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NY Crime
NYC Police Commissioner: Killings of Officers a 'Spin-off' of Demonstrations
From the Wall Street Journal of Mon, 22 Dec 2014 13:21:37 EST
Mourners participate in a candlelight vigil and march in Harlem.
Mourners participate in a candlelight vigil and march in Harlem. Peter J. Smith for The Wall Street Journal

Saturday’s targeted killings of two New York City police officers were a “direct spin-off” of demonstrations following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner earlier this year, Police Commissioner William Bratton said Monday.

Speaking on NBC News’ “Today” show, Mr. Bratton also acknowledged his boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio , has lost the confidence of some officers in the department.

“It’s quite apparent, quite obvious, that the targeting of these two police officers was a direct spin-off of this issue of these demonstrations,” said Mr. Bratton, referring to the series of protests that have taken place in New York and around the nation following the deaths of two unarmed black men in Staten Island and Missouri during confrontations with police this summer.

Law-enforcement officials are currently investigating social-media posts by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, after the gunman in Saturday’s shootings allegedly talked of killing officers in retaliation for the deaths of Messrs. Garner and Brown.

Asked if Mr. de Blasio had lost the confidence of the rank-and-file officers in the New York Police Department, Mr. Bratton said he “has lost it with some officers.”

On Saturday night, as Mr. de Blasio made his way to a news conference at the hospital to speak about the police killings, officers turned their back to the mayor in a vivid display of the deteriorating relationship Mr. de Blasio has with police.

Mr. Bratton said he didn’t think it was appropriate—“particularly in that setting”—for officers to turn their back on the mayor, but he said it was “reflective of the anger of some of them.”

The commissioner said officers are angry about a number of issues, including the ongoing contract dispute and a separate matter related to pension benefits. “There are a lot of moving currents that are creating the current tension and atmosphere,” he said.

Mr. de Blasio, the city’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years, campaigned last year on a platform of improving the NYPD’s relationship with communities of color. He was a vocal critic of the department’s controversial stop-and-frisk tactic and has moved since taking office to reduce dramatically the number of stops, which largely affected young minority men.

The mayor has been criticized repeatedly in recent months by police union leaders and others for making public statements they say are fostering an anti-police environment. For example, Mr. de Blasio recently invoked his biracial teenage son, Dante, saying he and his wife have instructed their son to “take special care” during police encounters. Some said that remark suggested the police should be feared.

Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition on demanding Mr. de Blasio resign. On Sunday, the mayor attended Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, but he didn’t make any public comments. He is scheduled Monday to speak at the Police Athletic League’s luncheon.

On NBC, Mr. Bratton defended Mr. de Blasio, saying he didn’t believe any of the mayor’s actions or words contributed to the threat of violence on police officers. Mr. Bratton specifically said he doesn’t believe the mayor owes the police an apology.

The criticism of the mayor, Mr. Bratton said, is “starting to shape up along partisan lines, which is unfortunate.”

“This is something that should be bringing us all together, not taking us apart,” he said, referring to the deaths of the police officers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended the mayor on Monday and said he planned to speak with one of Mr. de Blasio’s harshest critics, police union leader Patrick Lynch, about bringing the “temperature down.”

Speaking of the racial unrest and divisions in the city, Mr. Bratton said he hasn’t seen a similar such environment since the 1970s.

“Who would have ever thought—déjà vu all over again—that we would be back where we were forty-some odd years ago,” he said. “I think this one is a little different though, in the sense that social media capabilities spread the word constantly.”

Mr. Bratton said the city and the nation are facing what he called a “change moment.”

“We’ll seize on all of these issues,” he said, “and we’ll move forward.”

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