Saturday's fatal shooting of two NYPD officers while on duty in Brooklyn in a squad car shocked the city and paralysed the already-fractured relationship between the NYPD and Mayor Bill de Blasio. But Police Commissioner Bill Bratton threw his support behind de Blasio on Monday in an NBC Today interview, when he said that the cops who turned their back — literally — on the mayor on Saturday were wrong in doing so.
The bad blood between de Blasio and the NYPD started when the police union accused the mayor of appearing to support the Eric Garner protests in the city following the Staten Island grand jury's decision to not indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was caught on tape holding Garner in a chokehold that led to his subsequent death. De Blasio had penned an open letter in response to the acquittal, invoking his son, Dante de Blasio, who is mixed race.
The police union president, Patrick Lynch, blamed the mayor for the death of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos and led the back-turning protest at the Brooklyn hospital where the slain cops were taken after the shooting. But Bratton said that the rank-and-file police should not have done that — although the commissioner did acknowledge that de Blasio has lost support of many police in the department.
Bratton said in the interview:
I don't support that particular activity. I don’t think it [the protest] was appropriate, particularly in that setting, but it’s reflective of the anger of some of them. There's a lot going on in the NYPD at the moment.
However, the broken relationship between the authorities are a mere casualty of the tension in the city between communities and the police force. De Blasio is caught in between a rock and a hard place, trying to appease to both the enraged public and an equally enraged police department (who feels as though they have been "thrown under the bus") all the while balancing it with the greater struggle for justice — a term that, after the deaths of the two officers, both sides seem to have vastly different ideas as to what it constitutes.
Bratton also told NBC Today that police-community tensions are reminiscent of that in the 1970s, when public anger at the police resulted in many targeted-attacks on officers. He said:
Who would’ve ever thought déjà vu all over again, that we would be back where we were 40-some-odd years ago... When I first came into policing — my first 10 years were around this type of tension.
But the NYPD commissioner said that the rift between the mayor and the police are due to factors other than the Garner protests, too. He cited the new pension system that provided recently-hired cops — who are typically younger — less pension provisions from the city:
There's a lot of anger about that, since we have so many attacks on young police officers this past year.
Image: Getty Images; NBC Today/Screenshot (2)