[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

#3074: Giuliani Softens Tone to Ease Tensions in Dorismond Case (fwd)


March 31, 2000    By ERIC LIPTON  NY TIMES
Giuliani Softens Tone to Ease  Tensions in Dorismond Case

 From an expression of sympathy to Patrick M. Dorismond's family to an
examination of when the police should draw their  guns, Mayor Rudolph W.
Giuliani and his police commissioner have in recent days shifted on both
the policy and public relations fronts to a softer tone in an effort to
ease tensions over the fatal police shooting of Mr. Dorismond. These
entreaties have not all produced the desired results: 11 Brooklyn clergy
members walked out of a meeting arranged by  Police Commissioner Howard
Safir yesterday, including the Haitian priest who officiated at Mr.
Dorismond's funeral on Saturday, which ended in a violent clash with the
police. They said they were disappointed that Mr. Safir would not
apologize  directly for the shooting, and left just as Mr. Giuliani was
arriving at  One Police Plaza to join the gathering. Facing the
rejection, the mayor reacted in an unusually conciliatory manner,
telling reporters at an impromptu news conference at Police 
Headquarters that he was still prepared to meet with the religious    
leaders. In departing from what sometimes seems like a scripted,
standard defense of the police, Mr. Giuliani acknowledged room for
change within the Police Department. "No institution is perfect," the
mayor said. The Police Department "is  a lot better here than in most
places in the country," he said.  "That doesn't mean we can't improve,"
Mr. Giuliani said. "It doesn't  mean we can't get better. It doesn't
mean we can't do things better."  The tenor of Mr. Giuliani's remarks
shifted subtly, almost imperceptibly, beginning on Sunday, when the
mayor for the first time publicly said Mr. Dorismond's parents deserved
condolences. It  was 10 days after Mr. Dorismond was shot to death in a
scuffle with undercover officers who had approached him about buying
drugs outside a bar in Midtown Manhattan. By midweek, he acknowledged
that the law was not entirely clear regarding his decision to reveal Mr.
Dorismond's record, including a sealed juvenile record that Mr. Giuliani
had disclosed earlier, saying  privacy rights did not extend beyond
death.  Several of the mayor's close advisers said the change in Mr.   
Giuliani's public demeanor, and the steps he and Mr. Safir had
taken      to ease tensions, were intentional. The shift followed
criticism from nearly all corners of the city and state, from people
concerned that    the mayor's persistent attacks on Mr. Dorismond had
gone too far       and merely served to exacerbate racial tension in the
city. In recent days, the mayor has even dropped his repeated references
to the Rev. Al Sharpton and other persistent critics of the Police
Department. A senior City Hall aide said that if the mayor's volume dial
had been set on "10" last week, it dropped to "7" by the end of last
weekend and was still on its way down. "There is less of a smell of
burning cordite in the city, and everybody is on the way to calming down
a bit," said Raymond B.     Harding, who is a close political adviser to
the mayor and is the       leader of the Liberal Party.   Mr. Safir has
played a central role in the mayor's campaign to cool tempers. The
police commissioner agreed this week to allow clergy  members from the
Bronx to attend police roll calls to let the officers  hear their
concerns. On Wednesday, Mr. Safir gave an interview on  WLIB, a radio
station with a largely black audience whose callers  have often assailed
the mayor. And both Mr. Safir and the mayor this week backed a review of
Police Department policies regarding when it is appropriate for an
officer to pull out a gun. The detective who shot Mr. Dorismond, Anthony
Vasquez, fired his
 gun accidentally after he became involved in the scuffle, the police 
said.  Even before yesterday's evening meeting with clergy members,
Mr.Safir said that he realized tensions between the Haitians,
other       minority groups and the Police Department are in part tied
up with    race. The comment brought immediate praise by longtime
critics of the Police Department, including the Manhattan borough
president, C. Virginia Fields. "If you look around the country, the
complaints that we hear in New  York City are the same complaints that
you hear in Louisville, Los  Angeles and Miami and in lots of other
cities," Mr. Safir said. "And let's face it, we are all honest. This is
about race -- something we all have to face and something we all have to
talk to each other about." The shift in tone by the mayor came following
polls this week that showed support eroding in his campaign for the
United States Senate, in part because of his repeated attacks on Mr.
Dorismond.        Mr. Giuliani's aides said yesterday that many of the
mayor's advisers  had been calling on him during the last week to tone
down his words    and perhaps even give a forthright public address on
community        police relations in the city. But other advisers noted
that a direct apology to Mr. Dorismond's family would be characterized
as a capitulation by the mayor to his critics. So Mr. Giuliani has
decided to respond in his own way,modifying the tone and content of his
language, while still defending his earlier actions and statements, his
advisers said. After yesterday's meeting with the clergy members , which
Mr.     Giuliani tried to join just as they were walking out, the
mayor        indicated his willingness to try to resolve differences
between       minority communities and the police. "I came to the
meeting in good faith," he said.The religious leaders made it clear that
they believed an immediate apology was needed, but they remained open to
future talks. 
 "The credibility of our negotiations hinges on his acceptance of an  
apology to mark a new beginning," said Msgr. Guy Sansaricq of St.    
Jerome Church in Flatbush. "We said we would be happy to meet with him
again when the apology comes."