By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City police union leader on Tuesday castigated Mayor Bill de Blasio and his bid to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention, saying the city was losing ground in the fight against crime since he took office in January.
Ed Mullins, the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, leveled the criticism of the mayor in an open letter published in the New York Times. It was the latest example of heated language directed at the mayor from the city's two largest police unions in the wake of an unarmed man's death during an arrest last month.
Mullins' letter urged the convention's organizers to look elsewhere, saying de Blasio, the city's most liberal mayor in a generation, was making a scapegoat of the New York Police Department and allowing crime to rise.
"Mayor de Blasio has not earned the right to play host to such an important event," Mullins wrote in his letter, which appeared as a full-page advertisement in Tuesday's Times. "The great officers of the NYPD are not pawns to be moved around a political chessboard by the Mayor."
He said the mayor was taking the city back to the high-crime days of the 1980s, a notion City Hall has rejected, pointing to a decrease in homicides and robberies.
De Blasio took office after promising to mend frayed relations between the police and New Yorkers, especially the black and Latino citizens who, according to a federal judge, had been disproportionately targeted for stops and frisks.
The death of Eric Garner, whose final moments begging for breath as a police officer grips him around the neck were recorded on bystanders' smartphones, is the first major test of the mayor's promise.
Police say Garner was resisting arrest for peddling untaxed cigarettes on the sidewalk.
De Blasio has tried to strike a balance between assuaging New Yorkers who were outraged by the videos of Garner without alienating his police officers.
The city's two main police unions, looking for the mayor's full-throated support, say he is failing in the latter effort, arguing that the mayor is not doing enough to tell New Yorkers that policing is a dangerous job that is only made harder when people resist arrest.
The mayor did not immediately respond to the criticisms, although his press office said he may address them at an unrelated press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
The Democratic National Committee, which sent a team earlier this month to examine the Brooklyn venue proposed by the mayor for the 2016 convention, declined to comment.
(Editing by Frank McGurty and Andrea Ricci)