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NYPD Commissioner Angers Dominicans with Proposal to Post Officers There


January 1997

In early October, New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir met with the President of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez Reyna, to discuss a joint narcotics task force (Associated Press, "NYPD Mulls Dominican 'Substation'," Star Ledger, October 14, 1996, p. 2).

The task force would attempt to extradite to the U.S. drug offenders who fled from New York's Dominican neighborhoods in Washington Heights to the Dominican Republic, 1800 miles south. Initially, the proposal was for New York police officers to establish a base in the Dominican Republic, where they would work with Dominican law enforcement officials to return fugitives to the U.S. The Dominican Government has refused to extradite Dominicans and has rarely prosecuted them for crimes committed in the U.S.

Another goal of Safir's proposal -- to curb the import of drugs from the Dominican Republic into New York -- involved an exchange of officers. This proposal, which Fernandez initially supported, would send Dominican officers to New York in exchange for sending New York officers to the Dominican Republic to track Dominican fugitives and share technical advice with Dominican law enforcement officials. "Right now murderers are allowed to go free," Mr. Safir declared after a meeting with Dominican officials (Clifford Krauss, "In Drug War, Safir Travels to Haven," New York Times, November 5, 1996, p. B3).

The proposed exchange sparked outrage in the Dominican Republic and in New York's sizable Dominican community. Dominican political and religious leaders argued that "Safir's plan impinged on the country's sovereignty," according to the Chicago Tribune. Feeling pressure from nationalist opposition, Fernandez withdrew his support and ridiculed the proposal. "Never have we tried, in any direct or indirect way, to even suggest the establishment of a headquarters or agency or delegation from the New York Police Department in the Dominican Republic," Fernandez said (Anne E. Kornblut, "No cops from NYPD, sez Dominican prez," New York Daily News, December 1, 1996, p. 2; Frank Bruni, "Insistent Safir Still Has Plans for Officers in Caribbean," New York Times, December 2, 1996, p. B3; Joseph A. Kirby, "N.Y. plan to post police officers abroad angers Dominicans," Chicago Tribune, December 25, 1996, s. 1, p. 16).