A sudden reminder of his mortality, says Rudolph Giuliani, is making him a better mayor, one who reaches out to those who feel they have not benefited from all he has done to improve this city’s quality of life.
He keeps saying, for instance, that he may visit the family of Patrick Dorismond to express his regrets at their loss of an innocent son shot by the police. The mayor did not go to see them immediately after the killing because he didn’t want to give the impression the cops had been wrong.
Giuliani finally admitted he made “a mistake” when he vilified the corpse by releasing Dorismond’s juvenile arrest record right after the fatal shooting. He released other prejudicial, nonjuvenile data as well, but neglected to say that Dorismond had not served any prison time for those minor transgressions.
Detective Steven McDonald, shot and paralyzed in the line of duty by a criminal and in a wheelchair ever since, is much respected by his fellow cops. Still on the force, he spoke about the mayor and Patrick Dorismond at Fordham University—as reported in the April 6 Catholic New York, the archdiocesan weekly newspaper. Speaking in a strong voice, with the help of a ventilator, McDonald made a point that goes beyond Giuliani’s belated admission of error.
“Releasing this gentleman’s juvenile record was wrong,” McDonald said. But Giuliani did it, the detective noted, to defend the police. “I hate to think of anybody in the neighborhoods living in fear of us. That’s not what we’re here for. That’s not why we became officers.”
Many New Yorkers, and not only blacks and Hispanics, continue to fear the police.
I spent a long time some years ago with members of a squad of NYPD homicide detectives. They too did not become officers to brutalize civilians. I was struck by their determination, sometimes in the face of great danger, to get the killers. The right killers. They very much had the victims, of all colors, in mind.
Each of them had overcome his initial hostility to the Supreme Court’s Miranda decision—now reaffirmed—realizing that making sure a suspect knows his rights leads to a stronger court case. And most of them, though not inclined to join the ACLU, did want to do the right thing by legitimately clearing a case.
One of the things Giuliani will never realize, as some cops have told me, is the harm he has done to the NYPD by ritualistically and instantly “giving the benefit of the doubt” to police when someone is killed by a cop—before there is even an investigation, as he did right after Patrick Dorismond was killed.
The mayor has also persistently and unjustly given the police as a whole a reputation for brutality by keeping Howard Safir as police commissioner. For all of Safir’s parading of statistics of how he disciplines cops, he has failed to instill fear in reckless police that they will be held accountable. A truly “new” Giuliani would fire Safir.
In his column in the April 7 Newsday, Ed Koch told this story:
“Three Brooklyn cops recently threatened a rookie with the possibility of death because he issued a ticket to one of their partners for drunk driving. The cops allegedly told the rookie: ‘You better watch your back because you’re not going to get backup. . . . And you may catch a bullet.’ ”
In Frank Serpico’s day, after he testified against police corruption, they didn’t warn him up front. His backup just stayed well behind when he got shot. Is what the Brooklyn cops did a mark of progress?
Ed Koch added that the courageous “rookie reported this threat to a supervisor, and the three cops were suspended for 30 days.”
Koch rightly points out that this was “insufficient punishment. If they were civilians and were found guilty of intimidating a witness, they would go to jail. Police officers have an even higher duty. They should be criminally prosecuted or, at the very least, permanently removed from the police force.”
Any comment from the “new” Giuliani?
Koch ended the column: “Yet another reason the New York Police Department needs a federal monitor.” Amen.
Obviously there are brutal cops who should be thrown off the force—along with the creeps who allowed women to be abused by a primordial mob in and around Central Park on June 11.
Back to Giuliani, I underestimated the extent of general public indignation at his immediate attacks on the corpse of Patrick Dorismond. He sure wasn’t an altar boy, the mayor said. Well, in truth, he actually had been.
But Giuliani’s insistence on blaming the corpse for its present condition led to a drop in his poll ratings not only in this city but also upstate.
Even now, the mayor, seeking redemption, will not admit he did more than make a mistake. He broke the law. In the Letters section of the April 7 Newsday—and this should not be forgotten—Raymond Fasano, a Manhattan lawyer, nailed Giuliani on the rule of law with regard to sealed juvenile records: They can only be released by court order. As Fasano noted, they “shall be sealed and not [otherwise] made available to any person or public or private agency.” (Emphasis added.)
During a remarkable series of interviews with New York police officers in the April 6 Daily News, a white detective in Brooklyn, on the job for nearly 20 years, said of the constant pressure from Giuliani and Safir to make arrests: “People are tired of being harassed, searched and frisked, and run off the streets. The cops are, too.” Other cops interviewed for that story agreed.
Sheryl McCarthy (April 3, Newsday), reporting on the wave of arrests of blacks and Hispanics for trespassing as they visit friends or relatives in public housing projects, wrote:
“During a recent arraignment of a man charged with trespassing in his grandmother’s building, Brooklyn judge Joseph McKay sounded exasperated: ‘God help somebody if they are visiting a grandmother or somebody and she is not home. . . . You spend 24 hours in jail.’ ”
But the pressure from City Hall continues in certain neighborhoods. In Mount Hope, South Bronx, 19-year-old José Alvarez tells The New York Times (June 25): “They don’t know young people get up in the morning just like they do and go to work. . . . If I stand in front of that building, they come and tell you to move. If you don’t move, they arrest you. . . . They bother you for everything.”
Part of Giuliani’s legacy has been his unwillingness to police the NYPD, thereby making many New Yorkers fear all police.