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Brutality Case Stirs N.Y. Mayor's Race

By Peg Tyre/CNN


NEW YORK (Aug. 26) -- The police torture case has rocked New York City from the 70th precinct in Brooklyn to City Hall, where GOP Mayor Rudy Giuliani is feeling the heat. His political opponents, trailing badly in the polls, sense a vulnerability.

Democratic candidate Ruth Messinger says, "What is it about the state of affairs in New York City that over the last three years the number of incidents of police brutality has risen and risen?"

Candidate Al Sharpton, long associated with the issue of police brutality, has jumped in. "It's a citywide problem," Sharpton said at a rally. "Many people are trying to limit this -- including the mayor and the media -- to the Haitian community. We brought out today whites, Jews, Latinos and blacks marching with me."

Giuliani, who has accepted credit for high-profile arrests and an overall drop in crime, has tried to bulldoze his way through the scandal.

But now, he must explain why he rejected anti-corruption safeguards and why the police department's internal affairs office did nothing when they were initially notified about the attack on a Haitian immigrant, allegedly by officers at the 70th precinct.

"I can tell you that I think the police department did a very good job of investigating it and getting it to this stage, given the complexity of the investigation," Giuliani says.

Giuliani blames former Democratic Mayor David Dinkins for allowing "bad apples" to remain on the force.

Dinkins charged that under Giuliani, the cops are out of control. Giuliani, he says, "needs to acknowledge that this last situation is not an aberration; the only reason it has captured as much attention as it has is because of the heinous nature of this."

But former mayor and now-commentator Ed Koch defended Giuliani's handling of the case. Koch saw his own political future go up in flames over his handling of the racial killing of Yousef Hawkins in 1989.

"He wants," Koch says, "as every mayor before him wanted, a clean professional police department, always afraid that because of aberrant behavior, there would be a scandal. And in almost every mayoral administration there is a police scandal, but that is not the fault of the mayor and it is wrong to attack him on that ground."

Critics and supporters alike concede that in the absence of a serious mayoral opponent, even a substantial drop in approval ratings wouldn't hurt Giuliani's re-election efforts this fall. But scandals can have a long half-life, and some analysts say it could cloud Giuliani's long-term political future.

In Other News:

Tuesday Aug. 26, 1997

A Taste Of The Future
Brutality Case Stirs N.Y. Mayor's Race
Christian Coalition Targets Religious Persecution
No Subpoenas Yet On Chung-O'Leary Issue

E-mail From Washington:
U.S. Putting Pressure On Milosevic

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