Former NYPD Commissioner Howard Safir — who oversaw a historic drop in crime in the late 1990s and left an indelible mark on the nation’s largest police force — died Monday in Annapolis, Maryland. He was 81.
Safir, a Bronx native with a decades-long career in law enforcement, was named the city’s top cop by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 1996 and served until 2000 – launching the NYPD’s “Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect” program, a motto that which still applies to this day and is displayed on the side of every police vehicle.
“Commissioner Safir was a public servant for more than three decades and dedicated his professional life to improving the lives of others,” said current NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban.
Safir was “a dedicated, dynamic leader whose pioneering work in arresting fugitives, combating illegal drugs and training officers is still emulated today,” Caban said.
“This noblest of endeavors has 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 on February 24, 1942, the son of George Safir and Rose (Weiner) Safir, the officer began his law enforcement career in 1965 as a federal narcotics agent in New York and later worked undercover for the then newly formed Drug Enforcement Administration before holding leadership positions with the U.S -Marshals took over.
Before serving as New York City’s 39th Police Commissioner, he led the FDNY from 1994 to 1996. He was described here as reserved but committed.
“Commissioner Safir embodies why each of us is here; to serve,” NYPD Ret. Chief Joseph Fox told the Post on Tuesday.
“What I admired most about him was that he always found the right balance between public safety and people. He knew that the two were inextricably linked.”
Even after leaving the NYPD, Safir continued to be a vocal advocate on the issue of crime in the city and across the country, appearing regularly as a commentator and columnist on Fox News.
In the last years of his life, Safir, who founded his own intelligence and security company, advocated for stricter gun control.
Last year, he floated the idea that those who buy firearms in the city should be required to conduct annual security checks so authorities can ensure the guns are not lost or sold to unknown people.
When he wasn’t busy fighting crime, Safir enjoyed his days sailing, golfing and taking photos.
He is survived by his widow Carol Safir, children Jennifer and Adam, and grandchildren Audrey, Hudson, Cara and Alexander.
Safir is also survived by his sister Elaine Siegel and brother Sheldon Safir.
Services will be September 20 at the John M. Taylor Funeral Home in Annapolis.
Donations in his honor may be made to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.