Mayor Bill de Blasio campaigned on the theme of ending the so-called “tale of two cities.” Ironically, under his administration our city is more divided than ever. Before the assassinations of Detectives Rafael Ramos and Weinjin Liu, Mayor de Blasio was publicly praising police protestors, rolling out the red carpet for Al Sharpton, even giving him equal footing with Commissioner Bill Bratton at a press conference, and condoning the nearly two dozen members of the City Council who staged a “die-in” demonstration on the steps of City Hall.
Sadly, the rift between the mayor and the rank-and-file was on full display at the funeral of Rafael Ramos when hundreds of police officers turned their backs on him as he spoke.
Many New Yorkers appreciate the extraordinary job the police have done over the past two decades. No amount of fiery rhetoric or political grandstanding will be able to change that. The silent majority of New Yorkers aren’t protesting in the streets because they support the NYPD. They recognize that cops are the “good guys” and that drug dealers and other unsavory characters are the “bad guys.”
Although Mayor de Blasio felt it necessary to instruct his son about the “dangers he may face” in an encounter with the police, the reality is that gun and gang violence pose much more of a threat to young people of color than the police do. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone why cops feel unappreciated at City Hall.
Relative to their Long Island counterparts, New York City police officers are overworked, underpaid and routinely used as a piñata in an election year.
If Mayor de Blasio wants to bring the city together and heal the wounds between his administration and the NYPD he should start by 1) allowing the department to be run independently by his appointed commissioner, not the professional police critics or the editorial boards; 2) support the passage of a home-rule measure giving Albany the green light to increase disability pensions for newly hired police officers and firefighters who are seriously injured or killed in the line of duty; and 3) ensure that every New York City police officer is protected by a life-saving bulletproof vest. More than 7,000 police officers are wearing outdated vests or ones that only partially cover the body.
In a city where actions speak louder than words, the mayor must show real leadership in the face of mounting criticism. By taking the right steps, he can restore the broken trust and boost the morale of the department.
Now more than ever, New Yorkers are counting on the mayor to learn from his mistakes and move the city forward. The only way to end this crisis of confidence is to give cops the tools they need, the respect they’ve earned, and the real support they’ve been looking for all along.
Eric Ulrich represents the 32nd District in south Queens in the City Council.