Why Safir Must Resign


Rudolph Giuliani’s reign of terror must come to an end. It should begin with the resignation of his police commissioner, Howard Safir, who has demonstrated from the beginning of his tenure an utter disregard for the rules of behavior that he set forth for his own men.

Safir issued a list of establishments that were off-limits to his hardworking, honest, dedicated police officers, and yet he is found patronizing such establishments himself.

According to the Commish, Rudy can go to Katz’s Deli for a knish and pose for the media, but a cop can’t take his kid there for a hot dog, and yet filling an innocent, unarmed man with lead is OK. Since Safir was appointed by Giuliani in 1996, the city has continued to be racked by abhorrent scandals of police misconduct and violations of citizens’ civil liberties at the hands of the very police meant to protect and serve them.

The most recent, of course, is the Amadou Diallo verdict, where an unarmed, innocent black man was shot at 41 times and killed by four police officers in the Bronx in front of his own apartment door. A tragedy by any account, but made all the more tragic by the sequence of events that followed, in which the victim was made to seem the perpetrator and the perpetrators the victims. Not long before that was the assault on Abner Louima, brutalized at the hands of police officers in a precinct bathroom. Dante Johnson, Anthony Baez, Antoine Reid, Gidone Busch—the list goes on. . . . All well-known confrontations, but what of the incidents we never hear about because the victims have no voice?

There’s plenty we have heard about: the unanimous vote of no confidence in Safir by 400 Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association delegates, Amnesty International‘s report on police brutality in New York City, police violence at the Million Youth March, the lawsuit by the Latino Officers’ Association alleging discrimination, a failed Civilian Complaint Review Board, and news accounts showing that citizens attempting to file complaints with the NYPD regarding police abuse will often receive misinformation or suffer intimidation.

What gives? Any CEO running a corporation with these continuing problems would have received his golden parachute a long time ago. Giuliani wants someone who will not steal the spotlight from him and who will take second seat in the NYPD, and he has found his man in Howard Safir.

Lest someone misconstrue my statements as an endorsement of Hillary Clinton: Quite the contrary; the Clintons don’t fare any better when it comes to issues of police misconduct. The Mollen Commission scandal with the Dirty Thirty and patrolman Michael Dowd’s revelations of cocaine trafficking by the police prompted me to write Mr. Clinton a letter to urge police reform and offer recommendations for improving the reputation of police in general and of the NYPD in particular, and particularly to get some recognition for Sergeant Joseph Trimboli, the forgotten, unsung hero of the Dowd corruption investigation. Clinton decided to pass on my recommendations. Understandably so—his new drug czar at the time was none other than Lee Brown, former New York City police commissioner, whose rogue cops were selling drugs, guns, and police shields for profit, putting the lives of honest cops at risk.

New York needs a governor, mayor, and police commissioner with vision, compassion, and an understanding of the communities that they are supposed to serve. Now we apparently have another innocent victim of the war on drugs, Patrick Dorismond, coming off a day’s work to be harassed by undercover police officers looking to buy some pot—not looking for crack, heroin, guns, or information on crimes of violence, but to buy some marijuana. For this a human being has to forfeit his life and a family is deprived of another loved one and the community of another hardworking citizen at the hands of Safir and Giuliani’s quality-of-life gestapo.

It is time for Safir to put in his papers and pursue a career in private security at Revlon or other concern where the lives of citizens will not be at stake. There it will not matter what Oscar parties he attends or what freebies he accepts. It’s also time for the people to join together peacefully to demand an independent federal prosecutor to look into the mayor’s policies of policing and harassment of citizens for his own ends. An example of this harassment is the arrest not once but more than 40 times of street artist Robert Lederman, merely for expressing his First Amendment rights. Giuliani did not like the artist’s caricature of him as Adolf Hitler. All charges against the artist were subsequently dismissed. Thank God for judges who still believe in our constitutional rights.

Recently, in Louisville, Kentucky, Mayor David Armstrong fired police chief Eugene Sherrard when two of his men shot and killed an unarmed black motorist (suspected of car theft). The police came to the support of the chief. Some of the police brass quit in protest. The mayor didn’t care; he said that he wants police who are more interested in protecting their city than protecting their chief. The mayor in Louisville wants to change the culture of the department so that all people are treated equally. Contrast this to NYC’s police killings of innocent citizens.

One death is too many. The NYPD’s track record is an outrage! Police reform is long overdue. We need an honest independent prosecutor who is free from political pressure and an investigation of the crimes of obedience that have taken place against innocent, unarmed victims at the hands of the present administration. It is unlikely that Giuliani will fire Safir; after all, he is only doing His Honor’s bidding.

How many more citizens have to die before these abuses are dealt with in a serious manner?