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'Disabled' Cops Get Sour Detail

November 14, 1994

Eleven police officers were quietly transferred last week to the department's court section, where they will become "cell attendants."

The 11 were recently at the pistol range for their annual re-qualification of shooting skills. All 11 failed to qualify and had their guns taken from them.

Although some officers have claimed that such conditions as dizziness or repetitive stress injury, also known as carpal tunnel syndrome, rendered them unable to fire their weapons, department surgeons found these 11 officers had nothing physically wrong with them.

This prompted the new chief of personnel, Mike Markman, to take a novel approach. Instead of placing the 11 officers on restricted duty, which could result in a desk job or a sweet detail, Markman gave them an appropriately unpleasant posting and one where they won't need their guns: processing and moving chained prisoners at precinct holding cells.

Markman says he did this because "there happens to be a need for officers there." These holding cells have been especially clogged in recent months, with prisoners not making it from arrest to arraignment in the required 72 hours, making it necessary to drop the charges against them.

"It's not punishment, but we are sending a message," says another top police official. "There's a need for more officers during peak prisoner processing time." And unfortunately for these 11 officers, these peak times just happen to be nights and weekends.

Please, no more abuse. That's what Bill Kelly, president of the Captains Endowment Association, had to say about crime strategy meetings, one of Commissioner William Bratton's supposedly revolutionary approaches to policing. The weekly meetings have seen captains, detective commanders, inspectors and even deputy chiefs nearly crawling on their bellies justifying their crime-solving methods before a top brass tribunal of Deputy Commissioner Jack Maple, Chief of Patrol Louie Anemone and Chief of Detectives Joe Borrelli.

"I am dismayed by the treatment some of our members are receiving at the Crime Strategy meetings held regularly in Police Headquarters," wrote Kelly in the November CEA newsletter. "It is incomprehensible that some leaders of the Department who are well trained in correct personnel principles would stoop to the type of ridicule and sarcasm that have become a feature of these sessions. . . . Most of the members of our organization are excellent soldiers and are prepared to do whatever they can to accomplish the missions that they have been assigned. To have abuse heaped upon them serves no useful purpose and should not and cannot be tolerated."

Another chief speaks. Bratton and his top staff sought some corporate advice last week from Jack Welch, chairman and chief executive officer of the General Electric Co. Welch, known as "Neutron Jack" for the manner in which he depopulated his corporation, is the third corporate exec Bratton has consulted about his so-called "re-engineering" plan, another of his attempts to revolutionize the NYPD, which Bratton has said will result in the depopulation of a number of chiefs and inspectors.

Bratton also asked Welch how he rewards employees for outstanding job performance and Welch suggested a $ 1,000 bonus or a paid vacation. Since that won't go in the NYPD, Bratton ordered up his favorite goody: publicity.

The day after Sgt. Gerald Rosato of the Central Park Precinct and Karen Pyne of the 26th Precinct helped New York City marathoner German Silva navigate his victory after making a wrong turn, Bratton had the two officers down to One Police Plaza where he had assembled television cameras for them.

Welch gave Bratton another bit of advice: Act decisively, don't dilly-dally. That may impel the commissioner not to wait until the end of the year, as he has said he would, to fill the now-vacant posts of first deputy commissioner and chief of detectives.

No waiver. Speaking of first deputy commissioner, it appears Chief of Department John Timoney, who's rumored for that job, will be unable to obtain a waiver of the rules to allow the NYPD's first dep to live outside New York City. Just as former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had to move to the city from his home in Garden City, L.I., when he was appointed first deputy, so, too, will Timoney, who lives in Rockland County with his wife and two teenage children. (He was on vacation last week - lecturing to students at Mount Holyoke College on the subject "Just the Facts, Mr. Raskolnikov. The NYPD's top cop reflects on Crime and Punishment in Dostoyevski's classic novel.")

Me without my Cherokee. Commissioner Bratton visited Boston a couple of weekends ago but not, he says, in his four-wheel-drive Jeep Cherokee, which the department purchased for emergency bad weather use. Although Bratton used the Jeep this past summer in the Hamptons, drove it last month up the Hudson to view fall foliage and left the "New England Travel Discount Guide" on the passenger seat at One Police Plaza, he says he rented a van for his trip back to Boston because he was moving some last household items to New York. "I can show you receipts," Bratton says. So far, he hasn't.

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© 1994 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission