Updated Feb 23, 2016
By DAN ROSENBLUM
|The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang|
|BACK IN THE FRAY?: Mayor de Blasio revisits his remarks about teaching his biracial son how to navigate interactions with cops, which led to protests from the police unions. ‘Of course it became a huge controversy, but it shouldn’t be a controversy because it’s true and we have to grapple with it, and we have to change it,’ he said during a Feb. 18 event. Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman sits to his left.|
Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch last week accused Mayor de Blasio of bias against police after he revisited comments about he and his wife, Chirlane McCray, teaching their biracial son, Dante, to be wary of confrontations with officers. He referred to a remark he made in December 2014 that angered many cops.
‘It’s True. We Have to Change It.’
“I spoke about the conversations that Chirlane and I had about our son, Dante, about how he had to comport himself in any dealings with the police,” he said Feb. 18 at the end of a dialogue on income inequality at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center. “And I said something that hundreds of thousands of American families acknowledge as their reality, that families of color know they have to do with their young people. Of course it became a huge controversy, but it shouldn’t be a controversy because it’s true and we have to grapple with it, and we have to change it.”
Prompted by the moderator, CUNY Professor Janet Gornick, he said the Black Lives Matter movement, which emerged after high-profile police shootings of unarmed black men, was helping to identify and fight racism in America.
Mr. de Blasio also said the NYPD was conducting anti-bias training, which he announced last month, to address unconscious prejudice among cops. “We have to explicitly help our police officers to understand those biases, to weed them out,” he said. “There’s a very positive process, as human beings, getting under the skin of that and expunging it, so we can all serve the public properly.”
In response, Mr. Lynch said, “Biases come in all sizes and shapes, and it’s time for the Mayor to recognize his bias against police.”
The Mayor’s controversial 2014 remarks came after a grand jury declined to indict Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was recorded using what appeared to be a chokehold to bring Eric Garner to the ground after he resisted arrest for selling loose cigarettes. Mr. Garner died of a heart attack after being transported to a hospital for treatment. Mr. de Blasio said he and his wife had to “literally train” Dante “how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.”
There were indications at the time that police unions were more upset by the context in which he made those remarks than their substance.
Murders Make Anger Boil
Less than three weeks later, after a deranged man fatally shot two Police Officers sitting in their patrol car, cops turned their backs on Mr. de Blasio at the hospital and Mr. Lynch said there was “blood on the hands” of the Mayor. He has said little on the topic since and relations with the PBA improved somewhat over the past year.
The event was otherwise a chance for the Mayor, joined by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, to burnish his progressive credentials. He highlighted his affordable-housing expansion, paid-parental-leave rule, private-sector retirement fund proposal, advocacy for a higher minimum wage and an expansion of pre-kindergarten to nearly 70,000 seats. “I think each and every one makes a very major impact on a family’s life,” the Mayor said. “If you combine them it’s a huge impact.”
He also urged Albany to provide money to fund a collective-bargaining agreement for CUNY employees, whose contract expired in 2010. “The city already has long since committed to a share of that labor deal that we are ready to pay right now, and we look forward to the state doing their share,” he said to applause from the audience.
Like Bernie, But…
Given their progressive stances in favor of reversing the flow of capital to the wealthiest Americans, Ms. Gornick asked both panelists why they didn’t endorse Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee for President. Though Mr. de Blasio declined to support party frontrunner Hillary Clinton early on, he eventually stumped for the former U.S. Secretary of State and flew to Iowa to knock on doors in the days leading to that state’s caucus.
“To all the Bernie Sanders supporters, I say God bless you, because I know you’re doing a lot of good for this country,” he said. “I believe Hillary Clinton is the one who can achieve these changes, but we are actually one big happy family in my view.”
Mr. Krugman said Ms. Clinton had sufficient experience to advance a substantive agenda. “Having your heart in the right place is not enough,” he said. He added that the issues on financial reform weren’t as cut-and-dried as Mr. Sanders has put it. “On that issue, I’m sorry to say, I think that Sanders has to some extent gone for the easy slogan and Hillary Clinton has been closer to the bone on what really is wrong,” he said.
In Good Company
Mr. de Blasio received his biggest laughs when asked by Ms. Gornick whether he was offended by real-estate mogul and presidential candidate Donald Trump’s suggestion that he was “worst Mayor in the United States.”
“I want to join Pope Francis as part of the affinity group of people who have been attacked by Donald Trump and join together with women, Mexican-Americans, Muslim-Americans,” he said. “We’re going to form a really big coalition.”