Community rallies behind Flushing officer

By Cynthia Koons

“There's no question in anyone's mind that he's what we'd like to see in every police officer,” state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing) said. “Whenever we have any kind of problems with drugs, prostitution, we call him.”

Mayersohn organized the rally at the station on Friday morning, which came two days after police officers stood outside Police Service Area 9 at 155-09 Jewell Ave. ordering the city to investigate Howard for a list of grievances that community members said were more due to personality clashes than faulty police work.

“My personal opinion is that it's personality conflicts,” Electchester Housing manager Deborah Calliff said. “He is a go-getter. He wants this community to be clean and safe.”

The station for PSA 9 services all of the city housing developments in Queens, except for the Far Rockaway locations.

Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, which represents the housing officers, said officers have complained to him that Howard allegedly falsifies crime statistics, writes false summonses and even wrongly accused one of his employees of making anti-Semitic statements.

“He's created an atmosphere of fear and hostility within the workplace,” Mullins said.

“We tried to negotiate with him and explain things and try to get dialogue, but Howard has no interest at all in having a happy atmosphere,” he said. “He's basically working on a productivity basis.”

Mullins also alleged Howard has misreported crime in management meetings to compile statistics as well as required his employees to sign summonses that Howard would fill out at a later time so his name was not on too many of the filings.

Mullins said officers also claimed that Howard falsely told community members that the city 311 line costs 50 cents per call in order to bring more quality-of-life calls in to the precinct for his statistics. The city's 311 line is a free service.

Howard was out sick and could not be reached for comment at the office as of Monday.

Mullins said the anti-Semitic allegations were made against Officer Ed Scott, when Howard accused Scott of telling him that he was going to “finish the job that Hitler didn't do.”

Scott is married to a Jewish woman, Mullins said, and maintains he made no such remarks.

“It's apparent that someone is keeping him in command in the community,” Mullins said. “He has no qualms about letting people know that he has political connections.”

Mayersohn called in the political troops to the rally, including Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik (D-Flushing), state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing).

“He has done many things in turning our crime statistics down,” Mayersohn said in an interview Friday afternoon. “If the area is safer, it's because of him.”

She said PSA 9 experienced a 13 percent reduction in crime in 2002 and an additional 6 percent drop in 2003 under Howard's leadership.

He is always accessible to the Electchester Housing Cooperative, Calliff said.

“There were many times that he wouldn't even be on the job and we would reach out to him,” she said. “He's always helped lead us in the right direction.”

Elected officials turned out with Mayersohn on Howard's behalf.

“I am happy to stand with members of the Flushing community in support of Capt. Howard,” Grodenchik said in a statement. “He is one of the finest police officers that it has ever been my pleasure to work with.”

Stavisky said she met Howard 20 years ago when he was still an undercover housing police officer.

“A television set had been stolen from a senior center which my husband and I founded and the perpetrators tried to sell it to Police Officer Howard,” she said. “Capt. Howard has always been responsible and sensitive to the community, and it is a testimonial to his accomplishments that we support him today as he has done for us in the past.”

Calliff said although she can speculate, she cannot put her finger on why Howard is facing this much criticism.

“He's a great man,” she said. “I just don't understand what these allegations are all about.”

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

More from Around New York