking for pot because of his skin color, a tactic Safir clearly supports. Unless they are teaching ESP at the Police Academy, that cop had no way of knowing that the security guard had a minor rap sheet.

Safir’s failings have not been limited to the NYPD’s killing of unarmed men. He has claimed undue credit for a crime drop that began in the Dinkins administration and an enforcement architecture created by Bratton, Timoney, and Jack Maple, a former Bratton aide.

Safir, in fact, has plagiarized that trio’s blueprint for lowering crime. He took a sneaky, freebie trip to last year’s Oscars and only recently repaid his host in the face of a city ethics probe. Space limits a complete inventory of Safir outrages, so we direct you to the collected columns of Newsday‘s Len Levitt, whose weekly dispatches from the cop shack have made him this buffoon’s Boswell.

Sadly, New Yorkers cannot recall Safir from office; that is something only Giuliani can do. But that will never happen in the midst of his U.S. Senate run. Why risk alienating the force when this November will be the first time most city cops—living in places like Syosset and Setauket—will actually be eligible to vote for Giuliani?

But that does not mean politicians of conscience should not follow Public Advocate Mark Green’s lead and demand Safir’s head—now. Hillary Clinton, Alan Hevesi, Peter Vallone, Carl McCall, Andrew Cuomo, and anyone else who desires an enhanced role in governing this city or state needs to speak out forcefully against Safir’s stewardship of a department that has become Glock crazy.

Over the weekend, Safir had the nerve to speculate in the Post about his next job, wondering whether “I want to do public service, which I’ve done for 33 years, or do I want to go out and make a lot of money?” We pray Safir soon privatizes himself and sets out searching for his big blood-money payday. To speed that treasure hunt, Safir should resign now.

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