One Police Plaza

Under the rug, out the door

August 17, 1998

Even with Det. John Wrynn in disgrace, Police Commissioner Howard Safir cut him a break.

Facing a departmental trial, Wrynn was quietly permitted to resign last month "with the permission of the police commissioner," eliminating the possibility of the departmental equivalent of a dishonorable discharge.

Safir's giving some slack to a detective who allegedly committed perhaps law-enforcement's most unpardonable sin adds another layer of mystery to an already mysterious case. Wrynn is the detective who the Feds say leaked information to mobsters that revealed the identity of undercover cops and confidential informants, one of whom is now dead.

Safir and others in law enforcement maintain the "with-permission" resignation confers no benefit upon Wrynn, as he still forfeits his pension. But it is likely to help Wrynn with future employment. "It looks a little better if you go to get a job," says a source familiar with the case. "It looks like you didn't quit under pressure."

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Zachary Carter investigated the case for six years. For nearly five, Wrynn remained on modified assignment in the Property Clerk's office at One Police Plaza, drawing a paycheck. As late as Oct. 7, Asst. U.S. Attorney George Stamboulidis wrote Internal Affairs Chief Charles Campisi, describing "compelling evidence of crimes and administrative violations . . . that justify the prompt termination of Wrynn's employment."

Seven months later, after the NYPD had taken no action (and Carter dropped the investigation for reasons he refuses to publicly explain), that letter appeared in the New York Times. The Times added that Internal Affairs thwarted attempts to investigate Wrynn; that Wrynn's father, Internal Affairs Inspector James Wrynn, was caught improperly leafing through his son's investigative folder yet was allowed to remain in Internal Affairs; and that when one of the case's undercover detectives personally contacted Safir, the commissioner never responded. Within a month of the article, the department brought administrative charges against Wrynn.

Police department officials have maintained Safir allowed Wrynn to resign to spare the department the cost and time of a departmental trial. Safir added, somewhat disingenuously, about a system most regard as rigged to the wishes of the police commissioner: "There is always the possibility he might be found not guilty."

But the source familiar with the case says Safir's decision was predicated on Wrynn's trial. "Wrynn theatened to reveal 'all', never specifying what 'all' was," he said.

Apparently, that was all the NYPD had to hear.

Dog Day Afternoon. Is Commissioner Safir inviting all dogs to One Police Plaza? Asked about his spokeswoman Marilyn Mode's propensity for bringing her dog to work with her on the 13th floor (she also took it on a police raid to the Bronx, although the dog remained inside the police van), Safir said, "We don't have a policy on bringing dogs. There is no prohibition in the city health code."

Safir's response followed a letter sent anonymously to the Deptartment of Health, complaining that many on the 13th floor objected to the dog but were afraid to speak out. Although Mode denies it, sources told Newsday that after a building custodian refused to clean up the dog's mess, a cop from her office was forced to.

And Cats. Mode also inserted herself recently into a situation in which she ordered Bronx cops not to tranquilize what they felt was a dangerous, clawing cat.

On June 22, police raided a Bronx home, where they discovered an array of low-level radioactive substances - and a frightened cat that clawed cops from the 47th Precinct who tried to remove it. When one of the nearby evacuated residents telephoned city hall expressing concerns about the cat's safety, cops brought it to the precinct's overnight holding cell but refused to remove it to the ASPCA without first tranquilizing the cat by "darting" it.

This brought a howl from Mode, who ordered them not to dart the cat, police sources said. Instead, she sent another cop from her office to collect it. Mode denies ordering them to not to dart the cat.

The Big Eats. Commissioner Safir lunched at The Forum Club last week, telling the East Side civic group how the department has reduced crime by targeting drug gangs and has taken back the city "street by street, block by block" (a favorite line of his predecessor, Bill Bratton).

Seated together were Safir's top chiefs (and former First Deputy Tosano Simonetti who rushed out when reporters appeared). As Safir spoke, the chiefs all stopped eating their pasta. All, that is, but two, who continued to chow down. Since this column never seeks never to embarrass anyone, we won't reveal their names.

©1998 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.