Wall Street Journal
Dec. 29, 2014 9:11 p.m. ET


NYC Mayor, Booed at Police Graduation, to Meet Union Officials

 

Bill de Blasio, Heckled and Applauded Monday, Slated to Meet Police Union Officials Tuesday

By MICHAEL HOWARD SAUL

EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio addresses the New York City Police Academy's graduation ceremony at Madison Square Garden in New York. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who faced boos and heckling at a New York Police Department graduation ceremony Monday, is slated to meet police union officials Tuesday in an effort to defuse hostilities.

The mayor is scheduled to meet leaders of the Captains Endowment Association, Lieutenants Benevolent Association, Sergeants Benevolent Association, Detectives’ Endowment Association and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. Police Commissioner William Bratton and senior NYPD leadership are also expected to attend.

An aide to the mayor said officials at City Hall, along with department officials, reached out to the union leaders to set up the meeting after Mr. de Blasio last week set in motion plans to meet the labor leaders.

On Monday, Mr. de Blasio praised the 884 graduates assembled for the ceremony at Madison Square Garden for choosing what he described as a “noble calling,” telling the newly minted police officers they will “stare down the danger” and “keep the peace.”

“You serve the people of the greatest city in the world. You serve in the greatest and finest police department on this Earth,” Mr. de Blasio said. “It takes a special kind of person to put their lives on the line for others.”

REUTERS

New York Police Department graduates stand in solemn tribute to two slain officers instead of throwing their gloves in the air in celebration.

But the mayor, who has been the target of intense criticism since two New York City officers were fatally shot in an ambush five days before Christmas, was met by a chorus of boos amid tepid applause.

At one point when he told the officers they will confront a number of societal problems they didn’t create, a member of the audience heckled him, saying the mayor created those problems.

In an audience that numbered in the thousands, a handful in the crowd stood during the mayor’s remarks with their backs turned to him.

On Dec. 20, some officers had turned their backs to the mayor at a hospital news conference announcing the deaths of Officer Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. Some repeated that act at Officer Ramos’s funeral on Saturday.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the main police union, said in the hours after the officers were killed that blood was on the mayor’s hands. Mr. Lynch declined to comment Monday.

Aides to the mayor were prepared for a negative reception at Monday’s graduation ceremony.

After the booing, a mayoral aide immediately sent reporters an email saying “we heard a mix of applause and boos today” and noting Monday wasn’t the first time a New York City mayor has been jeered at a police graduation. The press office sent links to articles showing Mr. de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, was booed in 2003.

Mr. Bratton said the graduates are becoming officers at a “very difficult time” in the department, the city and nation. “But we will work forward, through it,” he said. “We always do. We’ll resolve our differences, but even while we do that, we will keep this city safe.”

    
KEVIN HAGEN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL  
Officer John Hart hugs his wife Gina, following the graduation ceremony.   

Mr. Bratton’s reference to the tensions roiling the city and the department followed remarks by Mr. de Blasio that avoided any mention of the fraught nature of his relationship with the force.

Both Messrs. Bratton and de Blasio spoke about Officers Ramos and Liu, and black ribbon stripped across police shields served as a reminder the graduates were joining a department in mourning.

George Arzt, a longtime Democratic strategist who worked with Mr. de Blasio on his successful campaign for public advocate, said the mayor’s current approach to the problem seems to be staying “low key” and sticking close to Mr. Bratton.

“He does look very shaken about the death of the two police officers as well as his relationship with the cops. This is not an easy moment for him,” Mr. Arzt said of the mayor. “He’s got to visit precincts. He’s got to talk to cops on the street. He’s got to give a reassurance that he has their back.”

Mr. Arzt said he doesn’t think the mayor needs to do an “outright mea culpa.” But he and others have suggested it could help if Mr. de Blasio showed some acknowledgment that his words or statements had left some people with an impression he didn't intend.

Stephanie Pagan, whose brother graduated Monday, said she joined in booing the mayor at the ceremony. “He’s obviously proven that he isn’t supportive of the NYPD 100% the way that he’s supposed to be,” said Ms. Pagan, who lives in the Whitestone section of Queens.

Others said they were disappointed at the booing.

“Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, but I think it’s disrespectful as he is the public figure behind the police department,” said Julia Goldberg, one of the graduates. “I support him and he hopefully supports us as well.”

Officer Goldberg said it is difficult to judge a public figure. “They have a lot of pull in both directions,” she said. “But ultimately he’s going to make or break us, and I think he’s behind us.”

Another new recruit, Chas Briant, who previously served for seven years as an officer in London, said he viewed the turbulence surrounding the department as an “opportunity for us to go out and show people the reason we joined the police department is to go out and help people.”

Roy Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association, said the ceremony was packed with people and “there was a smattering” of negativity directed at Mr. de Blasio. He declined Monday to discuss what he thinks Mr. de Blasio should do to repair relations.

Messrs de Blasio and Bratton left the ceremony without taking questions from reporters. Mr. de Blasio, who has been relying on Mr. Bratton to help mend the rift, hasn’t taken questions from the media in a week.

—Mara Gay contributed to this article

Write to Michael Howard Saul at michael.saul@wsj.com