New York Times
January 14, 2015


President of New York City Police Union Faces Internal Opposition

By AL BAKER and J. DAVID GOODMAN

The head of the union for New York City’s police lieutenants laid out ideas for repairing a rift with Mayor Bill de Blasio. The leader of the sergeants union planned a trip to Texas to talk to black clergy members and offer suggestions for mending the police-civilian divide.

And Patrick J. Lynch, the fiery president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, found himself beating back an emerging insurgent campaign against his leadership, which erupted into a shouting match at a union luncheon in Queens on Tuesday.

For weeks, leaders of the city’s five police unions have stood together, with Mr. Lynch as their public voice, after the killings of two patrol officers in Brooklyn last month. They maintained that show of unity even as officers across the city engaged in an unofficial work slowdown that drove arrests and summonses down and sent a message to the mayor and police management.

But as the gears of the department have cranked back to life, the union leaders, it seems, are no longer on the same page.

Still locked in a stalemate with the mayor, they are finding it more difficult to devise solutions than it was to articulate shared grievances over a perceived lack of support from City Hall.

Mr. de Blasio, for his part, has more vigorously aligned himself with the police, just as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, is set to make criminal justice reform and officer safety central themes of his second term in Albany. Mr. Cuomo and his staff met with city police union leaders on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Mr. de Blasio conceded that City Hall “can do a better job communicating and listening and deepening the understanding of what our officers need.” He also criticized the small number of protesters who in demonstrations last month over police practices had suggested harming officers, calling such comments “quite sick.”

His remarks on Wednesday came as Mr. Lynch, who most directly attacked the mayor after the killings of the officers, found himself lashing out at some within his own ranks during the union lunch, held at the catering hall Antun’s in the Queens Village neighborhood.

“A few agitators bent on their own selfish agendas were simply attempting to use legitimate complaints about City Hall to try to repair their own weakened and damaged credibility,” Mr. Lynch said of the incident, adding he would “not be distracted by sideshows.”

In the same statement, Mr. Lynch, for the first time, said the Police Department was reinstituting “quota policies and retaliation against police officers who fail to meet them,” an accusation that appeared designed to distract attention from the strife among his members. William J. Bratton, the police commissioner, said on Monday that the department had no productivity quotas.

Mr. Lynch, 51, is seeking his fifth four-year term as head of the union that represents 23,000 rank-and-file officers.

He faced a similar scene in 2011, when a delegate from a Bronx precinct stood up at a meeting and read a statement criticizing what the delegate characterized as Mr. Lynch’s lack of support for officers indicted after a three-year inquiry by Bronx prosecutors into ticket fixing. The delegate suggested Mr. Lynch consider stepping aside.

Mr. Lynch ran unopposed in that election. So far, no challenger has come forward this time, either.

But a union official, who requested anonymity in order to discuss the challengers’ election plans before they were publicly announced, said a slate of candidates would be announced in the coming days. “We’re the insurgents, I guess, until the time comes when we’re ready to announce,” the official said. “We’re running. It’s happening. Lynch knows it.”

The shouting on Tuesday came after a delegate with more than 20 years on the force, from the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn, challenged Mr. Lynch toward the end of the two-hour gathering, Michael Hernandez, a trustee, said.

“Why are we at war with the mayor?” the delegate asked, as Mr. Hernandez recalled. “Are we getting anything out of it?”

At that point, a shouting match ensued between dozens of supporters and opponents of Mr. Lynch.

Union officials said those who spoke out included Mr. Hernandez and another trustee from the Bronx, Joseph Anthony. Both men are under indictment in the ticket-fixing scandal. Brian Fusco and John Giangrasso, union trustees from Brooklyn, were also involved in the disagreement.

None of the men would confirm if they were formally running against Mr. Lynch.

“These guys are no profiles in courage,” Al O’Leary, a spokesman for the union, said after Tuesday’s meeting of roughly 400 delegates.

Mr. Hernandez said Mr. Lynch had lost touch with street officers. “Patty Lynch is a scripted actor,” he said. “Cops are thirsty for change in leadership.”

As Mr. Lynch contended with discord in his own ranks, the head of the union for city police lieutenants, Louis Turco, sent a three-page letter to the mayor in which he focused on officer safety. He implored the mayor to use his bully pulpit to denounce resisting arrest, which he said was a central element in the deaths of Eric Garner on Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. — deaths he said could have been avoided if each had complied with the police.

In his letter, Mr. Turco also urged Mr. de Blasio to aggressively fight spurious legal claims against officers, and to lobby to fix what he called an inequity in disability pensions for a growing number of officers.

Edward D. Mullins, the head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, has said he would offer his own solutions to the mayor. He said would travel to Dallas on Thursday to speak at a forum on criminal justice and racial reconciliation at the Potter’s House, a 30,000-member church led by Bishop T. D. Jakes.

Mr. Mullins said his goal was to speak about “the N.Y.P.D. as a model” for policing in the country.

Mr. de Blasio struck his most emphatic tones to date on Wednesday. He acknowledged the safety concerns that rank-and-file officers have been expressing, although he made clear he would not abandon the policing reforms he has promoted.

“They have a lot of valid issues that need to be addressed,” Mr. de Blasio said, “and this administration will systemically address these issues.”

Michael M. Grynbaum and Thomas Kaplan contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on January 15, 2015, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: Trying to Heal Rifts, Police Now Face an Internal One