One Police Plaza

Safir sworn in in high style

December 11, 1998

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was apparently so glad to be rid of Bill Bratton as police commissioner that he held a mammoth outdoor swearing-in ceremony for replacement Howard Safir that (except for his son Andrew) rivaled Giuliani's own swearing-in two years ago.

With four former police commissioners, including the previously out-of-favor Ray Kelly; the city's district attorneys; and swells of celebrities, including the state's Chief Judge Judith Kaye and comedian Jackie Mason in attendance, the mayor sat grinning in the front row like the cat that swallowed the canary.

In this case, the little bird was Bratton, who Giuliani forced out of office last month for no stated reason and who flew off yesterday to Miami to begin a Mexican cruise.

Tensions between Bratton and the mayor had waxed and waned for the past two years over Bratton's penchant for stealing favorable notices from the mayor. These tensions apparently reached the breaking point last month, though over what issue has never been publicly stated by either. A year ago, following an article in The New Yorker magazine praising Bratton but ignoring Giuliani, the mayor forced the resignation of Bratton's spokesman and confidant John Miller.

Following Bratton's appearance on the cover of Time magazine last January with but a spare mention of the mayor, Giuliani's aides began to publicly discredit the police commissioner. This culminated with their leaking stories of Bratton's freebie trips and of the mayor's refusal to approve Bratton's $350,000 book deal.

While Giuliani praised Bratton numerous times yesterday, he minimized his successes. And with the appointment of his longtime friend attempted to place his own stamp on the department, something he'd found it difficult, if not impossible, to do with Bratton. Referring diplomatically to his former commissioner the mayor said that Safir "has big shoes to fill. But, the mayor added, "Howard Safir has very big feet." (And so he does: size 14.)

At another point, the mayor said that Safir, with his drug agent background, was the right man to lead the NYPD in its current well-publicized drug initiative. "He is the right man in the right place at the right time for the city of New York," said the mayor.

The mayor did not say that the drug initiative had been organized by Bill Bratton.

Inside or out? More than one police chief attending Commissioner Safir's swearing-in cermony noted that Master of Ceremonies Dennison Young Jr. seemed to go out of his way to praise the mayor's Criminal Justice Coordinator, Katie Lapp. Lapp is one of a handful of candidates rumored to become First Deputy Commissioner.

Concerns are heightened because of fears by some that choosing a second outsider to the department in addition to Safir would increase the influence of the hard-driving Chief of Department Louie Anemone. "With two outsiders they rely on him more," explained another chief. "And he influences who gets promotions. It's a chain reaction."

Out, abruptly. Detective Brian Mulheren, on sick and vacation leave for the past two years, has decided to forego his claim for a lucrative disability and to retire with an ordinary pension. The reason, says a top police official: he knows incoming commissioner Howard Safir hates his guts.

Mulheren is the formerly high-flying detective with ties to city hall in the Dinkins and Koch administrations, who claimed to have suffered a disabling injury in a car accident in 1992 while allegedly chasing a perp. The department claims he was off-duty and that the accident he suffered had nothing to do with a perp.

Safir's displeasure, to put it mildly, says the official, stems from the fact that while on leave, Mulheren began turning up (and even giving orders) at a number of fires around the city. So incensed did Safir, then the city's fire commissioner, become at Mulheren that he threatened to have him arrested.

Safir was busy running around the city himself yesterday and couldn't be reached for comment. Said Mulheren cryptically: "I'm retiring because I'm retiring."

©1998 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.