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May 5, 2015 7:40am

Tension Between NYPD and Mayor Eases in Wake of Young Officer's Death

By Jeff Mays, Murray Weiss and Ben Fractenberg

ONE POLICE PLAZA — When detectives Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were executed in December as they sat in their squad car on a Brooklyn street, Mayor Bill de Blasio was told by union leaders he had "blood" on his hands.

Weeks earlier, when a grand jury decided not to indict a white officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, de Blasio told a crowd on Staten Island that he'd had to train his bi-racial teenage son Dante how to interact with police for his own safety.

Pat Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, and other union leaders immediately said the mayor had created a hostile environment for police.

"They were murdered because they wore blue," Roy Richter of the Captains Endowment Association said after the deadly Dec. 20, 2014 ambush attack on Wenjian and Ramos by gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28.

Police turned their backs on the mayor at the fallen officers' funerals as relations between de Blasio and the NYPD's rank-and-file hit its low.

But after Saturday's shooting of 25-year-old officer Brian Moore, who died Monday from his injuries, the opposition to the mayor appeared to be softening.

"We are gratified by Mayor de Blasio's strong support for his police officers in these troubled times and we hope his remarks signal the beginning of a new era of unanimity between our officers, who serve and protect, and the mayor," Lynch said in a statement.

Police representatives now say de Blasio has shown more support for the NYPD in everything from plans to get them new protective vests and his opposition to a City Council bill to make chokeholds illegal.

Last week, de Blasio scolded the press for asking about complaints from protesters, who had said that police were considerably rougher with them during protests over the death of 25-year-old Baltimore man Freddie Gray than during the Garner protests.

"When the police give you an instruction, you follow the instruction," said the mayor. "It's not debatable."

Lynch took note Monday of the shift in de Blasio's tone, and a police union source close to Lynch said the renewed support comes in recognition of the change in the mayor's rhetoric.

"There is a whole laundry list — a great many things have changed since the mayor's rhetoric immediately following the Garner case," said the union source.

Lynch wanted to "recognize that effort by the mayor," the source added.

If police had wanted to criticize de Blasio Monday, there appeared to have been ample fodder. De Blasio was not at the hospital when the young officer's death was announced, and he issued comments after other elected leaders.

It wasn't until 3:45 p.m., almost four hours after reports that Moore had succumbed to the gunshot wound to his head, that de Blasio issued a statement.

Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James and even President Barack Obama, who was visiting The Bronx, had spoken out on Moore's death before then.

The first media reports about the officer's death came in shortly after noon. De Blasio started his previously scheduled remarks at the TechCrunch Disrupt technology conference shortly afterward.

After the speech, the mayor sat for an interview on the stage of the conference that lasted for approximately 10 minutes.

It's unclear where the mayor went or what he did after the speech because his office did not respond to repeated questions about his whereabouts during that time.

De Blasio also did not attend a 3 p.m. press conference that Bratton held at One Police Plaza. The mayor's updated schedule revealed he would be at the second 6 p.m. press conference at police headquarters.

"Today was a day for members of the NYPD to be together at that hospital. It was not, in my view, a place for elected officials," the mayor said in a somber tone when asked why he was not at the hospital when Moore's death was announced.

The mayor said he had been at the hospital on Saturday and had been at "many such situations."

He mentioned that he had spoken with Moore's family at the hospital Saturday and said he was committed to standing by police "in good times and bad."

"This is about our commitment to our police officers,"the mayor said.

Bratton also took responsibility for de Blasio not being at the hospital.

"It was on my advice that the mayor did not come to the hospital because of the uncertainty of the circumstances at the hospital during the morning," the police commissioner said.

"Rather than delay to have the mayor come in from Downtown it was my suggestion that we would in fact deal with the officer's departure from the hospital, which we did with great honor."

Police union sources said they were pleased that de Blasio had been at the hospital soon after the shooting.

The mayor continued his show of support for the NYPD on Monday. After his statement on Moore's death was released, the avatar on de Blasio's Twitter page went from a picture of the mayor to an NYPD badge with a black band wrapped around it, a symbol of mourning after the death of an officer in the line of duty.

The avatars for the New York City Mayor's Office and the Mayor's Fund also changed to the same picture.

De Blasio also ordered all city flags to be flown at half-staff until Moore's funeral.

"It doesn't mean for a second that the PBA will not turn around on him if that changes," the union officials said of de Blasio's support.