Tensions mount between NYC mayor, police union

AP News
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Posted: Dec 16, 2014 4:10 PM
Tensions mount between NYC mayor, police union

NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered the latest volley Tuesday in his ongoing battle with the city's police union, dismissing their ability to speak for rank-and-file officers in the wake of their call to ban him from future New York Police Department funerals.

The relationship between de Blasio and the police unions has grown steadily more poisonous after a grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. De Blaiso's turn Tuesday on the nationally broadcast "The View" was dominated by discussion of Garner and the Patrolman Benevolent Association's petition to prevent him from making a mayor's traditional appearance at police officer funerals.

"It's divisive. It's inappropriate," de Blasio said. "When an officer dies, it is a moment when the whole community has to come together in support of our police, in support of that officer."

He added: "A few union leaders do not necessarily speak for the people who protect us every day."

The funeral petition, put forth last week by PBA head Patrick Lynch, was the most highly charged moment yet in a relationship that has been rocky since before de Blasio even took office in January.

Lynch said police officers felt "they were thrown under the bus" by de Blasio after the Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict a white officer in the death of Garner, who was black. De Blasio, who has strong support in the city's communities of color, spoke about teaching his own teenage son, who is half-black, to be careful around police.

"It is very clear to me that the mayor has no idea of just how angry New York City police officers are at him for his lack of support and for laying decades of society's problems undeservedly at their feet," Lynch said.

The petition has drawn some criticism from those who often side with the police. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, penned a column for the New York Daily News on Sunday in which he asked both the police and City Hall to "tune down the volume and speak calmly."

And Police Commissioner William Bratton, who has somehow managed to remain in the good graces of both de Blasio and the unions, chided the union leaders late Monday that the funeral ban was "a step too far." He suggested that the fight, at its core, was about the union's ongoing contract negotiations and that the petition was "a deeply personal attack to make."

But some other police union leaders have sided with Lynch.

Sergeant Benevolent Association President Edward Mullins said the petition was reflective of "the anger that's being felt in the rank-and-file toward de Blasio." Mullins also called de Blasio "a nincompoop" for saying that a pair of police officers were "allegedly assaulted" by some protesters. The officers were hospitalized.

The animosity between the unions and the mayor, which has helped define de Blasio's first year in office, began in 2013 when the unions denounced the fiery rhetoric in which he criticized the police tactic known as stop and frisk for discriminating against minorities. They have also criticized his close ties to the Rev. Al Sharpton, a longtime police critic, and have been suspected of leaking unflattering stories about de Blasio, including about his habitual tardiness, to the press.