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Updated: August 28, 2019, 6:20 PM

NYPD Union Calls for Removal of Mayor, Resignation of Commissioner

Union delegates voted unanimously on resolution of no confidence in Commissioner O’Neill and Mayor de Blasio in the wake of the firing of Daniel Pantaleo

By Ben Chapman

The union representing nearly 25,000 active New York Police Department officers has called for Police Commissioner James O’Neill to resign and for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to remove Mayor Bill de Blasio from office.

The Police Benevolent Association issued the demands on Wednesday after its delegates voted unanimously on a resolution of no confidence in the commissioner and mayor in the wake of the firing of Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer involved in the 2014 death of Eric Garner.

The calls for Commissioner O’Neill’s resignation came on the same day that NYPD officials confirmed that officers had been making fewer arrests since Mr. Pantaleo’s termination. Union officials haven’t officially called for a work slowdown and declined to comment on the drop in arrests.

But union president Patrick Lynch said in a statement that police have permanently lost trust in their leadership.

“For years, Mayor de Blasio has demonized police officers and undermined our efforts to protect our city,“ he said. ”For years, Commissioner O’Neill has cravenly acquiesced to the Mayor and his anti-cop allies.”

The last time the police union issued a resolution calling for an NYPD commissioner to step down was in 2004, when the union demanded the resignation of then-Commissioner Ray Kelly in protest of disciplinary action taken against an officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teen in Brooklyn. Commissioner Kelly didn’t resign and served in the post until 2013.

Commissioner O’Neill fired Mr. Pantaleo from the police department Aug. 19 after he faced disciplinary charges for recklessly using force by chokehold and intentional strangulation in connection with Mr. Garner’s death.

Mr. Garner’s death, as officers attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk, touched off protests in New York City and across the country, coming amid a series of highly publicized incidents of police use of force against unarmed black men in cities such as Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo.

Mr. Pantaleo’s NYPD disciplinary hearing took place over several weeks in the spring. The judge who presided over the hearing later recommended that the commissioner terminate him.

Mr. Garner’s family and police reform advocates said the firing was long overdue. But Mr. Pantaleo’s termination drew the ire of some rank-and-file members of the NYPD. The former officer’s attorney has also vowed to appeal the decision.

A spokeswoman for Mayor de Blasio, a Democrat, said that Mr. Lynch was trying to sow division by calling for Mr. de Blasio’s removal.

Representatives for Gov. Cuomo, also a Democrat, didn’t respond to requests for comment. Police officials have said Commissioner O’Neill isn’t considering resigning.

“As the Police Commissioner has said before, his heart and soul are with the NYPD, and he is honored to lead this Department as it continues to drive crime to historically low levels,” NYPD spokesman Phillip Walzak said.

NYPD data show arrests fell by roughly 27% in the week following Mr. Pantaleo’s firing, compared with the same period a year earlier.

In an unrelated press conference at NYPD headquarters Wednesday, Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan confirmed that officers have made fewer arrests for nonviolent crimes since the firing. However, Chief Monahan said public safety wasn’t affected by the slowdown in arrests.

Wednesday’s vote of no confidence represents another low point for the NYPD, said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of law and police studies at Manhattan’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“The perception is morale is irreparably damaged,” Mr. O’Donnell said in an interview. “It’s hard to see how it’s going to be resurrected.”

Police-reform activists expressed little surprise for officers’ apparent discontent. Mark Winston Griffith, a spokesman for Communities United for Police Reform, said in an interview that he believes police union leaders are opposed to any challenges to their authority.

“I think it’s striking that they’ve gone to this length,” Mr. Winston Griffith said. “The idea that one of their officers would be held accountable is extremely threatening.”