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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Turning Backs in Uniforms -- Blame Game?

"In an exclusive interview with NBC 4 New York's Andrew Siff, New York's PBA President Pat Lynch stands by his controversial comments over the weekend blaming the mayor and City Hall for the shooting deaths of New York City police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu."

("Police Outside Cop Funeral Turn Backs on Mayor de Blasio." Associated Press. December 27, 2014)

Hundreds of officers outside Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens where Officer Rafael Ramos' funeral was held turned their backs on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio as he spoke during Saturday's service. They had been watching the service on giant TV screens.

In response to the back-turning incident, de Blasio deputy press secretary Wiley Norvell said in a statement: "The Ramos and Liu families, our police department and our city are dealing with an unconscionable tragedy. Our sole focus is unifying this city and honoring the lives of our two police officers."

NBC News reports: "Police union officials have blamed de Blasio for fostering anti-police sentiment for his support of protesters angry that no charges will be filed in the police deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner on Staten Island. At a hospital after the officers' slayings, the police union's president, Patrick Lynch, and others turned their backs on de Blasio in a sign of disrespect. Lynch said the mayor had 'blood on his hands.'"

Weeks before the shooting, Lynch had suggested that officers sign a petition requesting that the mayor not attend their funerals were they to die in the line of duty.

De Blasio has stood firmly by the police since the shooting, calling on the demonstrators to temporarily halt their protests and praising officers after the police department announced the arrest of a seventh person since the shooting for making threats against police.

My Take

I respect the right of the police to protest just as I respected the right of peaceful protesters in Ferguson, Staten Island, and in other places around the country. This unrest is evidence of the divide between law enforcement and a segment of the population convinced that changes should be made in policing procedures.

Unfortunate tragedies in New York and in Ferguson have drawn ire from the public and their public servants. Some reactions have been noble while some have been regrettable. The execution-like slaying of police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu is utterly dispicable. It has become a symbol of just how costly crazed, unguided reaction can be. Their killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, was a crazed, disturbed loner who used the incidents in New York and Ferguson to commit his unspeakable acts.

Are New York police justified in their display of protest against the mayor? Perhaps, but I believe they could not have chosen a worse time to "turn their backs."

Police union president Patrick Lynch and other protesting officers must live with their decision to broadcast their animosity of the mayor to a grieving nation. Yet, as public servants in uniform who are sworn to protect and serve, I believe in committing their act of defiance, they misused their rights as they displayed such an ill-conceived "show" of union solidarity. Instead of simply giving respect by mourning, they used an opportunity of a solemn occasion to force their influence as enforcement officers. I think this was unwise and irreverent.

I find the direct blame of blood on the hands of Mayor de Blasio and the disrespect of his remarks at the funeral to be troubling, to say the least. This is a clear indication of political posturing at the wrong time. At a time when easing tensions should be paramount, this act only raised acrimony.

In his speech at the funeral, the mayor seemed to try to reach out to police, honoring not only Ramos, but the entire New York Police Department. After directing his remarks to the Ramos family, he said he wanted to "extend my condolences to another family -- the family of the NYPD -- that is hurting so deeply right now."

It is apparent that the mayor's honest words have already offended many who are not open to scrutiny. De Blasio created controversy with his recent response to demonstrations about police relations with minorities, after a grand jury declined to indict an NYPD officer in the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died after he was put in a chokehold during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes.

In a statement, de Blasio called Garner's death "a great tragedy" but said that any protests following the decision should be peaceful. He said that his administration was working with police to make sure that similar incidents did not happen in the future. De Blasio also noted that there would be a NYPD internal investigation as well as a separate investigation by the U.S. Attorney.

De Blasio said, "We're not just dealing with a problem in 2014, we're not dealing with years of racism leading up to it, or decades of racism, we are dealing with centuries of racism that have brought us to this day. That is how profound the crisis is."

(Sam Levine. "Bill De Blasio Responds To Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision." 
The Huffington Post. December 03, 2014) 

De Blasio also described Garner's death as a moment that should galvanize all communities for change, but that change should come through peaceful protest.

The mayor, whose wife is black, said he had spoken to his mixed race teen son about how he should act if he is stopped by police.

And, in speaking about protesters who were arrested and charged with assaulting police during a demonstration in New York, de Blasio used the word "allegedly," which some in the NYPD took as a slight.

Am I the only person who sees a difference between Mayor de Blasio's conduct and the conduct of protesting officers at the funeral of Officer Ramos? It seems to me as if a deep racial divide in America still contributes to a populace locked and loaded, ready to lash out when any scapegoat can be readily identified.

Brinsley, a lunatic, scapegoated two innocent public servants and viciously took their lives in cold blood. Yet, in vengeful response, the NYPD through Patrick Lynch has chosen to scapegoat Mayor de Blasio, who now has been painted as an instigator and, even worse, an accessory in the death of the New York officers.

America, where is discernment and decorum? I fear these honorable traits have fallen to the oldest misjudgments -- prejudice and revenge.

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