Ex-Police Official Backs Car Into Pregnant Woman, Drives Away

Howard Safir, a New York City police commissioner during the Rudolph William Louis “Rudy” Giuliani administration, backed his sport utility vehicle into a pregnant woman on the Upper East Side on Friday afternoon and then drove away, the police said.

The woman, Joanne M. Valarezo, 30, of the Bronx, was not knocked down and was not seriously injured in the accident, which occurred at 2:25 p.m. in front of 1418 Third Avenue, the authorities said. They said she was able to jot down the license plate of Mr. Safir’s black 2009 Cadillac Escalade.

Ms. Valarezo was taken by ambulance to New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where she was treated for a bruised shoulder and then released, the police said. Ms. Valarezo’s unborn child, nearing its seventh month, was apparently not affected, she later said.

Detectives from the 19th Precinct tracked Mr. Safir down, questioned him and “determined there is no criminality,” said a law enforcement official. The detectives determined that Mr. Safir was unaware that he had struck the woman before driving away, another law enforcement official said.

But the woman’s account raised questions about that.

The police said that Mr. Safir’s Escalade was double-parked, and hemmed in by two vehicles, and that the accident occurred as he was maneuvering out of that spot. It was not immediately clear how long it took detectives to reach Mr. Safir, who did not immediately return calls for comment left at his home in Annapolis, Md., and at an apartment he keeps in New York.

Mr. Safir, 67, was traveling with his wife when the accident occurred, the police said.

Ms. Valarezo said in a telephone interview on Friday night that she was on a break from her job at a doctor’s office and had gone to buy socks for her unborn child when she was hit.

“I was crossing the street in between cars and he hit reverse, and his female passenger screamed, ‘Are you not looking, there’s someone there,’ and as he was reversing, he hit me on my shoulder and my knee and the side of my stomach,” she said.

Then he started to drive away, she said.

“I confronted him and I said, ‘I’m pregnant. Did you not see?’ And he just disregarded that and kept going,” she said. She said if the passenger had not screamed, causing her to turn, she would been hurt more seriously.

Ms. Valarezo said her unborn baby, a boy, “is fine now, thank God. Everything looks good with my child.”

Ms. Valarezo said she did not recognize the driver.

Told he was a former police commissioner, she said: “Are you serious? Oh, my God, I did not know that. Wow. O.K., that would explain why all these detectives came to see me. I had detectives come see me in the hospital, and nobody told me who he was.”

She added: “I’m shaking now. So he has been caught?”

Told he was found but not charged, Ms. Valarezo said, “Really.”

Then she laughed.

She asked for his name, and when given it, said, “You would think that a man who abides by the law should follow it.”

Mr. Safir’s conduct when he was commissioner and his wife was in a minor car accident, in 1999, prompted questions. He sent two detectives to the home of a woman involved in the crash, who had provided a false name before leaving the scene.

In a later interview, Mr. Safir defended that response.

“When we found out that this woman lied, I wanted to find out who she was, to see if she was a threat to me or my family,” he said.

On Friday evening, Al McNeill, an aide at SafirRosetti, the security firm Mr. Safir now works at, said that he was unaware of the crash and that Mr. Safir was out of state.

Mr. Safir and Joseph R. Rosetti, a former director of security for IBM, founded the firm in 2001.

Mr. Safir’s tenure as police commissioner was occasionally controversial.

He was tapped in 1996 by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani for the position after spending two years leading the Fire Department. The crime rate dropped during his tenure, and in 1998 killings dropped to their lowest level since 1962. Mr. Safir bristled at critics who contended that he was simply coasting on the innovations of his predecessor, William J. Bratton.

Once a heralded federal marshal, Mr. Safir cut a grim-faced figure behind Mr. Giuliani, reluctant to engage with the press. Yet that did not help him avoid scrutiny.

Two cases — the torture of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant, in a police station bathroom and the death of Amadou Diallo amid a spray of 41 police bullets — brought to the fore concerns about police brutality and the force’s relationship with the city’s black and Hispanic residents.

Mr. Safir, who resigned in August 2000 to work for a private security firm, drew criticism earlier that year. The city’s Conflicts of Interest Board rebuked him for accepting a trip to the Academy Awards in Los Angeles as a guest of the president of Revlon, which hired off-duty officers as part of a city program.

William K. Rashbaum and Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.

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