By LOUIS FLORES
Rachel Noerdlinger, the top aide to New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray, announced Monday that she was taking a leave of absence from City Hall.
Ms. Noerdlinger's announcement marks a turning-point in an on-going public relations nightmare wherein the city's tabloids and police unions criticised Noerdlinger for various controversies, including having outstanding parking tickets, for failing to disclose a troubled relationship on a background check, and, most recently, over the arrest of her teenaged son, Khari, for trespassing.
"Today, I am announcing that I have decided to take a leave of absence to spend more time with my son," Ms. Noerdlinger said, in a statement issued to the press, adding that, "These past two months have been extremely difficult for both of us, and his arrest on Friday heightens the need for me to devote my full attention to Khari, my number one priority."
Police reform activist believe that the de Blasio administration's half-hearted attempts to reform the New York Police Department may be a leading reason for the premature end to Ms. Noerdlinger's career at City Hall.
Ms. Noerdlinger faced increasing scrutiny by political factions, who were outraged that someone, with close ties to the Rev. Al Sharpton, would have ready access to the First Lady's ear. Prior to Ms. Noerdlinger's appointment as Ms. McCray's chief of staff, Ms. Noerdlinger had risen to prominence for having once served as Executive Vice President of Communications for the the National Action Network, the group that the Rev. Sharpton uses as his power base. Amongst the most vocal of Ms. Noerdlinger's detractors included police unions, who objected to the possibility that the Rev. Sharpton or his representatives were exerting undue influence on the de Blasio administration.
In her ten months in office, Ms. Noerdlinger was put through the meat grinder after it was reported that she had failed to disclose that she was in a live-in relationship with an ex-convict, an oversight that police unions seized upon in a fear-mongering, smear campaign to discredit Ms. Noerdlinger. Hassaun McFarlane, Ms. Noerdlinger's lover, has been through the court system and has served time for his crimes. According to one accusation related to Mr. McFarlane reported about by DNAinfo New York, Ms. Noerdlinger and possibly her son were passengers in a car being driven by Mr. McFarlane when he was stopped in 2011 by police in an incident where the police officer reported that the car reeked of marijuana.
Other criticisms about Ms. Noerdlinger have included reports that she failed to disclose that she lived in New Jersey, that she had unpaid parking tickets, and that she had been sued for having defaulted on credit card debts. However, City Hall rallied around Ms. Noerdlinger in the face of mounting criticisms, and, for a while, it appeared that Ms. Noerdlinger was going to survive these scurrilous reports.
But it was not until her son, Khari, age 17, was arrested last Friday that her detractors were enraged -- and emboldened -- anew. Defenders of the corrupt status quo at the NYPD rushed to use the incident of the young Mr. Noerdlinger's arrest to further portray the family as lawless.
“They are a criminal family,” Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, told The New York Post, adding, “It’s time for her to step down.”
The young Mr. Noerdlinger was reportedly with a group of friends, who stepped inside an apartment building to escape the cold Friday night. When police responded and confronted the group of individuals, police found marijuana on two individuals in the group, according to a report in The New York Daily News. Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, told The New York Daily News that the NYPD overreacted by making the arrests, noting how the police department is guided by a controversial policy that “treats young people of color as suspects and disregards their constitutional rights when they aren’t doing anything wrong."
Ironically, the young Mr. Noerdlinger and his friends were arrested five days before a new de Blasio policy to issue summonses in lieu of making arrests for the possession of small amounts of marijuana was set to take effect. That policy, announced last week, was set to begin on Nov. 19. The young Mr. Noerdlinger was arrested on Nov. 14.
The new summons policy for marijuana, seen as too slow and not going far enough, was a flip-flop from an administration resisting reform on marijuana arrests, and the new policy was criticised by police reform activists for the fact the new summonses would not track the race of people given the summonses for possession of small amounts of marijuana. One of the primary reasons that police reform activists have been pressing for an end of the controversial NYPD policing tactic, know as Broken Windows, is that police reform activists have had the data to show that the NYPD deliberately arrest people from minority and low-income communities.
Even as NYPD officers commit homicides in their furtherance of the Broken Windows policing tactic, including the chokehold homicide of Eric Garner, Mayor de Blasio has steadfastly defended the Broken Windows approach to policing. After NYPD Commissioner William Bratton purged the police department's top two Latino and Black officials, the First Lady reiterated her full support for the divisive police commissioner and his policies. The de Blasio administration's defense of Broken Windows policing is in stark contrast to how the de Blasio campaign exploited the issue of police reform in order to deceive voters to support his mayoral candidacy last year.
Police reform activists have been protesting the de Blasio administration even before the new mayor was sworn into office, beginning with the then mayor-elect's neoconservative announcement that he was going to appoint Mr. Bratton as police commissioner. Since then, some police reform activists have been calling for an end to the Broken Windows policing tactic, whilst others have been calling for the resignation of Police Commissioner Bratton, whilst still yet others have been calling for a new commission to investigate NYPD corruption, including its corrupt Internal Affairs Bureau.
How ironic, then, that the end of Ms. Noerdlinger's political career at City Hall came about not by the relentless attacks by her critics but by City Hall's lack of commitment to end the racial bias in police stops that leads to the arrest of so many Black and Latino youths, including Ms. Noerdlinger's very own son.