NYPD Commissioner William Bratton Doesn't Want Anti-De Blasio Protests To Tarnish Officer Wenjian Liu's Funeral
Members of the New York City Police Department have been showing their mounting frustration for Mayor Bill de Blasio through silent protests over the last few weeks, physically turning their backs to the mayor every chance they get. The public, indignant displays of disrespect have put NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, who works closely with de Blasio, in a tough place, pitting him against his boss — the mayor — and his blue-clad constituents. But on Saturday, Bratton said enough was enough: The police commissioner told the NYPD to not protest Officer Wenjian Liu's funeral, urging them to show respect rather than contempt.
Liu, who was killed two weeks ago in an ambush-style attack along with colleague Rafael Ramos, will be laid to rest on Sunday. The two NYPD officers were fatally shot by 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a Baltimore resident who traveled to New York just hours after shooting his girlfriend, seriously wounding her. According to a post on his Instagram account, Brinsley, who family members say may have suffered from mental illness, had a vendetta against police. He tagged his post with the hashtags #RIPMikeBrown and #RIPEricGarner.
Brinsley's attempt to tie the double murder to the protest movement sparked by the deaths of Brown and Garner, a Staten Island resident, added fuel to the fire of police unions in New York City. Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, attacked de Blasio immediately after the fatal shooting, claiming the mayor had "blood on his hands."
As de Blasio entered a press conference on Dec. 20 to express his condolences for the slain officers, dozens of officers turned their backs to the mayor. One week later, hundreds of officers attending Ramos' funeral turned the other way while de Blasio delivered his eulogy.
In an internal memo obtained by the New York Post, Bratton implored the frustrated officers to not bring their protesting to Liu's funeral. He underscored that now was the time to honor their fallen colleague, and not to take attention or respect away from Liu:
A hero’s funeral is about grieving, not grievance. ... The country’s consciousness of [Ramos'] funeral has focused on an act of disrespect shown by a portion of those tens of thousands of officers, and it was not disrespect directed at Detective Ramos. It was not all the officers, and it was not disrespect directed at Detective Ramos. But all officers were painted by it.
Bratton then criticized the protesting officers for taking attention away from Ramos and his family, instead placing it on themselves. "It stole the valor, honor, and attention that rightfully belonged to the memory of detective Rafael Ramos’s life and service," Bratton wrote. He acknowledged that "wasn't the intent ... but it was the result."
The police commissioner emphasized that he wasn't threatening his rank-and-file officers with discipline. However, Bratton sounded clear in his sentiments:
I understand that emotions are high. ... But I remind you that when you don the uniform of this department, you are bound by the tradition, honor and decency that go with it.
Bratton's words seemed to have struck a chord with some NYPD officers. Reuters reports that both Bratton and de Blasio were saluted by police guards as they entered a Brooklyn funeral home for Liu's wake Saturday afternoon.
But the relationship between the mayor and his police officers remains fraught with anger and resentment. Five New York City police unions, including the PBA, reportedly met with de Blasio in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday. According to Lynch, there was "no resolve."
However, Lynch did release a statement on Facebook on Jan. 1 in support of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who was just sworn in for a second term. Lynch said it was "reassuring to hear the calm, practical and reasoning voice" of Cuomo, who called for respect for the law enforcement community.
"We congratulate Governor Cuomo on his re-election and for this important, meaningful and very timely inaugural address," Lynch added.
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