De Blasio vs. The NYPD

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Dec 23, 2014 11:00 AM
De Blasio vs. The NYPD

Yesterday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference, where he called for a cessation of protests until Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were buried for their service to the city. Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley murdered both officers last Saturday afternoon in Bed-Stuy, a neighborhood in Brooklyn. De Blasio also took shots at the media for “dividing” the city for only reporting about the bad folks, whom he says does not represent the majority of the protestors.

De Blasio has faced mounting criticism for the perception that he doesn’t stand by the NYPD–and for remarks he made to his biracial son–Dante– about being more careful around police officers. The Chicago Tribune  wrote that the unions accuse de Blasio for “helping incite a loathing of police through public remarks noting that he understood some of the protesters' grievances.”

So, how bad has relationship become between de Blasio and the police department? Well, officers turned their backs on him when he entered the Brooklyn hospital where Officers Liu and Ramos were taken after the ambush. The city’s largest police union circulated a letter signed by officers asking the mayor to stay away from their funerals should they be killed on duty.

Yet, going after the media is the first sign that a politician knows he–or she–is cornered. On one end, de Blasio, for a lack of a better term, has lost the police. On the other, protestors were aghast that de Blasio called for a moratorium on protests in light of these horrific murders. One group, the Answer Coalition, said such a suggestion was “outrageous” and an effort to “chill” free speech, according to the Tribune. They are not going to cancel a pre-planned Tuesday night march this week.

Though one thing does look inevitable: de Blasio’s relationship with the police will completely breakdown (one could argue it already has) and will create a political problem that his staff seems incapable of ameliorating. Case in point: His press secretary, Phil Walzak, commented on harsh criticism his boss was receiving, including the intense comments made by the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association President, Patrick Lynch, by saying, “It’s unfortunate that in a time of great tragedy, some would resort to irresponsible, overheated rhetoric that angers and divides people.”

Right, so the folks saying, “they [Officers Liu and Ramos] deserved it” are not to part of the problem? This is an appalling lack of self-awareness.

Mike Lupica, who is more of a sports columnist, noted that Walzak came off as “a tone-deaf political hack,” noting that such anti-cop rhetoric has been festering in the streets of New York for weeks:

This is what happens when this mayor acts more interested — or deferential — about what a self-promoter like Al Sharpton thinks about policing than those actually doing it in New York City.

he police officers of this city weren’t always happy with Rudy Giuliani when Giuliani was mayor, starting with how he thought they should be paid. But they knew where they stood with Giuliani the way they knew where they stood with Mike Bloomberg. But then neither one of them ever gave you the idea, when they were running for office, that they were running against cops the way de Blasio did.

The mayor has to understand that if he does not step up and step forward now and admit mistakes he has made with the NYPD because of his obsession with playing to his base, then the image of those cops turning their backs on him will be a part of his permanent record.

But the mayor’s chief flack thinking anybody actually cared what he thought about the kind of anger and mourning we saw at Woodhull Hospital makes you wonder if these people at City Hall have the capacity to admit any kind of mistake, or if they have the capacity to change.

Those cops turned their backs on de Blasio Saturday night because he did it to them first.

Indeed, this war between 1 Police Plaza and City Hall seems to have had its beginnings in the 2013 mayoral election. Staffers of de Blasio were worried that the NYPD officers assigned to his protection detail were eavesdropping on their conversations, sometimes ducking out into the street away from plainclothes officers to have conversations, according to Politico. Yet, there are other events, besides meeting privately with the Eric Garner protestors and remarks he made to his son, that have left the police shaking their heads:

He [de Blasio] took the unusual step — unimaginable under the mayoralties of Rudy Giuliani or Michael Bloomberg — of inviting Sharpton to City Hall, seating him opposite Bratton at a table where the activist proceeded to strongly denounce the police. (“If Dante wasn’t your son, he’d be a candidate for a chokehold. And we got to deal with that reality,” Sharpton said to de Blasio as Bratton looked on.) Last week, de Blasio privately met with organizers of the Garner protests, another moment that antagonized police.

But the action that turned off cops most of all was his defense of City Hall staffer Rachel Noerdlinger, a longtime Sharpton aide whose son and boyfriend posted anti-police messages on their Facebook accounts. The boyfriend allegedly tried to drive a cop off the road in Edgewater, New Jersey, and later pleaded to a lesser offense, according to the New York Post. The mayor stood behind Noerdlinger for weeks until her son was arrested for trespassing – and even then he didn’t fire her. When she left her job, City Hall officials said she was on leave.

“His words and his deeds don’t match,” said veteran cop reporter Leonard Levitt, who runs NYPD Confidential, a website fed by tips from inside the department and widely read by the rank-and-file. “You had Noerdlinger’s son calling cops ‘pigs’ and de Blasio doesn’t think that’s inappropriate? What message are you sending? De Blasio says it’s just the union guys who are angry. It’s not. It’s everybody. I’ve been covering this for 25 years and I have never seen anything like it… The mayor doesn’t have a clue.”

The Politico piece also drew parallels between de Blasio and Obama; both men have low approvals among white voters. And both men seem unable to fully fill the seats of their offices. They can’t act the part. De Blasio reportedly shows up late to ceremonial events that Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, the writers of the piece, wrote are incredibly important to the office. They cite former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who understood these aspects of the mayoralty as the city recovered from the 9/11 attacks.

So, while de Blasio has time to reset relations with the NYPD, though it’s dubious if that will be successful, he’s proven–to no one's surprise–that he’s no Bloomberg.

Yet, as for the notion about the rhetoric, yes, it can get nasty, inexcusable, and make a tense situation worse, but let’s not rush to blame speech for this heinous crime, no matter how outrageous.

I’ll end with this question from a Hot Air post by Jazz Shaw: should de Blasio just resign?

Last note: The daughter of Eric Garner visited the memorial for Officers Liu and Ramos and offered her condolences.