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NYC Mayor, Police Unions Postpone Debate
From the Wall Street Journal of Mon, 22 Dec 2014 21:25:02 EST
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for “political debate” and protests to end until after the funerals of two police officers who were fatally shot on Saturday.

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio and police unions on Monday agreed to end a war of words until two officers fatally shot this past weekend are laid to rest, as law-enforcement agencies nationwide assessed the safety of their members.

The tacit agreement in New York came after an extraordinary weekend during which police-union officials partially blamed the deaths of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu on the mayor’s office, saying it had “blood on the hands” for its criticisms of police practices.

Mr. de Blasio also called for an end, for now, to a series of protests that have roiled the city since grand juries declined to indict officers involved in the deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Protesters said the demonstrations would continue, but rallies on Monday were small and uneventful.

The officers’ deaths—by a gunman who expressed anger about the Garner and Brown cases before the shooting—further widened a rift between Mr. de Blasio and the nation’s largest police force. Unions and their supporters accused the mayor of creating an anti-police climate in the city, with his support for rowdy protests and his description of how he taught his biracial son to be careful during encounters with police.

On Monday, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, used a speech at a monthly police association luncheon to ask for a temporary truce until the officers’ funerals. Also applying pressure were Police Commissioner William Bratton and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo , who asked the unions to “bring down the temperature.”

“Our first obligation is to respect these families in mourning,” Mr. de Blasio said Monday after visiting with the families of the two slain officers. “Let’s see them through the funerals,” the mayor said, “then debate can begin again.”

A spokesman for the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association said the union plans to be “silent out of respect for the families of the fallen officers until after the funerals.”

Later, at a news conference, Mr. de Blasio said it was “a mistake” and “wrong” for PBA President Patrick Lynch to suggest the mayor had blood on his hands. A spokesman for the police union said Mr. Lynch decided on Saturday after the union’s news conference not to speak publicly until after the officers’ funerals.

The shootings also led to soul-searching at other U.S. police departments as they scrambled to keep their officers safe amid a host of copycat threats.

In Pittsburgh, police won’t use single-manned vehicles while under a Federal Bureau of Investigation alert about threats to kill police officers and white civilians, according to spokeswoman Sonya Toler. The department recently took the same precaution for about 48 hours following the release of the grand-jury decision not to indict a white police officer in Ferguson.

“We’ve asked our officers to just make sure they are alert and vigilant about their surroundings at all times,” Ms. Toler said.

In Phoenix, where crowds have protested the police shooting of a black man in early December, police are being especially vigilant, a spokesman said, monitoring social media for threats and encouraging officers to wait for backup on calls any time it is feasible.

“As you know, none of these are a guarantee,” said the spokesman, Sgt. Trent Crump.

In New York, police officials ordered all foot patrols to be conducted in pairs and prohibited nearly all solo assignments for officers. Even meal breaks are supposed to be taken in pairs.

“Police officers on patrol should maintain a heightened level of awareness,” a memo to patrol officers said.

New York’s police unions pleaded with their members to follow the directives and also take additional measures, such as wearing bulletproof vests.

“There is no such thing as a routine call in these perilous times,” wrote Lou Turico, president of the New York Police Department’s Lieutenants Benevolent Association, in a note to union members.

New York state lawmakers on Monday said they plan to introduce legislation in January that would require law-enforcement vehicles statewide to be equipped with bulletproof glass.

Officers Ramos and Liu were ambushed while sitting in their patrol car.

“High-profile people like the governor have this, and police officers deserve it, too,” said state Sen. Phil Boyle, who, along with three other lawmakers, intends to sponsor the bill.

New details also emerged about the alleged gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a 28-year-old transient who traveled from Baltimore County to New York on Saturday. Police said Monday that he didn’t mention any desire to kill police and threatened to kill himself in an argument with his ex-girlfriend in Owings Mills, Md., before shooting her. She survived and spoke with detectives on Monday.

Police said Mr. Brinsley acted alone. While he didn’t appear to have any connections to organized protest groups—despite his social-media posts before the shootings—police said he was a spectator at a rally critical of police in Manhattan on Dec. 1, a fact gleaned from video on his cellphone.

Mr. Bratton said Monday morning that he hadn’t witnessed an environment of such racial unrest and division in the city since the 1970s, when the scars of the civil-rights movements were still raw. “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.”

Some protest groups have toned down their rhetoric since the slayings of the officers, changing a rallying cry from “Black Lives Matter” to “All Lives Matter” at a vigil Sunday night in New York.

Small demonstrations were planned in a few places throughout New York on Monday night. The mayor “can call for whatever he wants,” said Jose LaSalle, 45 years old, a protester from the Bronx. “It’s sad what happened to these officers, but you can’t blame the demonstrators. The police are mourning for their brothers and sisters. We are mourning for our brothers and sisters. We are going to continue to protest.”

Mr. de Blasio continued to try to walk a fine line between voicing support for police officers and noting the perils they face, while also saying not all protesters were violent.

He showed a rare flash of anger when asked about protesters who threw paint at his police commissioner, decrying attempts to smear the protesters.

“The vast majority of our citizens are good and decent people who do not say negative things, racist things, nasty things to police, threatening things to police,” Mr. de Blasio said.

Mr. de Blasio didn’t outline how he would repair relations with the police unions after the funerals, the first of which was planned for Saturday in Queens for Officer Ramos. Police unions caused the last Democratic mayor of New York, David Dinkins, a host of problems after he met with the family a person killed by a police officer, among other things.

Mr. Bratton said union conflict wasn’t new. “Can you point out to me one mayor who has not been battling with the police unions?” he asked. “It’s nothing new. It’s part of life.”

—Kris Maher, Mike Vilensky, Erica Orden and Tamara Audi contributed to this article.

Write to Michael Howard Saul at and Pervaiz Shallwani at

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