By LOUIS FLORES
In reports published tonight by The New York Times and The New York Daily News, it was hinted or announced, respectively, that a police reform group had separated from its public relations firm, which has close ties to the de Blasio administration. Whilst both articles failed to identify the public relations firm, BerlinRosen, both both articles did identify the police reform group, Communities United for Police Reform, or CPR. This move spells political trouble for Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City), who has tried to deescalate calls for aggressive police reform as he keeps repeating empty rhetoric about being a "progressive."*
CPR was the large umbrella group, which led the fight against stop-and-frisk in the final years of the Bloomberg administration. CPR was founded and funded with controversial grants from George Soros, an early supporter of the de Blasio campaign for mayor. Not only was CPR being funded by a major de Blasio backer, but CPR also employed an operative, Dan Levitan, from Mayor de Blasio's go-to public relations firm, BerlinRosen, as its spokesman. Mr. Levitan was also the spokesman of Mayor de Blasio's own lobbying group, the Campaign for One New York.
Some grassroots police reform activists have believed that BerlinRosen may have been behind the coördinated public relations campaign that strong-armed Latino elected officials to support the controversial appointment of William Bratton as police commissioner. A request for confirmation of such arrangement was sent earlier today by Progress Queens via e-mail to Mr. Levitan, but Mr. Levitan never answered the request.
In the spring, police reform activists held a workshop in the Left Forum about how elected officials, like Mayor de Blasio, intentionally pressured institutional advocacy groups, like CPR, to deescalate calls for aggressive police reform. BerlinRosen's mixed motivations (its loyalty to Mayor de Blasio versus its public relations role for CPR) were the subject of some of the discussions in respect of the workshop. Now that BerlinRosen is no longer in a position to control CPR's public messaging, this means that CPR may be getting ready to make greater demands of Mayor de Blasio, demands which BerlinRosen may not have been comfortable making.
The press reports tonight indicated that CPR is gearing up to oppose the NYPD's controversial "Broken Windows" theory of policing that unfairly targets people of color and low-income communities. Looks like CPR is ready to break free of the "veal pen," a term appropriated by Jane Hamsher, the founding publisher of Fire Dog Lake, to describe the phenomenon of institutional activists or groups being subjugated by elected officials.
(*) Updated to clarify that Communities United for Police Reform did not unilaterally fire BerlinRosen.