OpinionColumnistsLeonard Levitt By LEN LEVITT @LenLevitt Questions about patrol car in front of a chief's house An NYPD patrol car is shown in this file photo taken on March 18, 2012. Photo Credit: Getty Images Updated April 21, 2014 5:07 PM Print Share fbShare Tweet Email Staten Island Deputy Police Chief Michael Marino went on vacation to Florida last week with his fiancée, Sgt. Amanda Palmenta, and her 7-year-old daughter. For at least four days, a patrol car sat outside their home while they were gone. An officer sat inside the patrol car Wednesday afternoon, and when asked why she was there, she said, "I don't know. They told me to come here." Even NYPD chiefs are not supposed to have their homes guarded by patrol cars when they are away, unless a reason is documented. Was there a threat to Marino? To Palmenta? To their house, which they purchased in 2013 for $982,000 in one of Staten Island's more pricey neighborhoods? Maybe the threat was of vandalism to Marino's two cars -- one his own, the second a department SUV -- that sat in the driveway? If so, no one is saying. Neither Marino nor his boss -- the Staten Island borough commander, Assistant Chief Ed Delatorre -- returned phone calls about the use of department personnel police vehicles to seemingly conduct 24-hour security for a boss. Retired Chief of Department Joe Esposito, who knows Marino, said, "I guarantee Mike Marino did not ask for a car to be posted there. Probably he asked that a car go by his house. I am sure his instructions were misinterpreted." But when it comes to Marino, little is that simple. He's a charismatic and controversial guy, the rare NYPD officer unafraid to buck the hierarchy, and with a personal life so intertwined with the department it can best be described as "complicated." While commander of the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn, he tangled with the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association over what the union claimed was his overbearing demand for more stops and arrests. "He is a cop to the marrow of his bones," Esposito said. "He loves police work. He's a great leader. He makes the cops work. The hardworking cops love and respect him. The lazy cops fear him." In 2007, as executive officer of Patrol Borough Brooklyn North, Marino got caught up in a steroid scandal. His name was among those of 27 officers who turned up in the records of a Bay Ridge pharmacy that had sold $8 million in steroids and human growth hormones. Marino admitted buying a topical steroid cream from the pharmacy, but said it was for low testosterone. He volunteered to take a drug test and passed. An investigation determined he also had been issued a prescription for human growth hormones. But he refused a plea deal with the department and went to trial. He was found guilty of an unspecified charge, docked 30 days' pay and given a year's probation. "He took a heavy hit in the steroids case," Esposito said. "I understand he had a legitimate health condition. That's why he fought it so vigorously. He convinced me, but he didn't get promoted in the last administration." On Halloween night 2009, he led a police team that rousted Police Officer Adrian Schoolcraft from his Queens apartment after he had left his Brooklyn precinct without authorization before his tour ended. Marino ordered Schoolcraft to be taken against his will to Jamaica Hospital, where he was confined to its psychiatric ward for five days. Schoolcraft has claimed that Marino's actions were retaliation because the officer accused his commanders in the 81st Precinct of deliberately downgrading crimes from felonies to misdemeanors to make the area the precinct covers appear safer than it was. An internal investigation confirmed Schoolcraft's crime-downgrading claims. He is suing the department for $50 million. In late 2010, Marino was transferred to Staten Island as the executive officer, or No. 2 in charge, in the borough. Meanwhile, he began seeing Palmenta, who had worked under him when he commanded the 75th Precinct. Palmenta was also transferred to Staten Island, where she works in a robbery unit. Here is where it gets complicated. In 2011, Palmenta divorced her husband, Manny DaSilva, an NYPD sergeant. He got custody of their daughter in 2012 so that he could care for her, he said. DaSilva's name also surfaced in the steroid scandal. He said Marino, whom he met through his wife, advised him to take a drug test to show he was not on steroids, which he passed, although the department placed him on modified assignment. While working as a security guard at a SoHo Apple store in 2012, he was arrested in connection with the theft of $76,000 in merchandise and subsequently pleaded guilty to petit larceny. Today, Marino is in the middle of a child custody battle between DaSilva and Palmenta. DaSilva said that after Palmenta began seeing Marino, she repeatedly violated the custody agreement, preventing him from seeing their daughter. In the past five months, DaSilva has been arrested in connection with his daughter's case, which led to an order of protection against him. "I have been unable to see my daughter since December," he said. "I wasn't allowed to go to her Communion because Amanda said her fiancé would be there and it would make our daughter uncomfortable if I attended. The last time I saw my daughter was on Christmas Eve. She called me Michael. It almost broke my heart." By LEN LEVITT @LenLevitt Len Levitt is the author of “NYPD Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Country's Greatest Police Force." Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Comments We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.