New York Daily News

July 12, 2003

Probe battle of badges

By MICHELLE McPHEE
Daily News City Hall Bureau Chief

NYPD Chief of Patrol Nicholas Estavillo was tapped yesterday to probe cops' role in a battle of the badges in which firefighters charged police arrogance nearly caused an FDNY diver to drown.

The diver's mask was knocked off by a heavy rope thrown from a police harbor unit boat while the Bravest and Finest were looking for a drowning victim in Newtown Creek on Wednesday night.

Firefighters charge that cops ignored their plea to stay away from the area where Rescue 4 Firefighter Bill Murphy was searching.

On Thursday, Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta accused harbor cops of creating a "dangerous situation." Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly promised an investigation and directed Estavillo to head the probe.

Meanwhile, the Patrolman's Benevolent Association accused firefighters yesterday of blowing the incident out of proportion.

"This was an incident in which Fire Department personnel overreacted after the fact," said PBA Vice President John Puglissi. "At no time during the entire rescue and recovery operation was a firefighter's life endangered or interfered with by the actions of any member of the NYPD."

Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy, who had charged that Murphy came within inches of death, was unavailable for comment last night.