July 11, 2016: 6:30 p.m.
By MARK TOOR
|THIS ISN’T THE WAY: Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, left, listens to Mayor de Blasio, standing at a lectern during a Police Headquarters press conference July 8, express dismay at the slaying of five Dallas police officers by a sniper during a protest of the killing of two black men in other cities by cops earlier in the week. ‘An attack on our police is an attack on all of us,’ Mr. de Blasio said. ‘It is an attack on our larger society and everything we hold dear.’|
Mayor de Blasio and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch, usually antagonists, were on the same side July 8 in condemning the murders of five police officers by a sniper in Dallas the previous night.
The officers were providing security at a demonstration protesting the shooting deaths of two black men, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minn., at the hands of law enforcement earlier last week. Seven officers and two civilians were wounded.
‘Wanted to Kill White Cops’
Dallas Police Chief David Brown said the suspect, who was eventually killed by police, told them during a standoff that he was upset by the shootings in Baton Rouge and St. Paul and “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”
“New York City’s police officers know how it feels to lose fellow officers in a senseless, cold-blooded assassination,” Mr. Lynch said in a statement, referring to Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were shot to death in December 2014 by a mentally-ill ex-con who said on social media that he was protesting the death of Eric Garner.
“We stand with the men and women of the Dallas Police Department, DART [the transit police department] and with their families to mourn the loss of these fine officers,” the PBA leader said. “They did nothing to harm anyone but instead, were protecting the rights of others to be heard in protest. We have said it many times before: the loss of life—every life—is a tragedy.
“But much of the anger directed at police officers over the past few years has been fueled by erroneous information and inflammatory rhetoric put forward by groups and individuals whose agenda has nothing to do with justice. Our elected leaders fail us when they prejudge incidents without having all the facts and disparage all law enforcement.”
‘Need Honest, Hard Look’
“As we go forward, we need to take an honest, hard look at everything that wrongfully inflames emotions against police officers if we are going to be able to bring police officers and the community together,” the statement concluded.
Hundreds of New Yorkers protested the shootings July 7 in Union Square, also holding photos of Delrawn Small, who was shot to death by an off-duty police officer during a possible road-rage incident. The officer has been placed on restricted duty.
Police officials said July 11 that over four days of demonstrations, there were 65 arrests, including one for assaulting an officer.
At a press conference July 8, Mr. de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton emphasized the right to demonstrate peacefully, but asked that protesters consider officers’ feelings after the Dallas murders.
“It’s so important to recognize these officers were there protecting the protesters’ rights to act on their views,” Mr. de Blasio said. “They protected the protesters even as bullets were hailing down… Even in that most difficult and painful and tragic moment, the police defended everyone around them.”
Earlier in the day he said on WNYC, “An attack on our police is an attack on all of us. It’s fundamentally unacceptable. It undermines our entire democratic society.”
Asked whether NYPD officers might be similarly targeted, he said, “We have no evidence of that, but we’re going to be very vigilant.” He said cops who normally patrolled solo had been instructed to work in pairs, as they were after Officers Ramos and Liu were assassinated in their patrol car in Brooklyn in December 2014.
He said more officers might be stationed outside precinct houses and other department facilities. Further, he said, police presence at protests will be stepped up. Mr. de Blasio also ordered flags in the city to be flown half-staff until further notice.
Responding to a question from host Brian Lehrer about whether people could mourn both the police officers and the two men shot earlier in the week, he said, “We absolutely have to be able to do both so that we can end the violence in all its forms…We have to restore a deep relationship, and a positive relationship between police and community…”
‘Cops Feel Embattled’
“Each part of the equation matters. And our police feel embattled, and they feel, often, misunderstood and disrespected while they’re trying to protect us. And I’ve talked to a lot of police officers who feel that profoundly and are trying with everything they have in them to do the right thing…
“At the same time, the grievances of so many community members are based on decades and even centuries of pain.” People should talk it out and “move past it,” the Mayor said.
Before the sniper attacks in Dallas, Mr. de Blasio criticized the shootings of Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile, saying he feared such deaths could become a “pattern.”
“No parent of color, or parent of a child of color, in this country, can watch that and not be afraid,” he said, referring to videos of the killings. “You fear for the life of a child when you see a situation like this, because it’s inexplicable.”
He said he had not yet discussed the deaths with his children, who are biracial. “I’ve spoken with Dante and Chiara about these kind of situations before, and I wish I hadn’t had occasion to speak about them many times before.”
A Rift Over ‘Garner’
After a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict a police officer in the death of Mr. Garner, Mr. de Blasio said he and his wife, Chirlane McCray, had in the past warned Dante to be especially careful not to get into a confrontation if he was stopped by police. The Mayor also talked about the role of police in supporting the power structure that kept minorities downtrodden.
Mr. Lynch said at the time that Mr. de Blasio in his comments had thrown cops “under a bus,” and Sergeants Benevolent Association President Edward D. Mullins joined in the criticism. After Officers Liu and Ramos were killed, they said the officers’ blood was on his hands.
Mr. Lynch did not comment on Mr. de Blasio’s remarks before the Dallas murders last week, but Sergeant Mullins said they were out of line. “He’s lost his mind again,” the union leader said. “It’s inappropriate again for the Mayor to do what he’s doing.”
Mr. Mullins said he believed that Mr. de Blasio, with a re-election fight coming next year, was trying to appeal to his base.