New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, perhaps floating a 2020 trial balloon by tiptoeing into the national media spotlight, struggled Tuesday to downplay his past clashes with law enforcement.
During an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” de Blasio was asked about the spats with police that have dotted his tenure.
“I felt sorry for Mayor de Blasio when every cop I interviewed cast him as the enemy.”
“I had a conflict with the union at that point, first and foremost, which over time we found some ability to move beyond,” de Blasio said. “That’s not surprising.”
“I always know the difference between a conflict with a union and a conflict with the rank-and-file,” de Blasio claimed.
The mayor further attempted to downplay his record of tension with law enforcement, insisting that “any police commissioner in the country, any mayor, they have probably had some conflicts with the unions in their police force.”
The comments paper over a substantial past of often highly publicized conflicts extending far beyond union leadership.
Just a few months into de Blasio’s term, New York City roiled in the aftermath of the high-profile death of Eric Garner — a 43-year-old black man who became one of the faces of the Black Lives Matter movement. Garner, who had been arrested more than 30 times, died on July 17, 2014, after losing consciousness while an NYPD officer had him in a stranglehold during an attempted arrest. The officer in question was not indicted.
In the aftermath of Garner’s death, the NYPD launched an internal review of its policing procedures and investigated “police brutality” allegations. Before the investigation was over, de Blasio “seemed to insinuate that his police force was rife with racists,” former NYPD Officer Paul Bacon wrote in an article published Sept. 1, 2015, in The Observer called, “This Is What Cops Really Think About Bill de Blasio.”
“When the mayor essentially told the entire world that we are all racists, it made our jobs much, much harder,” an NYPD officer identified simply as “Officer Broderick” told Bacon. “People are refusing to obey lawful orders because they don’t think we have the authority to stop them anymore. They tell us, ‘I don’t have to roll down my window because the mayor said so.'”
Another officer, “Officer Casados,” told Bacon that “people cuss me out like never before, and criminals are getting bolder and bolder. They think the mayor is on their side.”
Bacon noted, “I felt sorry for Mayor de Blasio when every cop I interviewed cast him as the enemy.”
“But when I asked the officers, ‘Has the mayor done anything to support police?’ the answer was uniformly, ‘No,'” Bacon admitted.
After a grand jury declined to bring charges against the officer involved in Garner’s death, anti-cop protests roiled New York City for several nights. De Blasio not only did little to discourage the protesters, but the mayor made a point of using the “Black Lives Matter” slogan and told members of the media he had warned his biracial son to be careful when interacting with police officers.
Some protesters held signs “calling for the death of cops; others equated New York’s Finest to the Ku Klux Klan,” Bacon noted.
Shortly after the anti-cop protests rocked the city, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley, a black Muslim, shot and killed two NYPD officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.
When de Blasio delivered a eulogy at one of the slain cop’s funeral, a block of rank-and-file NYPD officers in attendance turned their backs on him in unison. De Blasio called the officers “disrespectful.” But Patrick Lynch, the Police Benevolent Association president, publicly blamed the mayor for aiding in the creation of the anti-cop atmosphere that led to the two officers’ deaths.
“The mayor needs to be humble. He needs to realize that his philosophical view of coming into the role of mayor of New York, [his] personal view is not the view of all eight million people,” Sergeants Benevolent Association president Edward Mullins told radio host Joe Piscopo on AM 970 The Answer in January 2015. “He needs to tone that in a different way, channel it in a different way with some type of an apology.”
As the rift widened between the mayor, the police unions, and the rank-and-file officers, many called on de Blasio to take the first step towards amending his relationship with law enforcement by issuing an apology. The mayor refused, telling reporters in January 2015 that “I respect the question, but the construct is about the past and I just don’t want to do that. I think this is about moving forward.”
Fast forward to Tuesday and de Blasio, up for re-election in 2017 and possibly harboring national ambitions, remains deeply at odds with the law-enforcement community and yet takes credit for a reduction in crime many officers say he had nothing to do with.
During his appearance Tuesday on “Morning Joe,” de Blasio touted the city’s ever-decreasing murder rate.
Just three days earlier, former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik told The Daily Caller “the men and women of the NYPD have much to be proud of, with the most dramatic crime reductions in the U.S. over the past 22 years, but that was far from mayor de Blasio’s leadership as he wants people to believe.”
De Blasio cited the declining murder rate over the last several years in the city as evidence that his relationship with the law-enforcement community is in good shape.
“But here’s what’s really happening now. There really is a coming together,” de Blasio insisted. “And what’s amazing is, we’ve made sure our officers know they have the tools that they need. We added 2,000 more cops on patrol.”
“By the way, if you want to achieve a better relationship between police and community — I would say any jurisdiction in the country — add enough police so the police can actually work deeply in communities and build relationships and not just running from crisis to crisis,” de Blasio added.
The mayor also praised NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill for leading the department’s “community policing” initiative that has “focused on building a better relationship with communities.” The initiative includes “implicit bias training” so the officers can “overcome the biases of the past,” de Blasio insisted, emphasizing that “a lot of those people who are helping the police are immigrants.”
The nation’s top law-enforcement official has said the initiatives introduced under de Blasio have weakened the police force and harmfully affected cops’ ability to do their jobs.
“New York City continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city’s ‘soft on crime’ stance,” read a Friday letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions panning the city’s refusal to cooperate with federal immigration officers.
De Blasio and O’Neill used the criticism to garner media attention for standing up to the Trump administration.
“This absurd statement needs to be renounced immediately,” de Blasio said. “It is unacceptable, it is outrageous, and it is absurd.”
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O’Neill added, “To willingly state we’re soft on crime, it’s incredibly insulting,” the New York Post noted.
New York law enforcement officials were quick to slam the grandstanding by de Blasio and call for the reversal of sanctuary policies in the city.
“Attorney General Sessions is absolutely correct to hold New York and other jurisdictions accountable for their so-called ‘sanctuary policies,'” Mullins, the SBA chief, said in a Friday statement. “I just hope the mayor will finally come to his senses and stop ignoring and harboring violent criminals before it’s too late.”
“For a long time, Mayor De Blasio and the NYPD’s leadership have failed to heed the warning that refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials … would have consequences beyond making our City less safe,” Mullins added. “They have placed officers in an impossible Catch-22: between obeying the directives and orders of their superiors and elected officials on one hand, and the obligation they feel to follow the direction of the law and to cooperate with federal immigration officials on the other.”
Mullins told John Catsimatidis Sunday on “The Cat’s Roundtable” AM 970 radio show, “Make no mistake about it, the members of law enforcement in the NYPD want to cooperate with ICE. I speak to cops every day — they want to cooperate with ICE, they want to work with fellow law enforcement agents.”
One retired NYPD officer told The Daily Caller Saturday, “Once again the cops are the pawns in the game called politics. How about they address the revolving-door justice system instead!”
A current NYPD officer told The Caller that “De Blasio is soft on crime… We the police are not, but it seems every week his administration comes out with something that helps the bad guys and not the good ones.”
Another current officer added, “This thug-loving, cop-hating mayor has got to go—along with the thug-loving, cop-hating governor. I’d love to see Jeff Sessions indict both of them for obstruction of justice, since they won’t enforce immigration laws.”
De Blasio has repeatedly used his position as leader of the largest city in America to score political points as an adversary to President Trump.
“The results of an election don’t change who we are. A single office-holder doesn’t change who we are; a law that gets passed in Washington doesn’t change who we are,” de Blasio said a few days after the November election, Politico reported. “We are 8.5 million strong, and we ain’t changing. We are always New York. Somos siempre Nueva York.”
Many in the left-wing blogosphere have cheered de Blasio’s crusade to oppose Trump. One Daily Kos writer under the name of SemDem who wrote an article called, “NYC Mayor Teaches Democrats How To Fight Trump.”
“I think we found our 2020 candidate. This is what it means to be a progressive,” the writer said.