This was a day, another terrible day in the shadow of what happened to two of the city’s police officers on Saturday afternoon, when Bill de Blasio somehow managed to stand behind the NYPD, and its commissioner, as he spoke tragedy and loss and mourning and duty.
The mayor said so many good and right things on Monday, starting with his speech at a Police Athletic League luncheon, and did absolutely nothing to make things right between him and his own police force.
The candidate who ran behind his tale of two cities, and the straw man of racial divide, still seems to exist in a New York other than the one kept safe by his own cops. There is something in here about a self-fulfilling prophecy, because now de Blasio has created his own divide.
The mayor said the time for “debate” will come later, once we have buried Officer Rafael Ramos and Officer Wenjian Liu, heroes of their city. Fair enough. But you wondered what debate the mayor was referring to on this day.
Because there does not seem to be much debate about the fact that so many of those who serve and protect this city feel that even though no one forced de Blasio to choose up sides after a Staten Island grand jury chose not to indict a New York City cop after the death of Eric Garner, de Blasio did that anyway. And seemed more concerned about demonstrators than about his own cops.
All this time later, after weeks of demonstrations and so much anti-cop sentiment to come out of them, you wonder just whom the mayor of the city thinks the people were demonstrating against — grand jury members?
Now the mayor acts as if this is just a normal part of doing business in the big city, as if this kind of distrust between the NYPD and the city’s mayor happens all the time.
“There are 35,000 people, almost, in uniform in the NYPD — I think they are, like every other part of our society, a group of people with a lot of different viewpoints, a lot of different backgrounds,” de Blasio said. “I’ve said repeatedly — many, many journalists have said, do you think police officers think — and I always stop them and say, there are 35,000 individuals. They all have their own views.”
And Bill Bratton, providing as much cover for de Blasio as he ever has, followed that up by saying this: “The idea that, you know, some cops don’t like this mayor, some cops don’t like their boss, some cops don’t — that’s life. I have 35,000. They’re great cops.”
They act as if there are as many opinions about what has been happening in this city since Eric Garner as there are cops. Only there are not. The mayor knows it. So does the police commissioner. They are both too obsessed about what people think not to know. The narrative about de Blasio and the NYPD did not change on this day. It was only postponed.
I was walking up from Broadway Monday, before de Blasio’s remarks, and ended up talking to a retired cop about Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, because it is all anybody in New York has been talking about for the past two days, because these were shots fired not just into that squad car in Bedford-Stuyvesant, but into the heart and soul of the city.
“There’s only one guy who can make this right,” the cop said. “That guy is the mayor. And he’s going to have to do it with more than just talk.”
A couple of hours later Bill de Blasio spoke movingly about the families of the two dead policemen, and also spoke of his dream for a “fairer” city, as he has before. But too many of his cops think they’re the ones who haven’t been treated fairly in the time they have been in the barrel since the grand jury in Staten Island.
“The experience of this mayor, in terms of some cops not liking him, there’s nothing new,” Bill Bratton said. “It’s part of life, part of politics.”
Maybe Bratton actually believes that, or maybe this was just the top cop of the city thinking this is how a top, stand-up guy is supposed to act. Maybe Bratton can even remember another scene like the one at Woodhull Hospital on Saturday night, when all those cops turned their backs on the mayor. But he is too savvy a political animal to ignore the politics of those demonstrations over the last month, and the clear, loud anti-cop sentiment behind them.
Again: So many of the right things were said on this day. None fixed what has felt like a broken city recently; what is clearly a broken relationship between de Blasio and the police officers he both mourned on Monday, and celebrated, in his speech.
Maybe he can fix things, with something more than speeches next year, because the city needs him to. It is what a real mayor would do.
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