The ongoing soap opera that is the Mayor of New York’s relationship with his police department took another turn yesterday when Mayor de Blasio met with all five unions that represent the city’s officers, attempting to repair a rift that has become dramatic fodder for the nation’s news media.
After the two-hour meeting, Patrick Lynch, the most bellicose of the mayor’s critics, attempted to display the concern of the rank-and-file as centered around their safety—as if Mayor de Blasio had really endangered the safety of city’s police with the comments he made about his son, Dante.
“Our main concern is the safety of our police officers of every rank on the streets in the city,” Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said after the meeting as he read a joint statement from all five unions. “There were a number of discussions especially about the safety issues that our members face. There was no resolve. And our thought here today is that actions speak louder than words and time will tell.”
The police hostility centers around comments made by the mayor that sound perfectly reasonable to African-Americans watching this theater from the sidelines. Mayor de Blasio, growing emotional, said after the grand jury decided not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo in Eric Garner’s death that he “couldn’t help but immediately think what it would mean to me to lose Dante. Things would never be the same again.”
De Blasio explained that every night he has to worry about his teen son’s safety despite the fact that he is a “law-abiding young man.”
He said that each 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.”
“Black lives matter is a phrase that should never have to be said,” he continued. “It should be self-evident…but our history requires us to say it.”
Police officers, apparently unaccustomed to hearing white politicians express love and empathy for African-Americans, have even unreasonably accused the mayor of inciting Ismaaiyl Brinsley to kill officer Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. They believe the mayor has joined forces with their enemies, which is how they view those protesting against racist police brutality.
It should also be noted that the unions are seeking a new city contract, which always brings its own form of hostility—even with mayors the unions like, such as Giuliani and Bloomberg.
In a dramatic protest of their own, more than a thousand uniformed officers turned their backs on the mayor when he spoke at Ramos’ funeral over the weekend. The gesture was criticized by many, including their boos, Police Commissioner William Bratton.
After yesterday’s meeting, administration officials said it was the beginning of a healing process, but union leaders weren’t quite so optimistic.
The Associated Press spoke to a meeting attendee who said Lynch repeated much of his recent public remarks accusing de Blasio of aligning himself with protesters who have created an anti-NYPD atmosphere that led to the shooting. The attendee said the mayor stressed that he has not been anti-police in his remarks, and told the unions they could check the transcripts of his speeches and interviews. He also said the two sides had common ground and should table their public disagreements.
But the person said there was no apology from either side. The meeting, which was initiated by Commissioner Bratton, was held at the new police academy in Queens.
“The mayor and police commissioner remain committed to keeping crime in New York City at historically low levels,” Phil Walzak, a spokesman for the mayor, said in the statement, “supporting the brave men and women in uniform who protect us every day, and finding ways to bring police and the community closer together.”
The head of the NYPD Captains Endowment Association has asked his members to abstain from turning their backs on the mayor at Liu’s funeral on Sunday.