New York City police officers used the occasion of a funeral service for one of their own over the weekend to demonstrate to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the rest of the world that any attempt to show sympathy for the concerns of outraged New Yorkers protesting the treatment of Blacks by the NYPD automatically makes you an enemy of the city police force.
Thousands of officers lined up outside the Christ Tabernacle Church in Glendale turned their backs as de Blasio spoke at the funeral of Rafael Ramos, one of two New York City officers killed last week by a gunman who vowed revenge for the police chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island in July. Ramos, 40, was an usher at the church, near the home where he lived with his wife, Maritza, and their two teenage sons.
It is ironic that after weeks of everyone from former Mayor Rudy Giuliani to the head of the police union loudly decrying the protests demonstrating against police brutality, even claiming they created a climate where a man could kill two officers in cold blood, the police officers also used their first amendment rights to protest what they felt was poor treatment by the mayor. De Blasio, whose son is half Black, has stated that he worries about how his teenaged son will be treated on the street in encounters with the police.
“I couldn’t help but immediately think what it would mean to me to lose Dante,” he said. “Things would never be the same again.”
Through a shaky voice, he went on to say that the Garner family will “never be whole again” and it’s all due to a “painful contradiction” that Black families have to face every day.
De Blasio explained that every night he has to worry about his own son’s safety despite the fact that he is a “law abiding young man.” He said that every time Dante leaves home he and his wife, Chirlane McCray, who is a Black woman, have to hope Dante is safe “not just from painful realities of crime and violence” but hope that he, and other Black men across the nation, will also be safe from “the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors. That’s the reality.”
The mayor tried to relate to the protests as the father of a Black male, but the police officers have deemed that he has chosen sides in what they clearly see as a war between themselves and the citizens they are paid to protect—which illustrated exactly how things have gotten to their current predicament.
“A lot of people feel he has taken a side, and that side is not ours,” an unidentified New York police officer told Reuters outside the funeral.
Patrick Lynch, president of the city’s largest police union, said just after the deaths of Liu and Ramos that there was “blood on the hands” of the mayor.
“We have to understand the betrayal that they feel,” Lynch, in an interview outside the church with CNN, said of the officers’ protest. “The feeling is real, but today is about mourning. Tomorrow is about debate.”
On CBS’ “Face The Nation,” police commissioner William Bratton said it was “inappropriate” for the officers to turn their backs on the mayor.
“I certainly don’t support that action yesterday,” he said.
Vice President Joe Biden and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, among other speakers, tried to transform the narrative surrounding the NYPD by speaking of the force’s diversity.
“I believe that this great police force of this incredibly diverse city can and will show the nation how to bridge any divide,” Biden said.
Cuomo said NYPD officers come from more than 50 different nations and include speakers of 64 languages.
But African-Americans, for generations faced with the phenomenon of the overtly nasty Black cop, know better than most that the skin color of the officer isn’t relevant if his attitude is still imbued with disrespect and disregard for Black people.
The governor also took time to attack the protesters.
“The NYPD protected the right of free speech even though they themselves were the targets of false and abusive tirades by some,” he said.
Bratton went on the Sunday morning talk shows to address the rift between the mayor and the police department, which he said probably isn’t going away anytime soon.
“I think it’s probably a rift that is going to go on for a while longer,” Bratton said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
“The issues go far beyond the race relations in this city. They involve labor contracts. They involve a lot of history in this city that’s really different from some of what’s going on in the country as a whole,” he continued. “There’s a whole series of local issues that are impacting on our ability to move forward.”
Bratton said police “will be making that effort” to try to repair their relationship with the mayor.
“We have to make that effort,” he said. “We have no other recourse.”
It is perhaps noteworthy to point out that tensions were much greater between the police unions and Mayor de Blasio, married to a Black woman, and former Mayor David Dinkins, who is Black, than they were under Mayor Giuliani and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who are white and very pro-police.
Bratton said there’s “no denying” that some Black people don’t trust the police.
He said the solution is to have an open conversation between both sides, no matter how “painful” it may be. He vowed to be a part of it.
“Their perception is the reality that we have to deal with,” he said. “It has to be part of the dialogue.”