Staten Island Advance
December 17, 2014 at 7:22 PM

PBA boss should drop bid to ban mayor from police funerals (editorial)

By Staten Island Advance Editorial

AP file photo
Patrick Lynch is president of the Patrolman's Benevolent Association.

Not only did the head of the Patrolman's Benevolent Association - seeking to exploit a political rift - insult the citizens of New York City. He went from bad to worse.

In a shocking affront, Patrick Lynch, the PBA boss, began by urging cops to disinvite Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito from official police funerals.

Posted on the PBA website is a petition for officers to request that any memorial for them be held without the presence of Mr. de Blasio and Ms. Mark-Viverito. It blames the pair for denying NYPD members "the support and respect they deserve."

Next, during a Christmas party for the spouses and children of officers killed in the line of duty, Mr. Lynch reportedly cited the PBA's disdain for the mayor and City Council speaker.

"We're the voice of the members," he is reported to have asserted, "and the members said, 'If they can't support us now when we're alive, they surely shouldn't come to a funeral and have crocodile tears and sit next to my family.'"

Crocodile tears?

His callous remark in that setting went beyond the pale.

It was cold-hearted and egregious for Mr. Lynch to imply that Mr. de Blasio and Ms. Mark-Viverito were ready and able to display false grief at the funerals of slain police officers.

In a solemn tradition, city dignitaries attend NYPD memorials not on their personal behalf, but to convey official condolences as representatives of the people of New York.

This misguided and insensitive campaign by Mr. Lynch follows the fatal chokehold arrest of Staten Islander Eric Garner for allegedly selling loose untaxed cigarettes.

A grand jury here decided not to indict anybody in the controversial July 17 death. It touched off nationwide protests because a white police officer is seen on a bystander's video to have placed Mr. Garner, who is black, in a banned chokehold.

This exacerbated a dispute over policing in minority-dominated communities. Police Commissioner William Bratton is a backer of "broken window" patrolling. He claims that reducing minor street crimes encourages law and order, especially in poor neighborhoods.

Several weeks ago, the Advance called for an end to rising tensions between the police and City Hall. We saluted the NYPD for doing an "outstanding and heroic job" in an effort to keep more than 8 million New Yorkers safe despite the daily risks.

The PBA made clear its position on Oct. 9 in a full-page advertisement in the Advance. The ad claimed that police officers work "under threat of arbitrary discipline, politically-motivated prosecution and opportunistic lawsuits."

Members of the police have faulted Mr. de Blasio for leading a major community forum that featured both Mr. Bratton and fiery civil rights leader Al Sharpton.

The mayor, who is white, has also been criticized by some for saying he and his wife, who is black, have taught their son to be wary if he is ever confronted on the street by police.

Ironically, the Patrolman's Benevolent Association represents a 22,000-member uniformed force that is about 53 percent minority and about 47 percent white.

Up for re-election next year, Mr. Lynch has been criticizing Mr. de Blasio at every turn while fighting to obtain a new labor contract for his patrol force. The city OK'd a new labor deal last week with police captains and lieutenants.

By thrusting the PBA into a furor over the right to attend police memorials, Mr. Lynch does his union no favor.

The traditional and inviolable rule is that funerals for officers who die in the line of duty are never to become political. As a result, mayors do not address the media at such events.

In response to the PBA, Mr. de Blasio and Ms. Mark-Viverito issued a joint statement: "This is deeply disappointing. Incendiary rhetoric like this serves only to divide the city, and New Yorkers reject these tactics. The mayor and the speaker both know better than to think this inappropriate stunt represents the views of the majority of police officers and their families."

For his part, Cardinal Dolan has said all sides should "turn down the volume and speak calmly." We agree with him.