de Blasio needs to apologise to NYPD for the bait-and-switch blame game

As the first year closes on the de Blasio administration and as a new year dawns, many New Yorkers are rightly upset with the New York Police Department for various reasons :

  • Disappointment with the NYPD.  The rank and file police force disagree with how Mayor Bill de Blasio is accommodating protesters.  This is a fallacy that rank and file police officers, and their enablers identified below, perpetuate to exert pressure on him in an effort to push back against Mayor de Blasio's Mickey Mouse police reforms.  Thus far, Mayor de Blasio keeps invoking retraining as a solution to structural problems, such as a lack of accountability for corruption, misconduct, and crimes committed by police officers. This very low bar of reform, if we want to call it that, somehow is still too much for police officers to accept, and their visible displays of disrespect of the mayor, such as turning their back on him or hiring an advertising airplane to pull a banner over the Hudson River, acts that are protected by the First Amendment, are nevertheless more examples of pettiness that the public sees through as gimmicks, that don't solve any of the long-term problems at the NYPD.  In actuality, by disrespecting Mayor de Blasio, the NYPD are allowing the mayor to play the victim card.  The resulting confusion about who is responsible, in charge, and accountable for the NYPD frustrates the public.
  • Disappointment with police unions.  The police unions oppose reforms, and they even have a history of using their political muscle to thwart corruption investigations.  If the police unions don't want to address the lack of accountability at the NYPD, then citizens and police reform activists are going to force a solution on the NYPD that the police unions will not like.  To borrow famous words once expressed by Eleanor Roosevelt, this is no ordinary time.  We are in a post-Bloomberg, post-Occupy New York City that is demanding of long, outstanding reforms.  New York City is a union town, and the police unions must participate in their own accountability and reform, else they risk having to accept changes in which they will have no input.  Weakening the police unions, however unpopular they may be at this time, will be a form of defeat for organised labour, and this loss will be felt by citizens and activists, who care about union organising.  
  • Disappointment with police union leaders.  Inflammatory rhetoric by Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, for example, that Mayor de Blasio has "blood on his hands" over the unprovoked shooting deaths of two NYPD officers, will only further alienate public support for police unions.  When the public sees a personal war between Mayor de Blasio and P.B.A. President Lynch instead of a need for underlying reform at the NYPD, the public loses focus on still yet undelivered reforms that Mayor de Blasio has failed to produce.  In this dynamic, the public will always side with Mayor de Blasio, because his teams and teams of lobbyists are working their media contacts to play the mayor's victim card.  Rather than make this a war between two men, police union leaders must address the issues, not personalities, for the sake of the public.  Further, by using opposition to police reform as a wedge issue over labour contract negotiations, police union leaders are embracing sadistic tactics, because, so long as a complete overhaul of the NYPD is delayed, the public suffers from a lack of accountability at the NYPD.
  • Disappointment with the NYPD Commissioner.  In the all-out public relations war between the NYPD and City Hall, Commissioner William Bratton is defending Mayor de Blasio, thereby throwing rank and file police officers under the bus.  Since Commissioner Bratton has not resorted to the flame-throwing rhetoric of P.B.A. President Lynch, yet, Commissioner Bratton is giving Mayor de Blasio credibility at the expense of the rank and file police officers, over which he directs.  By supporting City Hall, Commissioner Bratton confuses the public into thinking that the NYPD are a police force that is in mutiny rather than a police force that is suffering from failed leadership.  Commissioner Bratton is failing the public by failing to lead his own police department.  

Notwithstanding these disappointments, there are steps that City Hall, the NYPD, and others can take to lead the public out of this morass. 

de Blasio must apologise to the NYPD ; NYPD must apologise to New Yorkers

This is profoundly personal for me. I was at the White House the other day, and the President of the United States turned to me, and he met Dante a few months ago, and he said that Dante reminded him of what he looked like as a teenager. He said, « I know you see this crisis through a very personal lens. » I said to him I did, because Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that he may face. Good young man, law-abiding young man who never would think to do anything wrong and, yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we’ve had to literally train him as families have all over this city for decades — in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers, who are there to protect him. And that painful sense of contradiction that our young people see first : that our police are here to protect us, and we honor that, and, at the same, there’s a history that we have to overcome, because, for so many of our young people, there’s a fear, and for so many of our families, there’s a fear. So, I’ve had to worry over the years, Charlene’s had to worry. Was Dante safe each night ? There’s so many families in this city, who feel that each and every night. « Is my child safe ? » And not just from some of the painful realities of crime and violence in some of our neighborhoods, but are they safe from the very people they want to have faith in, as their protectors? That’s the reality.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio

On the day when a Staten Island grand jury announced that they had voted not to file criminal charges against NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo over the chokehold homicide of Eric Garner, Mayor de Blasio made remarks that have upset the NYPD, fueling P.B.A. President Lynch's invective.  

P.B.A. President Lynch wrongfully seized on these and similar sentiments that Mayor de Blasio later expressed in a nationally televised interview as examples of the mayor throwing the police force "under the bus."  Both Mayor de Blasio and P.B.A. President Lynch are being disingenuous.

Had Mr. de Blasio expressed these sentiments a year ago, when Michael Bloomberg was mayor, it would be understandable that the de Blasio family would only be in a position to complain about the race-based policing tactics used by the NYPD, because they would not have the power or authority to do something about it.   However, Mayor de Blasio can't seriously complain about having to train his son today about being wary of the very police force that Mayor de Blasio governs, funds, and can direct.  Indeed, the race-based policing tactics used by the NYPD are given to them by the neoconservative and discriminatory "Broken Windows" policing theory that Mayor de Blasio wrongly defends.  By blaming the NYPD for treating the poor and minorities harshly, Mayor de Blasio seeks to ease political pressure exerted on him by grassroots police reform activists to follow through with his mostly rhetorical promises to make fundamental reforms at the NYPD.  For blaming the NYPD for following the race-based policing that Mayor de Blasio directs the NYPD to prosecute, Mayor de Blasio must publicly apologise to the NYPD.

Besides Mayor de Blasio owing the NYPD an apology, the NYPD must apologise to New Yorkers, especially to low-income communities and to communities of colour, for voluntarily agreeing to prosecute the department's "Broken Windows" policy, even though it deliberately targets the poor and minorities.  The NYPD cannot act innocent of its own role in instituting de jure discrimination in New York City.  The department must acknowledge its role and publicly apologize for the pain, damages, and loss of life that can be attributed to the enforcement of "Broken Windows" tactics.

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch demands an apology from Mayor Bill de Blasio.  Mayor de Blasio does owe the NYPD an apology, but not for the reason that P.B.A. President Lynch demands.  Moreover, the NYPD owe New Yorkers an apology, too.  Source :  NYC PBA/YouTube Screen Shot

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch demands an apology from Mayor Bill de Blasio.  Mayor de Blasio does owe the NYPD an apology, but not for the reason that P.B.A. President Lynch demands.  Moreover, the NYPD owe New Yorkers an apology, too.  Source :  NYC PBA/YouTube Screen Shot

Bratton must resign

Renewing a demand made before, Commissioner Bratton must resign.  So long as Commissioner Bratton willfully stands in the way of reform and continues to demonstrate failed leadership over the NYPD, there will be no healing in the relationship between police and community.  Mayor de Blasio knows this, but he wrongly wants to avoid the political embarrassment of a Bratton resignation, and he places importance on avoiding the political setback over the need for reform and healing at the NYPD. 

End "Broken Windows" policing

Mayor de Blasio must end the "Broken Windows" policing tactics -- the same ones about which he has said he warns his own son.  The massive protests against the lack of NYPD accountability are calling for such an end.  It is unconstitutional to discriminate against classes of people, as the NYPD's "Broken Windows" policing certainly does.  As it is, the work slow-down ordered by police unions may yet prove that New York can remain a safe large city without the need to menace the poor and minorities over very low-level infractions.  If the mayor wants to live up to his charade of being a progressive mayor, he will end "Broken Windows" policing to heal the rift between police and community.

Appoint a new commission to investigate and prosecute NYPD crimes

Renewing another demand made before, authorities must appoint a new commission to both investigate and prosecute NYPD crimes.  There is precedent for appointing a commission to independently investigate a lack of accountability at the NYPD :  Mayor John Lindsay appointed the Knapp Commission, and Mayor David Dinkins appointed the Mollen Commission.  Both panels were empowered to investigate corruption at the NYPD.  However, both panels were deliberately denied the power to independently prosecute their own cases of corruption against NYPD officers.  The lack of prosecutorial powers perpetuated a problem that exists to this day :  the District Attorneys' Offices across the five boroughs are fraught with conflicts of interest in prosecuting NYPD officers for criminal acts.  The lack of an independent legal process to prosecute NYPD crimes is at the very core of a lack of accountability at NYPD.  Institutional failures resulting from the corrupt Civilian Complaint Review Board and botched prosecutorial efforts to hold NYPD accountable can be addressed by appointing a new commission to both investigate and prosecute NYPD crimes.  Any one of Mayor de Blasio ; Commissioner Bratton ; Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance ; Federal Bureau of Investigation agent George Venizelos, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office ; or U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara have legal authorities to one extent or another to appoint such a commission.  Since Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Bratton, and D.A. Vance lack the political will, the ultimate responsibility for appointing such a commission falls on Assistant Director Venizelos and/or U.S. Attorney Bharara.  Both men should not delay taking action.  They bear witness to a divided city, and they must honour their duty to implement long-needed NYPD reforms that are lasting by their swift appointment of such a commission.

  -- Progress Queens