One Police Plaza

New Vallone bid on cop review panel

May 15, 1997

City Council Speaker Peter Vallone is resurrecting his once-discredited proposal for an independent panel to monitor police corruption that was vetoed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and subsequently tossed out of court as unlawful.

Now, Vallone says he's overcome the legal objections of State Supreme Court Justice Beatrice Shainswit, who ruled in 1995 that the council's appointment of panel members infringed on the mayor's powers. The Appellate Division upheld her decision earlier this year.

Vallone says he's changing his proposal so that instead of appointing the panel members themselves, the council will "designate" a list of nominees from which the mayor will select his appointees. The Civilian Complaint Review Board has a similar system and has never been challenged legally, Vallone said.

The Mollen Commission on Police Corruption recommended an independent monitor in its final report, but Judge Milton Mollen has been less than outspoken on the subject since then. "I have no comment on it," Mollen said yesterday of Vallone's proposal. "This is the first I've heard of it. I support the general idea. My report speaks for itself. What does the mayor say?"

Asked about the proposal yesterday, Giuliani appeared to temporize. "It depends on what he Vallone has done and . . . if the mayor has final discretion and can reject or accept nominees . . . so long as it doesn't diminish the power of the mayor," Giuliani said. "The last time it was clearly illegal."

Vallone's travails are typical of the resentments and turf wars surrounding an independent police monitor that have gone on for the past two decades. Until he became mayor, Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, had favored such a monitor. He reiterated this in an interview in early 1994 - when he actually talked to this reporter - although by then he was calling the idea "impractical."

Nor is Giuliani alone in opposing an independent monitor. The city's five district attorneys traditionally oppose outside monitors. Their urgings were responsible in 1990 for then-Gov. Mario Cuomo disbanding the former Special State Prosecutor's Office, which had been created two decades ago by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and which cut the city's district attorneys out of investigating police corruption.

The office was created after the Knapp Commission discovered systemic patterns of police corruption that occurred literally under the nose of one of the state's foremost prosectors: Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan.

The last special prosecutor, Charles J. Hynes, was elected Brooklyn District Attorney in 1989, and now opposes an outside corruption monitor, saying the district attorneys are capable of doing the job.

Said Hynes: "We generally oppose the usurpation of our constitutional authority. The speaker is someone I have always been fond of. If he wants a Special Prosecutor model, I would suggest he meet with the city's five district attorneys. If Peter wants a meanginful range of opinion, I would suggest he call the dean of the city's district attorneys Bob Morgenthau."

Morgenthau, too, has a history of opposing outside monitors, including the Mollen commission. In fact he was so opposed it that he and Mollen refused to speak to each other. When the first fruits of the Mollen commission - the indictment of cops at Manhattan's 30th Precinct - were announced at a news conference at Federal Plaza in early 1994, the two nearly came to blows and had to be separated.

©1997 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.