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The Fighting McCarthys Speak Out

February 27, 2006

It turns out that Deputy Commissioner Garry McCarthy didn’t return to the gas station on the Palisades Parkway to protest a ticket issued his teenage daughter Kyla for parking in a handicapped zone, as the Palisades police maintain he did.

Rather, McCarthy – who was charged last February with blocking the exit ramp of the gas station with his NYPD vehicle – says he suspected that the two Palisades officers who ticketed Kyla were "imposters" in plainclothes who he thought might be trying to rob Kyla – or worse.

In addition, McCarthy’s wife Regina – who was charged with "unreasonable noise" – says she never screamed or cursed at the Palisades cops, as they claimed she had.

And that the reason she retrieved her husband’s gun from their car after the Palisades cops had disarmed him was that she feared that three men standing nearby might grab it because the Palisades cops had not properly secured it.

That at least is the story the the Fighting McCarthys told last week in a New Jersey traffic court. They testified during the trial’s fourth session of testimony in what may well be the most expensive parking ticket issued since the invention of the automobile.

McCarthy acknowledged he had had two glasses of wine at dinner hours before, but said he was not drunk. He also acknowledged that it was Regina who had backed the NYPD’s black Ford Explorer into the gas station against oncoming traffic.

But he placed the onus for the confrontation on the ticketing officer, Palisades Detective Thomas Rossi who, McCarthy testified, cursed him, was "out of control," and at one point threatened to arrest him for gun possession.

"Knock yourself out," McCarthy said he answered.

McCarthy acknowledged that he had cursed in retaliation, that he had disregarded Regina’s advice to leave the scene when they realized that Rossi was enraged. He added that that one point Rossi threatened to put McCarthy "through the system," while saying of his career, "Twenty-four years down the drain. How does it feel?"

In the midst of his hour-long testimony, McCarthy appeared to be near tears when he described how, after Regina had retrieved his gun, Rossi flung her to the ground head-first. Rossi, it should be recalled, has had two dozen civilian complaints filed against him in his three years on the job – none of which have been substantiated.

McCarthy denied a report in this column that he had been reprimanded at the department’s highest levels after he had gotten into an altercation with a sergeant at a cop bar in the Bronx the night he was appointed deputy commissioner. He said the incident never happened. "Absolutely not," he said.

Prosecutor Douglas Doyle did not probe a previous alcohol-related incident early in his career – also reported in this column – in which McCarthy was disciplined.

Finally, this column apologizes for having previously misspelled his name with only one "r." Before testifying, McCarthy gave the spelling of his name as "Garry with two r’s."

The Next Step. Captain Eric Adams may be a loud-mouth and racial provocateur, as many claim. But despite a 1999 federal court decision upholding an officer’s right to criticize NYPD policies as a citizen provided he reveals no confidential department information, which Adams apparently didn’t – what happens to him next may depend on the whim of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Sources say that Adams – whose charges resulted from publicly criticizing Kelly’s response to last October’s subway terror threat and charging that Mayor Michael Bloomberg used the threat to avoid debating mayoral opponent Fernando Ferrer – had offered "to resolve this without going public," as Adams put it, and take a minor hit. But that Kelly rejected the offer.

What happens next is this: Michael Sarner – considered the most open-minded of the department’s tribunal of judges but who was recently passed over for promotion to Deputy Commissioner of Trials – will submit a "recommendation" to Kelly. Kelly will then do whatever he likes.

Hanging over Adams is what Kelly did in another case Sarner presided over: that of deputy inspector Benny Petrofsky.

Petrofksy – who headed the pistol license bureau under Kelly’s predecessor Bernie Kerik, whom Kelly despises – was charged with improperly arranging pistol permits for members of the rock group Aerosmith.

Sarner found him guilty of but the most minor ones and fined him 30 days pay, saying his conduct "did not appear to be motivated by personal interest."

Kelly disregarded Sarner’s recommendation and demoted Petrofsky to captain, then placed him on dismissal probation, meaning that if found guilty of any subsequent charge, he would be dismissed.

One Cop's Opinion. This column received the following e-mail about slain Bronx police officer Eric Hernandez, who received a full inspector’s funeral after he was mistakenly shot to death by another officer. His family has filed a notice of claim in preparation of a law suit against the officer and the city.

"Please allow me to dispute the use of the term ‘hero’ in this case," he wrote of a recent newspaper article. "I, along with many other members of the NYPD, find little that was heroic about P.O. Hernandez’ actions in this tragic and unfortunate incident. By using this terminology, the [article] erroneously implies that P.O. Hernandez died as a result of actions that were above and beyond the call of duty. Nothing could be further from the facts in this case.

Please note the following:

"... All NYPD officers are trained that in situations that involve police actions where plainclothes and uniform officers are on the scene, UNIFORM is in charge.

"… All plainclothes officers, when challenged by UNIFORM and given specific commands to drop their weapons until the ID can be established, MUST comply with those commands.

"… Failure by plainclothes officers to comply normally results in disciplinary action.

"… Additionally, the amount of alcohol in P.O. Hernandez’s bloodstream indicates another willful disregard of Departmental regulations regarding the possession and use of firearms.

"I am not at all dismissing the brutal assault that set in motion the whole series of events and which should be rightfully prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. However, I and many of my colleagues feel that the label of ‘hero’ is used far too liberally these days. If you want a hero look to Danny Enchautegui [who was shot and killed while pursuing two burglars] and Dillon Stewart [shot during a traffic stop in Brookyn] and any of the officers lost on 9/11, but not in this particular incident.

"So many of us are feeling a lot more empathy for P.O. Toro [the officer who shot Hernandez] who must be reeling from the effects of self-doubt and second-guessing. I only wish that the environment in the Department was safe enough to allow me to put my name to this letter. To do so would cause the world to come crashing down on my career."

The e-mail was signed, "A Bronx cop."

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Copyright © 2006 Leonard Levitt