NYPD Confidential - An Inside Look at the New York Police Department
Home Page
All Columns
Contact Leonard Levitt
Search this site
Printable versionSend to a friendEmail Leonard Levitt

Can It Get Any Worse for the City?

December 22, 2014

“The mayors [sic] hands are literally dripping with our blood because of his words, actions and policies and we have, for the first time in a number of years, become a ‘wartime’ police department. ...”

This email, purportedly from Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch to the city’s 35,000 cops [see box at end of column], follows the assassination of officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, as they sat in uniform in their patrol car in Brooklyn. The NYPD said the officers were shot by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, an African-American Baltimore man with a long arrest record. Police said he traveled to New York after shooting his ex-girlfriend, and that he boasted on social media that he was avenging the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island.

Before the cop killings, Brinsley is believed to have tweeted: “I’m putting Wings on Pigs Today. They Take 1 of Ours … Let’s Take 2 of Theirs.”

The assassination is the lowest moment in the city’s tortured racial history since the early 1970s, when the Black Liberation Army, an offshoot of the Black Panther Party, assassinated cops as part of a political agenda.

Lynch’s email, seeming to blame Mayor Bill de Blasio for the killings, may sound harsh but it reflects the feelings of much of the city’s law enforcement community.

Said Sergeants Benevolent Association head Ed Mullins in a statement Saturday: “Ever since this mayor took office there has been a sense of lawlessness that is rampant in every borough, from the civil disobedience occurring on a daily basis to our own police commissioner having red paint thrown at him.”

Two former NYPD deputy commissioners, both of whom asked for anonymity, said separately that de Blasio has “created” a climate that encouraged the killings.

“Is he directing it?” asked one. “No, but he contributed to it. Words and deeds matter. When you tell your kid to be afraid of cops; when protesters, who you meet with and give free reign across the city chant ‘What do we want? Dead cops;’ when rhetoric like that is all over the Internet — damaged people pick up on that. These ideas begin to stick. You could see this escalating until they killed a police officer.”

Let’s recall what de Blasio has done.

bulletHe embraced the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the most polarizing figures in the city, whom the mayor has called “the most important civil rights leader in the country.”

bulletHe refused to criticize Sharpton’s former spokeswoman Rachel Noerdlinger while serving as his wife’s $170,000-a-year chief of staff, despite her boyfriend’s and son’s social-media rants calling cops “pigs.”

bulletHe greenlighted a $40 million settlement to five black men, who, although wrongly convicted of raping the Central Park jogger in 1989, were nonetheless beating up others in the park the night of her rape and perhaps beat her as well.

bulletHe boasted of telling his son, Dante, that as a biracial teenager he must be wary in encounters with police.

And it’s not just de Blasio who contributed to the anti-police climate, says Lou Turco, head of the Lieutenants Benevolent Association. “Our elected officials have irresponsibly added to an incendiary atmosphere of distrust against law enforcement. Today, these same individuals and entities will voice hollow words of how terrible a loss the NYPD has endured. They will do their best to distance themselves from the devastating situation they either consciously or unconsciously, incubated.”

Lastly, there is the national media, which, in the wake of the Brown and Garner deaths, have concocted a narrative of brutal white police officers and victimized black men that tell only half the story.

In the Ferguson case, the media accepted the accounts of eyewitnesses who claimed that white police officer Darren Wilson shot the unarmed Brown who had his hands up. Forensic evidence told a different story — that Brown appeared to have struggled with Wilson and may have attempted to reach for his gun, as Wilson claimed. By then, however, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” had become a worldwide mantra for police brutality.

The other half of the unreported narrative about the chasm between police and communities they serve is the chaos and violence in black urban neighborhoods that police face daily, which was as much a factor in Saturday’s assassinations as police brutality.

Officers Liu and Ramos were shot in their patrol car — not in the 84th Precinct where they were based, but on a post outside a housing project in the 79th Precinct due to a spike in shootings there, police sources said.

Unless the mayor and the NYPD can come together, the legitimate grievances of citizens who have been victims of police brutality will be lost, starting with the unlawful citywide stop-and-frisks under the previous administration to the horribly poor police tactics that led to Garner’s death.

“Pulling from my history as one of the first Neighborhood Community Team leaders of the early 1960s, the key word for the team was ‘respect.’ Give respect, get respect,” a retired black police officer emailed.

“The key to any conversation are the first words out your mouth. … Our officers were taught simple acts of respect that would make their jobs easier and safer. The fact that the 70-year-old female preferred being called Mrs. Brown vs. Mamie. That after an interview or pleasant conversation, it is all right to have a handshake. That it’s all right when making eye contact while walking a beat to say hello or good morning. …

“I can only imagine that the first words out of Officer Wilson’s mouth to Michael Brown were not, ‘Would you guys get out of the street for your own safety?’ Probably something like, ‘Get the f..k out of the street.’”

He added: “Does anyone actually know what was first said to Mr. Garner…?”

So where do we go from here?

Despite Lynch’s pronouncement that de Blasio would not be welcome at police funerals, the mayor must attend them and speak. Perhaps he can deal with the climate he helped create. Perhaps he might consider apologizing for some of his words and deeds and acknowledge that there were unintended consequences he did not foresee.

Perhaps, too, Lynch might walk back some of his remarks.

Don’t count on it, though. Lynch faces both contract negotiations and an upcoming election.

As for de Blasio, this column has noted that he has the naïveté of John Lindsay, who believed he could effect a social revolution, and the arrogance of Rudy Giuliani, who refused to listen to anybody but himself.

The PBA said Monday that the email cited in this column was not from Lynch — although it expressed Lynch's past statements about Mayor Bill de Blasio. This reporter received a copy of that email at 9:37 am Sunday morning from a retired NYPD chief. This reporter then called the PBA Communications Director to confirm the email's authenticity leaving a detailed message as to what the email contained. The phone call was not returned.

« Back to top
Copyright © 2014 Leonard Levitt