Recalling an ugly moment in NYPD history

A racially charged case that still haunts.

Thirty-two years after Newsday unearthed a secret police document about the fatal shooting of NYPD Officer Philip Cardillo inside a Harlem mosque in 1972, the New York Post has found it.

But in a racially charged case that still haunts the NYPD, the Post story ignored the document’s central finding: that it was not then-Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Ward who released 12 suspects in Cardillo’s death, as many believed for decades, but former Chief of Detectives Al Seedman. But the acknowledgment of the “blue book’s” existence — part of the 1980 grand jury report about Cardillo’s death — adds another level of intrigue to this case.

Cardillo was shot with his gun after he and other officers responded to a phony call on April 14, 1972, that an officer needed assistance at the Nation of Islam’s Mosque No. 7.

While police called for backup, a crowd outside rioted. To reduce the tension, the investigation was moved to the 24th Precinct on West 100th Street. The dozen suspects were released without being identified. No one was ever convicted of Cardillo’s killing. The NYPD’s bitterness was directed at Ward, who went to the mosque in his capacity of deputy commissioner of community affairs.

As late as 2006, former Det. Randy Jurgensen labeled Ward in his book “Circle of Six” as one of six people responsible for covering up Cardillo’s death. He never mentioned Seedman.

Yet Seedman’s role had been cited by Newsday in November 1983, when then-Mayor Ed Koch prepared to appoint Ward the city’s first African-American police commissioner. In the police’s blue book secret document — the department’s internal investigation of the shooting — Seedman was said to have “assumed the responsibility of the investigation,” and decided “[to] move the investigation to the 24th precinct on the promise of Mosque officials to produce the detainees there at.”

Seedman retired after the shooting and admitted his role in 1983. Asked why he had not come forward and allowed Ward to twist in the wind for 11 years, he said, “What good would it have done?”

The Post’s story focuses on who made the phony call, suggesting the FBI.

A similar call was made in 1994 as Rudy Giuliani became mayor and Bill Bratton commissioner. Again, police rushed to the mosque. That time, no cop was killed.

Len Levitt