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Was it their last hurrah?

February 20, 1997

On the surface, the night belonged to the Jackster.

There he stood, a rotund figure wearing a yellow and black striped bow-tie, Homburg, black and white Allen Edmunds Spectator shoes and the grey-black stubble of a beard, the center of attention of scores of literary swells attending the New Yorker magazine's celebration of its special "Crime and Punishment" issue. In fact, the magazine's longest article, entitled "The Crime Buster," was all about him, Jack Maple.

Celebrating with him were his ex-police cronies. There was ex-commissioner William Bratton, who'd appointed Maple, a former transit cop with but a high school education, as Deputy Commissioner of Crime Control Strategies. There was the department's former spokesman, the boulevardier and television newsman John Miller; and there was Bratton's ex-First Deputy, John Timoney, whom Bratton had hoped would succeed him.

Bratton also participated in a panel discussion, under a massive blue and gold "Crime and Punishment" banner, and defended the department from the onslaughts of a fellow panelist, Norman Siegel of the New York Civil Liberties Union. From the audience, Timoney jumped in, attacking the accuracy of Siegel's figures on civilian complaints.

As former NYPD officials, Bratton and Timoney could have demurred when Siegel attacked the department. But they didn't, for the New Yorker's event Tuesday night at the City Bar Association was a final performance, a victory lap of recognition for Bratton's NYPD-in-exile. For one night, they were again in command of the New York City Police Department.

Bratton's successor, Howard Safir, who has spent much of his first ten months trying to imitate Bratton's successes, had not been invited, police sources said, and the omission had infuriated Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who fancies himself the toughest Crime Buster of all. A New Yorker spokeswoman said Safir had been invited but declined to attend.

The New Yorker's pages are intertwined with the history of Bratton's NYPD, and even served as an unwitting catalyst for the breach between him and Giuliani. Two years ago this month, Giuliani forced Miller to resign following a New Yorker article that so praised Bratton it ignored the mayor.

The article prompted the mayor's then 30-year-old press secretary, Cristine Lategano, to publically announce Bratton needed "a reality check."

Printable versionThe fissure opened by that article never closed. Last April, three months after Bratton's mug appeared on the cover of Time magazine, again with nary a mention of the mayor, Giuliani forced him to resign, never publicly explaining his reasons.

Timoney, meanwhile, nearly lost part of his pension after calling Safir "a lightweight" when Giuliani passed him over for the top spot. Giuliani retaliated by attempting to demote Timoney to captain, a move that would have cost him $19,000-a-year.

Despite the evening's gaiety, there was an sense of sadness, of wistfulness about these men, for they each seemed adrift. They are "the Wild Geese," after the Irish patriots exiled from their country during British rule after the battle of Limerick and forced to wander as mercenary soldiers through Europe, never to return.

After vowing never to take "a Joe Blow" security job, Bratton was forced to accept a job as a security consultant. Miller is yet to hit full stride back on TV and refers to his year as a deputy police commissioner as "Camelot." Timoney has been teaching and serves on a gubernatorial committee on domestic violence, an appointment Giuliani tried to block. He also commutes back and forth to Ireland, advising the government on its national police force. As a friend notes, there is a difference between advising and commanding.

Even Maple, who of the group seems the most at ease with himself and who is finishing a consulting stint in New Orleans - the subject of the New Yorker article - seems undecided as to his next move.

Bratton's predecessor, Ray Kelly, took a year to overcome the the bitterness of his dismissal by Giuliani. Then, things broke for him. President Bill Clinton assigned him to disarm the Haitan military and train a new Haitian police force. Last year, Clinton appointed Kelly Under Secretary of the Treasury. Yesterday, he was flying back from a law enforcement conference with the president on Air Force One.

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© 1997 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.