December 22, 2014 5:45 pm 

Grief Mixed With Police-Union Fury Over ‘Assassination’ of Two Officers


Lynch, Mullins: ‘Blood on Mayor’s Hands’


Police Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu

PATRICK J. LYNCH: Stops just short of urging slowdown.  

The city is mourning the loss of two of New York’s Finest after a mentally-ill career criminal took the bus from Baltimore to New York Dec. 20 and ambushed two police officers sitting in their patrol car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

Earlier in the day, he had said on social media that he planned to kill two officers because of the death of two unarmed black men killed in confrontations with police.

Police Unions Lash Out

The murders intensified ill feelings harbored by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and other unions over Mayor de Blasio’s response to the refusal of a Staten Island grand jury to indict a police officer in the death of one of the men, Eric Garner.

Officers Rafael Ramos, 40, and Wenjian Liu, 32, never had a chance to draw their weapons as Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, sneaked up to the passenger window of their patrol car and fired four times. Mr. Brinsley, who had shot his girlfriend in the stomach before coming to New York, a few minutes later killed himself in a nearby subway station.

“They were, quite simply, assassinated—targeted for their uniform,” said Police Commissioner William J. Bratton.

At Woodhull Hospital, two union leaders and scores of officers who filled a hallway turned their backs on Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Bratton as they arrived for a press conference about the murdered cops.

‘Blood on Mayor’s Hands’

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said at the hospital, “There’s blood on many hands tonight—those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protests, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day...That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the Mayor.”

He continued, “When the funerals are over, those responsible will be called on the carpet and held responsible.”

Edward D. Mullins, president of the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association, joined in the blame. “Mayor de Blasio, the blood of these two officers is clearly on your hands,” he said in a statement to union members the night of the murders. “It is your failed policies and actions that enabled this tragedy to occur.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio, Marti Adams, responded, “It’s unfortunate that in a time of great tragedy some would resort to irresponsible, overheated rhetoric that angers and divides people.”

Cops Take Precautions

Fearing further attacks because of what the Detectives’ Endowment Association said was a “strong anti-police climate” locally and nationally, officers on foot patrol were told to work in pairs. Sentries were posted at stationhouses. Auxiliary officers were taken off the streets. The DEA urged its members, who usually work alone or in pairs, to go out in teams of three.

The Chief-Leader/Ellen Moynihan

FORESHADOWING A TRAGEDY: A day prior to the murders of Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, several dozen supporters of the NYPD gathered at City Hall in a kind of counter-protest of the demonstrations that had been held during the preceding 16 days criticizing cops after a Staten Island grand jury chose not to indict Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner.

Mr. de Blasio said at a press conference Dec. 22 that he had asked protesters, who have gathered almost daily since the grand jury’s decision, to put aside demonstrations until the funerals were over. Mr. Bratton said he had met with leaders of the five police unions and asked them similarly to “stand down in respect to fallen members until after the funerals.”

The Mayor said he and Mr. Bratton had visited both officers’ families, and the Mayor said he planned to attend their funerals. Despite an earlier PBA campaign to have officers tell Mr. de Blasio to stay away from their funerals, a cousin of Officer Ramos said the family would “welcome” the Mayor’s presence.

First Funeral Saturday

Visitation for Officer Ramos will be Dec. 26 from 2 to 9 p.m. at Christ Tabernacle Church in Glendale, Queens. The funeral will take place the following day at 10 a.m. at the church. Mr. Bratton said that the department was helping Officer Liu’s family members get papers to come over from China, and that once they’re here the family can plan a funeral.

Before coming to New York, Mr. Brinsley posted on Instagram, “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs.” He used the hashtags Shootthepolice RIPErivGardner (sic) and RIP Mike Brown.

Mr. Garner died of a heart attack after police in Staten Island wrestled him to the ground when he refused to cooperate with an arrest for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. Mr. Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in suburban St. Louis under circumstances that remain unclear.

Mr. Lynch has taken an increasingly harsh tone toward the Mayor and critics of the NYPD since the grand jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo. He and other police-union leaders have complained that Mr. de Blasio’s statements indicate a lack of real support for the NYPD, and eight days prior to the murders he accused Mr. de Blasio of trying to lead “a f------ revolution.”

‘Use Extreme Discretion’

“If we won’t get support when we do our jobs, if we’re going to get hurt for doing what’s right, then we’re going to do it the way they want it,” Mr. Lynch said on a tape-recording of a Dec. 12 delegates’ meeting first reported by Capital New York. “Let me be perfectly clear. We will use extreme discretion in every encounter...Our friends, we’re courteous to them. Our enemies, extreme discretion.”

Referring to the Patrol Guide, a multi-thousand-page compendium of Police Department regulations, he said, “We’re going to take that book, their rules, and we’re going to protect ourselves because they won’t. We will do it the way they want us to do it. We will do it with their stupid rules, even the ones that don’t work.”

Critics charged that Mr. Lynch was calling for a slowdown, which would be illegal under the state’s Taylor Law. But PBA spokesman Al O’Leary denied the union leader had done that. “The message I got was do the job right, do the job according to the rules, which is good advice anytime,” he said. Mr. Bratton said last week he had seen no evidence of a slowdown.

Long Time Since Stoppage

Slowdowns come up in conversation frequently, perhaps most recently in connection with the Bronx ticket-fixing scandal, in which officers complained that Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson was criminalizing a tradition long engaged in to assist police bosses, politicians and prominent citizens as well as rank-and-file cops.

But the NYPD has not experienced a work stoppage since 1971, when officers angered by the city’s decision to appeal a contract award came to work but refused to leave stationhouses except to answer emergency calls. The city put Detectives in patrol cars, and the job action petered out after six days.

A PBA official who asked not to be identified declined prior to the murders to characterize the Lynch-de Blasio dispute as a war. “It’s the manifestation of our officers’ feelings that the Mayor is hypocritical in speaking of his support for police but not acting on it,” he said.

The first salvo was fired by Mr. Lynch on the same day as the closed delegates’ meeting when he encouraged officers to sign a form titled “Don’t Insult My Sacrifice,” asking Mr. de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito not to attend their funeral if they were killed in the line of duty.

‘Insult to Their Memories’

“Due to Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito’s consistent refusal to show police officers the support and respect they deserve, I believe that their attendance at the funeral of a fallen New York City police officer is an insult to that officer’s memory and sacrifice,” the form said.

“If you cannot support our members while they’re living, please don’t come and act like you support them when they’re killed in the line of duty,” Mr. Lynch said.

“It’s divisive,” Mr. de Blasio said of the request. “It’s inappropriate. When an officer dies, it is a moment when the whole community has to come together in support of our police, in support of that officer.” He added, “A few union leaders do not necessarily speak for the people who protect us every day.”

Mr. Bratton said that the unions “certainly have their grievances, but those grievances need to be dealt with at the bargaining table, need to be dealt with without personalizing.”

Cardinal: Move ‘Unfair’

Cardinal Timothy Dolan had also criticized the form—reportedly after a conversation with Mr. de Blasio—calling it “unfair and counterproductive to dismiss our Mayor and other leaders as enemies of the police.”

One of the factors cited for Mr. Lynch’s “Don’t Insult My Sacrifice” statement was anger at Mr. de Blasio saying after the grand-jury decision that he had talked with his biracial 17-year-old son, Dante, about possible dangers in dealing with police.

Mr. de Blasio said he and his wife “have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that he may face...We’ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.”

Lynch: Wrong Lesson

In remarks at a press conference Dec. 4, Mr. Lynch did not mention Dante by name. “We shouldn’t be teaching our children that they should be afraid of New York City police officers because we are the ones...who go out on the street, we are the ones who are protecting our children, your children, all the children, from the criminal element. That’s who our sons and daughters should be afraid of.”

The other union official said another factor considered by Mr. Lynch was “the Mayor saying that decades or racism in this country is the fault of the police.”

“We have to have an honest conversation in this country about a history of racism,” Mr. de Blasio said in a television interview. “We have to have an honest conversation in this country about the problem that has caused parents to feel their children may be in danger in their dynamics with police.”