moons ago, as my Mohawk Indians friends say, there
was a young high school student in Buffalo, NY known
as Tommy Constantine. Tommy had quite the reputation.
As one of his classmates put it, "Tommy was a
pistol." Another told The Buffalo News that in
those days, he would "ace the test in the hardest
subject and then pull the fire alarm on his way out
of the building." Some ascribed this behavior
to youthful high spirits. I know him better. This
"prank" broke the concentration of other
students and gave him a competitive advantage.
things never change.
have been highly amused in recent days over the sudden
eruption of comment or, as you say in the British
Isles, the row, on the extravagant remuneration of
my old friend Tom Constantine for his services to
Her Britannic Majesty's Government as Oversight Commissioner
for the implementation of the Patten reforms. Tom
is, to be sure, a notorious workaholic, so I'm certain
Her Majesty got Her money's worth, if work was all
She wanted. After reading the Northern Ireland Office
response to Mr. Nigel Dodds' concern over the expense
being run up that Mr. Constantine is being paid a
fee that compares favourably with what a consultant
of his calibre might expect, I feel compelled
to put this in perspective, if I may be so bold.
1990, there was an eruption of communal violence in
the Mohawk Indian community on its reservation in
northern New York. Similar occurrences happened simultaneously
in First Nations communities all across in Canada.
Wouldn't you know, a military officer named de Chastelain
rose to prominence in the resolution of the most serious
of these, which took about six weeks and actually
made money for the government in that during the time
the Indians isolated themselves, they were unable
to continue in certain mercantile activities involving
tobacco and petroleum that they were used to conducting
without bothering to collect and remit governmentally
in New York, Mr. Constantine, as superintendent of
the New York State Police, inserted an occupying force
of hundreds of state troopers into the Mohawk community
- a village of some 5,000 souls. This occupation went
on for nearly two years at a multi-million dollar
expense to the rate-payers of our state. I was on
the scene and I watched with amazement as a seedy,
run-down hotel in seedy, run-down Massena, NY, just
outside the reservation, was thoroughly and lavishly
renovated during that period as a result of the windfall
its owner received from billeting an army of troopers,
all of whom were being paid overtime wages. Meanwhile,
the rate-payers of New York, during a time of extremely
straitened economic circumstances, footed the entire
bottom line, as we say here in New York, is that anytime
Mr. Constantine is in charge, problems cost more and
take far more time than is necessary to resolve. So,
when he collects his huge paycheck from Her Majesty's
Government and ominously intones that the Patten reform
process will take a decade or more and cost many millions
of pounds, my eyebrows shoot skyward with skepticism.
In addition, two years of unnecessarily occupying
Akwesasne (as the Mohawk territory is known) is hardly
an appropriate resume for someone who is supposed
to be turning the former RUC into a community-oriented,
problem-solving police force.
Constantine has recently been picked up as the security
partner for a major engineering firm here in
Albany. The firm designs and builds commercial buildings
and Mr. Constantine is supposed to advise it on the
security of same. Doubtless he just tells the firm
to fill up its facilities with hundreds of state troopers
and hire two-thousand-pound-a-day ex-cops as security
consultants. This new capacity of his further surprises
me because while he was superintendent of the New
York State Police, one of the most important buildings
for which he was responsible - the Governors
residence itself - was burglarized, not once, but
twice, the second time after he had overseen the installation
of a small fortune in high-tech security systems.
in connection with his service to this firm, he was
recently quoted as finding it having been unimagineable
prior to September 11, 2001 that engineering firms
such as the one now employing him would have to plan
their building projects with the threat of terrorism
in mind. What an astonishing statement given the fact
that he had twice had offices blown up under his own
tuches (a Yiddish word we use frequently in NY) when
Arab terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in 1993
and domestic terrorists later did the same to the
Murrah federal office building in Oklahoma City, where
the Drug Enforcement Administration he commanded had
United States and Great Britain are currently obsessed
with terrorism. Civil liberties are being infringed
and trillions being spent on the "expertise"
of ex-cops like Mr. Constantine. I should think that
a community like Ulster, where you are all sick and
tired of this crap, would call the bluff of a character
like "Tommy the Pistol."
Constantine is a very good policeman, but he is not
the man to be written a blank check by any means.
I like him a great deal. In fact, he's the closest
thing to a knight in shining armor I've ever encountered.
There is no reason, however, that that armor must
needs be made of solid gold. I therefore commend Mr.
Nigel Dodds for displaying Mr. Constantine in his
new clothes. It's about time.
author of this letter is an attorney and was Executive
Assistant to the New York State Director of Criminal
Justice during the administration of Governor Mario
Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews +
Letters + Archives