- Critics slam Mayor Bill de Blasio for rhetoric, blaming it for inciting violence against police
- Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani called the “intense, anti-police hatred”
- Two NYPD officer were gunned down this weekend while on patrol in Brooklyn
(CNN) — The point-blank shootings of two police officers in Brooklyn this weekend have shined a harsh spotlight on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who’s facing renewed criticism of his handling of police relations in the city.
The killings have brought already-strained tensions between the mayor and police to a breaking point, and raised broader questions over whether de Blasio’s brand of unabashed liberalism can govern in a city with a long history of tough-on-crime leadership.
Those tensions were on striking display this weekend when police officers turned their backs on de Blasio as he walked to hold a press conference in the hospital where the bodies of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu lay.
At that press conference, de Blasio spoke out in forceful terms against the shootings.
“We depend on our police to protect us against forces of criminality and evil,” he said. “They are a foundation of our society, and when they are attacked, it is an attack on the very concept of decency.”
But critics have accused him of fueling “intense, anti-police hatred” — as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said this weekend on CNN — with his actions and comments.
Patrick Lynch, the head of NYPD’s police union, also lashed out at de Blasio, saying that there’s blood on the hands of those who have supported the protesters and it “starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.”
Officials say the shooting of Ramos and Liu while they sat in their patrol car this weekend appears to have been an act of retaliation for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two unarmed black men killed at the hands of white police officers.
Those incidents, and the decision by two grand juries not to indict either officer, have sparked protests nationwide and a fierce debate over the role and tactics used by police officers in their communities.
De Blasio has taken a central role in that debate and has expressed support for the protests that have spread across the city in recent weeks, even as they’ve become increasingly hostile toward police. During a recent march, protesters were heard shouting for “dead cops,” and demonstrators assaulted a pair of officers during a protest earlier this month.
But tensions between the police and the city’s mayors are nothing new, and indeed haven’t yet reached the breaking point they saw under former Mayor David Dinkins, who oversaw — and was unable to control — an all-out riot by police in 1992.
Then, much of the criticism from police was the same: “He never supports us on anything,” an officer quoted by the New York Times said at the time.
While today’s tensions between De Blasio and the city’s police force haven’t yet hit that breaking point, the shooting this weekend has raised fresh questions about the current mayor’s handling of the police force.
De Blasio insisted during his weekend press conference that now is not “a time for politics or political analysis.”
But his critics, largely Republicans, have argued de Blasio’s emphasis on reining in aggressive police tactics and support for protesters contributed to the atmosphere that resulted in this weekend’s shooting.
“It is the right time to talk about [de Blasio’s] policies. His policies of allowing protests to get out of control, and of his not emphasizing enough the importance of fatherhood, the importance of education, the importance of an alternative to a public education system that is failing the black children,” Giuliani, a Republican, said on Fox News this weekend.
The controversy has also highlighted the difficulty facing the Democratic party as it grapples with the tension between the party’s base, frustrated with the violence shown by police against minorities and demanding reforms, and what police officers both in New York City and nationwide feel has been a lack of support from the nation’s leaders.
Critics of de Blasio also pointed fingers this weekend at President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder for offering sympathy for the protesters.
“Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of #ericholder & #mayordeblasio,” tweeted former New York Gov. George Pataki, a Republican.
Giuliani placed the blame on “propaganda” from the president.
“We’ve had four months of propaganda starting with the President, that everybody should hate the police. I don’t care how you want to describe it, that’s what those protests are all about,” Giuliani said.
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