NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio was on the defensive Friday evening, after allowing the Rev. Al Sharpton to come to City Hall and lay down the law about how policing should be handled in the wake of the police custody death of Eric Garner.
As CBS 2 Marcia Kramer reported, the meeting has spurred a debate about who is in charge in the city.
Some felt the Rev. Sharpton’s comments about Mayor de Blasio’s son crossed the line, but not Dante’s father himself, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.
“I think the larger issue here is that we know we have some work to do,” Mayor de Blasio said.
In the annals of New York City politics, the meeting on Thursday was something not seen before. Sharpton, as the invited guest at City Hall, took both Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to the woodshed over NYPD tactics following Garner’s death after police put him in a chokehold.
Sharpton told Bratton that he wanted to see the officers involved in Garner’s death arrested.
“I also think, commissioner, that the best way to make police stop using illegal chokeholds is to perp walk the one of them that did,” Sharpton said at the meeting.
Bratton has promised retraining from top to bottom in the department, but Sharpton told Bratton and de Blasio in no uncertain terms that their idea of retraining officers does not hold much water with him.
“Training is important, but you don’t need training if a man is saying 11 times ‘I can’t breathe’ and you’re still holding him in a grip lock,” Sharpton said. “You don’t need training. You need to have people who understand that the law is what they protect and uphold — they’re not above the law.”
The spectacle was so unsettling to some analysts that they questioned de Blasio’s leadership.
“It’s not the best set of circumstances for someone who’s got to lead the greatest city in the world,” said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “Look – under Koch, Bloomberg or Giuliani, this would never occur. It makes the mayor look weak, it makes Al Sharpton look strong, and it makes Bill Bratton look out of place.”
At his press availability on Friday, de Blasio defended Sharpton.
“I think Reverend Sharpton has been active and productive on those issues for decades,” de Blasio said. “He’s someone who is a personal friend, and someone I respect the advice of.”
But at the Thursday meeting, Sharpton also threatened to go after de Blasio if he does not like the changes that are made to police policy.
“If we’re going to play spin games, I’ll be your worst enemy, because I am tired of seeing people bury their kin,” he said.
CBS 2’s Kramer asked de Blasio about the remark.
“I think what he’s saying, simply, is he expects to see some positive change. If he doesn’t, he’s going to use the democratic process to affect that change,” the mayor said. “That’s fine. That doesn’t worry me. I don’t worry whether someone comes from one perspective or another perspective – the left or the right – democratic process. I’m not afraid of anyone challenging me to do my job.”
Despite what the mayor said, it is unclear just when changes in policing will happen and whether they will please Sharpton, Kramer reported.
His death was caused by the “compression of his neck (chokehold), compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police” and asthma, heart disease and obesity were contributing factors, Bolcer said.
The 43-year-old father of six died in police custody on Staten Island after he had been stopped by police for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
In cellphone video of the incident, an officer is seen placing his arm around Garner’s neck in a chokehold and then taking him to the ground after Garner refuses to be handcuffed.
Sharpton’s meeting at City Hall was held a day after Bratton met with the NAACP about policing reforms. During the meeting Wednesday, the NAACP called for monitoring during the retraining process.
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