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Police Actions Speak Volumes

October 17, 1994

What began with a suicide attempt earlier this month in the scandal-plagued 30th Precinct station house ended with an extraordinary seven-hour, no-holds-barred debate between the precinct's cops and the NYPD's top brass, who the cops accused of "tearing people and the precinct apart."

So intense did the session become - and so significant did the brass consider the cops' grievances - that they allowed it to continue through the night, keeping the entire 4-to-12 tour of officers at the station house while bringing in an outside task force to patrol the precinct.

"People were crying. They were red with anger. They were in shock from the suicide attempt," said one of four top officials who rushed to the Harlem station house after the suicide attempt, the third related to the precinct's corruption scandal. Since April, 23 officers have been arrested. More arrests are expected.

The cops were especially angered that prosecutors appeared to drag out the investigation, leaving "guys hanging for months," said one of the brass at the meeting, which included Chief of Department John Timoney, Chief of Patrol Louis Anemone and Deputy Commissioners Jack Maple and John Miller.

"During the summer, nothing moved," the official acknowledged. Only after the July 25 suicide of Capt. Terrence Tunnock, who shot himself after reporting an incident involving a group of rogue cops known as Nannery's Raiders, did prosecutors display a sense of urgency. Prosecutors counter that plenty was going on during the summer, including the flipping of Nannery's Raiders and the release from prison of people they'd wrongly arrested.

The cops also complained that officers arrested for serious crimes were permitted to keep working to trap others in lesser violations as a way to mitigate their own sentences. The cop who attempted suicide, the brass learned, did so because he feared a crooked cop had wrongly implicated him.

The cops further criticized the prosecutors for allowing officer Jorge Alvarez, arrested for drug dealing, to keep his gun and secretly tape-record other cops. When accused of wearing a wire, Alvarez shot a cop in the station house recently, hitting him in the foot. So moved were the brass that Timoney immediately called Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Shechtman, urging him, in law enforcement jargon, "to move to closure while accomplishing the ends of justice."

Another prosecutor was unmoved. "There's a lot of hypocrisy here. These cops knew what was going on and never came forward," he said. "I guarantee some people complaining the loudest will be arrested later."

Busted knee, guilty conscience. Michael Julian, who in nine months as chief of personnel became known as the police pension reformer, filed for a disability pension last Thursday, his next to last day on the job.

The following day, after a troubled sleep, he withdrew his application.

Julian, 45, had based his application on a knee injury sustaianed during the 1988 Tompkins Square police riot when he was a captain. Printable versionSince then, he says he's had limited mobility and must wear a brace to play basketball.

If granted the line-of-duty pension, he would collect $90,000 annually, tax-free. With an ordinary pension, he collects $60,000 and pays federal taxes.

Julian said he withdrew his application because he questioned the fairness and wisdom of a system allowing him the tax-free benefit when, as he puts it, "I am limited but not incapacitated. To tell the truth, I'd feel guilty accepting it.

"The department's given me a lot," Julian adds, "including my education. He earned his bachelor's degree while working tours in Brooklyn, was given a year's leave of absence to obtain his master's and later earned a law degree.

Today he begins as chief of security for Rockefeller Center, at a hefty six-figure salary.

To investigate or not to investigate? Now that City Council Speaker Peter Vallone has taken the play away from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in forming an outside monitor for police corruption, the question is: Will that body have independent investigatory powers? Vallone says yes, and says he has the votes to ensure it.

Opposed to him are the vested law enforcement entities: the NYPD and the district and U.S. attorneys, who fear such investigations will muck up their own. "We have the resources," says Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White. "Now that police corruption has taken the form of drug-dealing, federal civil rights laws and the Internal Revenue Service come in very handy."

Left unsaid by White and everyone else was that her predecessor, Otto Obermaier, deliberately ignored these resources.

On June 18, 1992, New York Newsday reported that Obermaier's office had received allegations of police corruption in 10 precincts, including the 30th Precinct's now-indicted midnight tour and a half-dozen others where investigations have resulted in arrests.

The same afternoon, then-Mayor David N. Dinkins announced the formation of the Mollen Commission to investigate the widespread police corruption. A week later, Obermaier took the unprecedented step of announcing that his office was conducting no such investigation.

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© 1994 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.