Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New York Mayor vs. NY

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New York Mayor vs. NY

Article excerpt

New York, it would seem, is in a spiral of disrespect.

On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that it was disrespectful that members of the New York Police Department turned their backs when he spoke at the funerals of slain police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.

New York police, however, might counter that, before those officers were killed, it was disrespectful for the mayor to largely take protesters' side in the aftermath of a grand jury decision not to indict the cop who killed Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, with a chokehold. Perhaps even more disrespectful in their eyes, the mayor admitted that he told his biracial son to "take special care" in encounters with the police.

At a time when police reform is at the top of Mayor de Blasio's agenda, his relations with police could hardly be worse.

Then again, in New York, there's nothing terribly new about that.

"Can you point out to me one mayor who has not been battling with police unions in the last 50 years? Name one," said New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, who served in the same role under Rudolph Giuliani in the 1990s, at a Dec. 23 news conference. "The experience of this mayor of some cops not liking him, it's nothing new."

Tensions between New York mayors and cops go back decades. But in some ways, the current crisis is subtly different in ways that could make it more solvable, experts say. Today, New York police are angry not so much at de Blasio's policies as his comments and attitudes. In short, officers don't think the mayor trusts or supports them.

De Blasio has three years left in his term to make amends, and he has at least begun to change his tone.

"What you are seeing now is not unordinary in the world of policing, it is the result of heavy unionization," says John DeCarlo, former police chief in Branford, Conn., and associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. "But there is a move toward reconciliation. The mayor has already taken steps, given the police force a lot of kudos."

The strongest voice against de Blasio has been a union leader, Patrick Lynch, president of the New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, who said that there was "blood on the hands" of mayor's office after the killings of Officers Ramos and Liu. Since then, de Blasio has altered his tone, letting loose a string of supportive tweets thanking the police for their hard work and sacrifice.

But the acrimony is longstanding, both for the de Blasio administration and administrations past.

For example, a petition circulated among some New York City police officers several weeks ago, requesting that de Blasio refrain from attending their funerals should they be killed in the line of duty. It was actually the second of its kind. In 1997, New York police distributed a similar document meant for then-Mayor Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir. …

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