Capital News 8:56 p.m. | Jan. 22, 2015


Lynch returns to City Hall, as Council honors officers

By Gloria Pazmino

When City Council members passed a bill on Thursday to rename two streets in honor of two officers killed in the line of duty last month, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito stood shoulder-to-shoulder with police commissioner Bill Bratton, and Pat Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

The three have been at odds over the past few months, as the Council has protested police brutality and pushed ahead with proposed reforms, even after Lynch accused City Hall of having "blood" on its hands, and Bratton suggested members focus on showing "additional support" instead.

During the somber ceremony, Lynch highlighted the importance of the family’s sacrifice and offered words of comfort to the officers’ widows and their families.

“Some say for our family members, that there is closure. I don’t believe that there ever is. I think you might get used to the pain, but it never goes away, the sadness is profound,” Lynch said. “The respect that every New Yorker, the respect that each and every officer that stands in this gallery, that respect cannot be described.”

Last month, dozens of council members, including Mark-Viverito, protested a grand jury's decision not to an indict an officer in the death of an unarmed black man on Staten Island, and members have continued to push for police reforms opposed by both Bratton and Lynch.

But both sides struck a conciliatory tone during the Council’s stated meeting on Thursday, as the body prepared to vote on the street re-naming proposal.

“Our commitment to you does not end today however, it only starts," Mark-Viverito said. "To the families, you will always have a friend in me and in this City Council, we always be here for you. To Commissioner Bratton, assembled NYPD officers and union officials, this Council will continue to support you."

After the Council approval, Ridgewood Avenue between Shepherd Avenue and Highland Place in Brooklyn will be co-named “Detective Rafael Ramos Way” and West 6th Street, between Avenue S and Avenue T in Brooklyn, will be co-named “Detective Wenjian Liu Way.”

“To you and to your colleagues on the Council, on behalf of the New York City police department, and the families thank you for the actions you have taken to ensure the memorialization of the memory of these two very brave officers,” Bratton said, standing between Mark-Viverito and Lynch.

It’s the first time Lynch has visited City Hall since tensions between the rank-and-file police union and the administration boiled over in the days following the officers’ deaths. Lynch later called for the mayor to "denounce" Mark-Viverito and the Council for their police protests, in a closed-door meeting with de Blasio.

Asked about the progress of his relationship with the Council, Lynch was careful to stress that the day was about honoring the lives and sacrifice of the officers.

“We’re hopeful that after this terrible tragedy that the Council will move forward supporting New York City police officers and we await that day,” Lynch told reporters after a brief ceremony. “Time will tell. It’s early in the process, people are taking the tragedy and they are thinking about it. Hopefully after we think about it, laws that will come out that affect our members, support our members so we can do our job for the community and more importantly not make it more difficult for our police officers.”

Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, who chairs the council’s Committee on Public Safety and has jurisdiction over most police-related legislation, said she considered Lynch’s appearance at City Hall a step in the right direction.

“I think his presence there was very important because of the moment, as well as Commissioner Bratton,” Gibson said. “I think a lot of people are starting to see that we can begin to heal and work together. I think he’s starting to soften a bit, and that’s great.”

Gibson did not have details about when the Council would hear the police-reform proposals, including a measure to criminalize the use of a chokehold, and a bill to require that officers obtain proof of consent before searching a suspect, but she said the Council is actively engaged in making sure meetings are scheduled with the union.

Councilman Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat who has often been at odds with the union, was less sanguine.

“This day was officer Liu and officer Ramos and I’m glad we were able to honor the sacrifice they made and that their families came to see how much we respect them,” Williams said. “As far as improvement, I guess we will see as time goes.”