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Fast moves at headquarters

August 7, 1996

Assistant Chief Michael Scagnelli, who headed the Traffic Divison, was unexpectedly transfered to the Transit Bureau yesterday.

The move comes as 1,600 traffic enforcement agents from the Transportation Department are to be merged into the NYPD.

The move also set off a transfer of musical chairs for three other second-level chiefs, the significance of which nobody at One Police Plaza professed to understand but that left nobody at Police Plaza looking very intelligent.

When the music stopped, this is where the chiefs landed:

Scagnelli had been reduced a peg, to executive officer, or No. 2 in Transit.

His predecessor Robert Burke, banished to Transit just a couple of months ago from the Queens Borough south commander post, was semi-resurrected as executive officer to the chief of patrol.

Deputy Chief John Haviken, who handled the recent Transit and Housing mergers into the NYPD, takes over for Scagnelli in Traffic. That job was said to have gone to Chief Charles Reuther, recently dumped as chief of detectives. Instead, Reuther was sent to the Criminal Justice Bureau, superseding another banished chief, Rafael Pineiro, who'd been dumped there after serving as the Bronx borough commander.

And Deputy Chief Paul Sanderson, transfered yesterday from the chief of patrol's office to Brooklyn, remained there only 10 minutes before his transfer was rescinded. He returned to the chief of patrol's office in limbo, his position taken by Burke.

Sanderson's return leaves two black chiefs - Sanderson and Benny Foster, also demoted there from Brooklyn North borough commander - on the shelf in an office headed by a black chief, Wilbur Chapman.

Two police chiefs told Newsday that the office is increasingly referred to at Police Plaza as "The Ghetto."

The department gave no official explanation for Scagnelli's transfer. "We'll decline comment," said Director of Press Operations Lenny Alcivar.

Printable versionScagnelli, close to both First Deputy Commissioner Tosano Simonetti and Chief of Department Louis Anemone, "stepped on his . . . but what that is about we don't know," said another chief.

Different police officials gave two versions of what happened.

"There was talk of a deal between Scagnelli and Simonetti and the DOT for the department to obtain the DOT's Traffic Control Center in Long Island City without talking to Safir first," one chief said.

"And Safir," said another chief, "has some temper."

In the second version a police official said that at that meeting "Scagnelli praised the job DOT head Christopher Lynn was doing with the traffic agents and appeared reluctant to take them on." The merger had been initiated by Safir's boss, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. When Giuliani speaks, Safir jumps.

An official at DOT said that Lynn met with police officials on July 19 at the Traffic Control facility and that "there seemed to be satisfaction all around."

Said Scagnelli as he moved into his new digs in the Transit Bureau: "Just say I love New York. I love the Police Department. I always will."

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1996 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.