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An elite cop gets a transfer

September 16, 1996

Lt. Justin Peters, commander of the East Side's elite 19th Precinct detective squad, is the latest casualty of the department's famed COMPSTAT meetings.

Having solved the Vera Wang shooting at the fashionable Upper East Side bridal shop two years ago, Peters' squad also cracked, in record time, the suspected one-man crime wave known as John Royster. Within 10 days last June, Royster allegedly murdered a woman outside her Park Avenue dry cleaning store; raped and nearly killed a woman in Central Park; sexually assaulted a woman on a Yonkers footpath and attacked a woman near the 60th Street Heliport. Three days after the last attack, Peters' squad hit the ultimate grand slam, nabbing Royster as the man suspected of being behind all four crimes.

But past successes count for naught at COMPSTAT meetings, which, as readers of Time magazine know, were instituted by former police commissioner William Bratton and featured Chief of Department Louie Anemone and ex-Deputy Commissioner Jack Maple tearing the heads off commanders who failed to answer their crime-strategy-related questions satisfactorily. (One question no one at Police Plaza can answer is what COMPSTAT's initials actually stand for. Another is whether Bratton's mug on Time's cover got him fired by a jealous Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.)

Under Bratton's successor, Howard Safir, COMPSTAT has developed a new ambience. Now commanders must show proper deference to Anemone and to the fellow masquerading as Maple's successor, Deputy Commissioner for Operations Ed Norris.

Peters refused to answer when Norris asked him about a suspect's whereabouts in the recent Scores topless bar shootings. Peters had tracked the suspect through a corporate credit card but wouldn't reveal where because, he said, he didn't want to read about it in the papers the next day.

Anemone went through the roof. Or, as another chief put it diplomatically, "There was an exchange."

Peters thought he and Anemone had patched it up when the two later met and shook hands. Instead, last week Peters was informed he'd embarrassed Anemone and Norris before Safir - and would be transferred to Harlem's 25th Precinct.

The 33-year veteran wasn't talking Friday, other than to say, "The same sun that shines over the 19th Precinct will now shine over the 25th."

While Peters' head rolls, at another COMPSTAT meeting last week, Bronx Borough Patrol Chief John Scanlon passed "the golden anchor" award for the lowest borough crime reduction to Queens Borough South. Scanlon termed the momentous event, which was accompanied by a slide show, "in the spirit of camaraderie between the officers of the Bronx and Queens."

Printable versionIt was, no doubt, moments like these that led the Ford Foundation and Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government to place the COMPSTAT program among 25 finalists in their Innovations in American Government awards, which could earn the department $100,000. Since Bratton's time, academics, foundation officials, business executives and journalists from around the world have attended COMPSTAT meetings. Local police reporters are banned: They're viewed as too critical. ---

Urban renewal. A month after this column referred to the chief of patrol's office, headed by the department's highest ranking black officer, Wilbur Chapman, as "The Ghetto," it has been struck by the wrecking ball.

The term "ghetto" was used pejoratively by two chiefs after another top black cop, Assistant Chief Benny Foster, was dumped as Brooklyn Borough North commander and placed on the shelf in Chapman's office. There, he joined another jettisoned top black cop, Assistant Chief Paul Sanderson.

Although Foster's retirement is imminent, he was transferred earlier this month to Staten Island. Sanderson was transferred to Manhattan South.

That leaves veteran chief Bob Burke, ousted as Queens South borough commander to Chapman's executive officer, as the token white.

Toothless Tosano. Being first deputy commissioner of the NYPD is akin to being vice president of the United States: You're the second most important person in your nation.

Yet when First Dep. Tosano Simonetti was asked last month about his role in promoting Sgt. Carlos Munroe to lieutenant on the urging of Brooklyn Rabbi Bernard Froelich, he responded less like the "Tough Tony" of his sobriquet than like a cowardly lion.

"You have to clear it with DCPI," said Simonetti, referring to the department's office of public information, which is monitored by City Hall and run by a deputy commissioner subordinate to him.

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Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1996 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.