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Former NYPD Commissioner Howard Safir – who oversaw a historic decrease in crime in the late 1990s and left an indelible mark on the nation’s largest police force – died in Annapolis, Maryland, on Monday. He was 81.
Safir, a Bronx, New York, native with a decadeslong career in law enforcement, was named the city’s top cop by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 1996, and served until 2000 – establishing the NYPD’s Courtesy, Professionalism & Respect program, a motto that is still painted on the side of every police vehicle to this day.
“A public servant for more than three decades, Commissioner Safir dedicated his professional life to improving the lives of others,” said current NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban.
New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir holds up a toy water pistol, right, and an MP-5 automatic weapon, left, during a news conference in New York, Aug. 24, 1998. (AP Photo)
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Safir was “a devoted, dynamic leader whose pioneering work in fugitive apprehension, illicit drug enforcement, and officer training is still emulated today,” Caban said.
“This noblest of pursuits guided him throughout – and on behalf of the entire New York City Police Department and all the people we serve, I extend our sincere condolences and deepest sympathies to his family and loved ones,” he added.
Born Feb. 24, 1942 to George Safir and Rose (Weiner) Safir, the public servant embarked on his law enforcement career in 1965 as a federal narcotics agent in New York, and later did a stint working undercover for the then-newly established Drug Enforcement Administration, before taking on leadership positions with the U.S. Marshals.
New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir speaks to the media with his wife Carol by his side during a news conference at police headquarters in New York on May 9, 2000. (AP Photo)
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Prior to serving as New York City’s 39th police commissioner, he led the FDNY from 1994 to 1996, here was described as reserved, but dedicated.
“Commissioner Safir embodies why each of us are here; to serve,” NYPD Ret. Chief Joseph Fox, told The Post Tuesday.
“What I admired most about him was he always found that right balance between public safety, and people. He knew both were inseparable.”
Even after leaving the NYPD, Safir remained vocal on the subject of crime in the city and around the nation, appearing as a regular commentator and columnist on Fox News.
In the final years of his life, Safir, who founded his own intelligence and security firm, has advocated for stricter policing on guns.
Last year, he floated the idea that those who purchase firearms in the city should be required to conduct yearly safety check-ins, so authorities can make sure the weapons are not lost or sold off to unknown parties.
New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir smiles as he leaves City Hall, in New York, Aug. 8, 2000. Safir, the former New York City police commissioner whose four-year tenure in the late 1990s included sharp declines in the city’s murder tolls but also some of its most notorious episodes of police killings of Black men, died on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, at a hospital in Annapolis, Maryland, from a sepsis infection, his son told The New York Times. He was 81. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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When he was not busy trying to tackle crime, Safir enjoyed his days sailing, golfing and taking photographs.
He is survived by his widow Carol Safir, kids Jennifer and Adam and grandchildren Audrey, Hudson, Cara and Alexander.
Safir is also survived by his sister Elaine Siegel and brother Sheldon Safir.