NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Mayor Bill de Blasio aimed to clear the air with police unions after rancor brewed over the shooting deaths of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu and City Hall’s response to protests over police conduct.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, it was de Blasio’s opportunity to extend an olive branch to disgruntled members of the NYPD.
De Blasio, Police Commissioner William Bratton and union heads met privately for two hours Tuesday, leaving NYC police unions saying “only time will tell.”
A PBA insider tells CBS2’s Tony Aiello that is the key phrase and the unions are now looking for the mayor to take action to back up his words of support for police.
An email to NYPD captains from NYPD Captains Endowment Association President Roy Richter sent Tuesday morning reads, “The sense of betrayal we feel by our elected officials and public we serve is from another time much further in our past.”
A rift between de Blasio and much of the New York Police Department’s rank and file has widened recently. Union leaders have said the mayor fostered an anti-NYPD atmosphere and see de Blasio as too sympathetic to police critics who protested over the Garner and Brown cases.
Some people turned their backs on de Blasio at a police graduation Monday and one officer’s funeral Sunday.
Referring to that incident, Richter continued in the email, saying, “In the coming days and weeks you will be looked upon by many for guidance, leadership and advice at a time when many of our peers and officers under our care are deeply angry. Unfortunately, but understandably, this anger provided visual displays of back-turning at the funeral of Police Officer Ramos that caused pain for his loved ones. Media attention was quick to shift their attention to these visual voices at the expense of our assassinated brother and his grieving family. We must work to honor Police Officer Wenjian Liu’s sacrifice at future services. In this forum the appropriate protest is not a sign or turning away from mourners, or people the family has asked to speak, but rather cold, steely silence.”
Leaders of the five police unions were in attendance, including the outspoken president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Pat Lynch.
Lynch said at the meeting they discussed their main concerns: the safety of NYPD members and all of the citizens they serve.
Many expressed optimism that the rift would improve after the meeting, but Lynch said any progress or resolution has yet to be seen.
“There was no resolve and our thought here today is that actions speak louder than words and time will tell,” Lynch said.
“We came here today to have a discussion. Our main concern is the safety of our police officers of every rank on the streets of the city and the safety of the citizens that we proudly serve,” Lynch added.
Mayor de Blasio nor Commissioner Bratton commented after the meeting, but the mayor’s press secretary did release a statement saying, “Today’s meeting focused on building a productive dialogue and identifying ways to move forward together. The Mayor and Police Commissioner remain committed to keeping crime in New York City at historically low levels, supporting the brave men and women in uniform who protect us every day, and finding ways to bring police and the community closer together.”
As Lynch and other police union leaders left the meeting, they said there is no word yet on whether the parties will meet again.
Union leaders see de Blasio as being too sympathetic to police critics who have held protests over the Garner and Brown cases.
Detectives’ Endowment Association President Michael Palladino said he believes productive dialogue is a step in the right direction.
“So things can get better and hopefully, they won’t get worse before they get better,” he told 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa.
He said he also wants to see steps taken to prevent violence against officers.
“If we’re going to have some type of healing process, the first thing that has to happen is the threats and the violence against the police has to stop,” he said. “And with respect to future protests that are going to go on, we need to have some ground rules. We can’t have lawlessness.”
In a tweet Monday night, the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association said the mayor “needs to humble himself and change his philosophical views on policing and the way protests have occurred within the city.”
Political analyst Doug Muzzio said de Blasio must find a way to mend fences with the Patrol Union and its fiery president.
“I don’t think he can do it if Pat Lynch keeps stirring up the cops and they turn their backs on the mayor, and say ‘there’s blood on the steps of City Hall.’ That kind of rhetoric is tough to get around,” Muzzio said.
Others are optimistic the meeting will be productive.
“Hopefully they can just work together to settle differences,” said 45th precinct commander Capt. James McGeown.
Bratton acknowledged that the morale of officers is low and said their actions “unfortunately” reflected the feelings of some toward the mayor.
But he insisted de Blasio has been supportive of police, noting that the city has given the NYPD hundreds of millions of dollars that was not budgeted, much of it devoted to improving officer safety.
De Blasio was elected last year on promises of keeping crime low while reforming the NYPD. Meanwhile, police unions have been seeking new contracts.
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