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Patting Himself On the Back

December 5, 1994

Police Commissioner William Bratton has been congratulating himself and the NYPD for dramatic declines in crime this year, including a 9.8-percent drop in homicides. He and Deputy Commissioner for Crime Strategies Jack Maple credit the department's innovative police strategies.

These strategies have prompted Bratton to compare his accomplishments to those of former commissioner Patrick Murphy, who changed the face of the department following the Knapp Commission corruption probe 20 years ago.

But Murphy is more circumspect about some of Bratton's claims.

Murphy, who directs the Police Board of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, points out that crime is declining in many cities. He attributes the reduction less to policing than to outside forces.

Homicides, he says, are the key statistic in reporting crime. Unlike robberies, for example, which can be recorded as grand larcenies, homicides are the most accurate indicator. "No one knows why homicides are down," Murphy says. "There are all kinds of theories."

One, he says, is that street-level drug gangs are growing more sophisticated and resembling traditional organized-crime families. "You have millionaires who hop down to Bermuda like the old Italian mob. They have decided that murder is bad for business and they have reduced killings of 18-year-olds over drug deals."

Another theory, he says, attributes the emergence of crack to dramatic homicide increases in recent years and suggests that current declines may be a leveling-off to former plateaus. In Washington, D.C., Murphy points out, murders tripled from 1985 to 1990 and have fallen since. In New York, murders increased 50 percent over the same period and have also fallen since 1990. Between 1985 and 1990, Bratton worked in Boston.

"Researchers and criminologists are cautious about dramatic sudden decreases or increases," Murphy says. "You have to watch the trend line for a few years before coming to profound conclusions."

But Murphy understands why police are eager to take a bow.

"There's an old chief's saying: When crime goes up, you get the blame. When it goes down, you take the credit."

With friends like these. It's tough enough to be a black cop in the NYPD with its history of discrimination in a city where many black citizens are suspicious of all cops.

But Police Officers Anthony Trotman and Dwayne Chandler have an additional antagonist - their own black officers' fraternal organization, the Guardians.

Two weeks ago, Trotman and Chandler shot to death Keith Richardson, a black man with a rap sheet that included rape, robbery, assault and drug dealing. The two opened fire as Richardson appeared to reach for a very real-looking BB gun in his waistband. Their fire also killed a bystander.

Printable versionThe Police Department has called the shooting justifiable. Yet Eric Adams, the president of the Grand Council of Guardians, criticized the cops when he appeared last week with Richardson's family and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Adams, a transit police sergeant, was re-elected two weeks ago as head of the Guardians' Grand Council, an umbrella group of the seven different Guardian chapters. The NYPD Guardians is one chapter and its chairman, Roger Abel, says Adams "doesn't speak for us."

Sgt. Grace Ridley, the NYPD Guardians' president, says she was never consulted before Adams shot off his mouth with Sharpton, a former federal stoolie. "I tried to contact him [Adams] and he never called back. He and the Rev. Sharpton made a statement but they had not talked to me. He [Adams] is not supposed to talk publicly without talking to me first."

Adams didn't return calls for comment. Ridley says she can only speculate why Adams and Sharpton criticized the cops without consulting her: "They may not have been aware that they were black."

More on the Feerick Four. Commissioner Bratton last week termed the two-year prison sentence of Lt. Patricia Feerick, convicted of illegally searching a drug dealer's apartment and terrorizing its two nondrug-using inhabitants, "extraordinarily harsh."

Former judge Milton Mollen, chairman of the Mollen Commission on police corruption, said he met with Feerick and the three officers convicted with her because he, too, questioned the sentence's severity.

The four cops were searching for a stolen police radio after druggies used the airwaves to taunt Feerick. She and the other officers now contend that testimony implicating them was a conspiracy between the dealer and the apartment's inhabitants. The four presented no evidence during trial to support their story and now blame their lawyers.

In memoriam. Raymond Cannon, 26, of the 69th Precinct, died Friday night from gunshot wounds as he responded to a robbery in a Canarsie bike shop. He leaves his wife of four months, his parents and four brothers, one of whom said: "He loved his job, like no other person loves his job." Cannon was the second city officer killed in the line of duty in 1994

CORRECTION: An item in last Monday's One Police Plaza Confidential incorrectly reported that Eric Adams, head of the Grand Council of Guardians, was present at a news conference at which the Rev. Al Sharpton criticized two black New York Police Department cops for killing a black suspect armed with a real-looking BB gun.

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1994 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.