Capital News 7:29 p.m. | Jan. 7, 2015


De Blasio declines to apologize, pledges to ‘move forward’

By Sally Goldenberg

After more than a month of tension between City Hall and segments of the New York Police Department, Mayor Bill de Blasio sounded cautiously optimistic on Wednesday that the relationship will improve.

Addressing reporters after an unrelated press conference on Wednesday afternoon, de Blasio spoke at length about focusing on police safety in the wake of the Dec. 20 murder of two officers, praised his commissioner, Bill Bratton, for staying in close contact with union leaders and repeatedly said the city must "move forward."

At the same time, he expressed concern over a pension-boosting bill the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association wants passed in Albany, and he did not apologize for any of his words or actions.

"I think we have to move forward," he said twice when asked about a Daily News editorial that insisted he must "accept the responsibility he bears for sparking the conflict."

Police officers have turned their backs to him publicly three times since the officers' murder, and P.B.A. president Pat Lynch accused the mayor of having the slain officers' blood on his hands.

"We've talked now for several weeks. There's been a lot of back and forth, a lot of rhetoric, a lot of emotion," de Blasio said. "I think the people of this city want us all to move forward. I think they want us to be mature adults and sit down and resolve differences and move forward and my door is open."

He spoke after an unrelated press conference in Brooklyn, shortly before Bratton met with the presidents of the city's police unions. The mayor spoke with the leaders behind closed doors last week for nearly three hours and both sides emerged saying they did not reach any immediate resolutions.

"We wish there was a leader in City Hall," Lynch told reporters on Wednesday, as he and four other police union presidents emerged from their meeting with Bratton.

During his own press conference hours earlier, the mayor said he is willing to meet with the labor leaders again.

But when asked if he would apologize for any of his previous comments, which Lynchand Sergeants Benevolent Association president Ed Mullins have requested, de Blasio declined.

"I respect the question but the construct is about the past and I just don't want to do that," he said. "I think this is about moving forward."

He said he will continue focusing on retraining the department—a reform that is underway—curtailing stop-and-frisk and providing officers with better technological devices.

De Blasio said he continues to have "reservations" about a P.B.A.-backed bill in Albany to increase line-of-duty pension benefits for officers hired after July of 2009, which he had previously opposed.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley has collected 35 signatures for a "home rule message" encouraging the state Legislature to pass the bill.

"I want to separate that particular bill, which I have some serious reservations about, from the larger question," de Blasio said. "I think when one of our officers is injured, we have to make sure that their future will be okay and we have to find the right way to do that and I think there are some real issues that have been raised that are valid, that we're looking for solutions on."

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has refused to take a position on the issue.

Her spokesman and the mayor's staff have both said it could be cost-prohibitive.

"I think that bill has particular elements to it that I think are problematic, but I'm very willing to have the conversation with all involved on how to be fair to anyone who's injured in line of duty," de Blasio said.

The mayor echoed Bratton's comments on Monday, when the commissioner said he does not yet believe police officers are engaged in an organized slowdown, despite a drastic reduction in summonses and arrests.

Like Bratton, the mayor said he will review more data after this week and "act accordingly."

Lynch has said officers are not taking part in a union-sanctioned slowdown.

"Our members are out there doing their jobs and putting themselves in danger to keep this city safe just as they always do," he said in a statement on Tuesday. "That's a clear demonstration of police officers' dedication to duty and that there is no union-initiated or supported slowdown."

As the mayor's press conference drew to a close, one reporter asked him how the feud will end.

"I think things move forward because human beings tend to move forward," he said.

--Additional reporting by Azi Paybarah