NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio has issued a letter to his fellow New Yorkers, calling Eric Garner’s death a terrible tragedy and outlining the city’s plan to improve relations between law enforcement and the community.
“For many across our city and our nation, yesterday’s grand jury ruling compounds feelings of grief with dissatisfaction and anger,” de Blasio said in the letter released Thursday. “This is not the end of the story — only the end of a chapter.”
He wrote of New York’s proud tradition of non-violent protest, and called for peace, saying “demonstrations and free speech are valuable contributions to debate, but violence and disorder are not only wrong — they are counterproductive.”
De Blasio said he understands the frustration, but the way to move forward is by “working together” to “make a profound and lasting change in the culture of law enforcement and bring police and community closer together.”
De Blasio said the city has already made progress by cutting back stop and frisk, instituting a new policy to stop making arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, initiating a plan to retrain NYPD officers and launching a police body camera pilot program.
But the mayor added, “We know there is much more to be done.”
“Together, we must work to make this right, to work for justice, and to build the kind of city and the kind of country we need to be. And we will,” de Blasio said.
On Wednesday night, De Blasio delivered an emotional speech in the aftermath of a grand jury’s decision not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of 43-year-old Staten Island man.
The mayor drew upon the experiences of his own family to connect with disheartened New Yorkers, saying he and his wife, Chirlane, have had to have painful conversations with their teenage son, Dante, about “how to take special care with any encounter he may have with police officers.”
“I’ve had to worry over the years, Chirlane has had to worry: Is Dante safe each night?” he said. “And not just from some of the painful realities of crime and violence in some of our neighborhoods but safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors.”
He recalled how President Barack Obama turned to him last week during a White House meeting following the violence that exploded in Missouri last month after a grand jury there did not indict a white officer in the shooting death of another black man, Michael Brown.
“And the President of the United States — he had met Dante a few months ago — said Dante reminded him of what he looked like as a teenager,” de Blasio said in a speech on Staten Island carried nationally on the cable news networks. “He said ‘I know you see this crisis through a very personal lens.’ I said to him I did.”
De Blasio urged calm, telling protesters that they would “not sully (Garner’s) name with violence or vandalism,” all the while making it clear he understood their frustration.
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