New York's embattled mayor meets with police union leaders

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio meets with police union leaders as the city prepares to bury a second officer

Undoubtedly hoping to quell criticism from the police force, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio met with police union leaders Tuesday as the city prepared to bury a second slain officer this weekend.

It's not known what officials said in the closed-door meeting, but a De Blasio spokesman described the session as "focused on building a productive dialogue and identifying ways to move forward together."

"The mayor and police commissioner remain committed to keeping crime in New York City at historically low levels, supporting the brave men and women in uniform who protect us every day, and finding ways to bring police and the community closer together," spokesman Phil Walzak said in a statement.

But the leader of New York's top police union said there was no detente with the city leadership.

"There were a number of discussions, especially about the safety issues that our members face," said Patrick Lynch, leader of the New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Assn. But nothing was resolved, he told reporters in televised remarks. "Our thought here today is that actions speak louder than words, and time will tell."

De Blasio has faced a public revolt from the New York Police Department's union and rank and file since making comments supportive of demonstrators who were protesting the deaths of unarmed black men after confrontations with police.

Those remarks included De Blasio saying he had warned his mixed-race son to be careful around police.

"With Dante, very early on, my son, we said, 'Look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do. Don't move suddenly. Don't reach for your cellphone' because we knew, sadly, there's a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color."

Police unions also have faced criticism for their comments and actions, including from Police Commissioner William J. Bratton.

When two police officers were shot and killed in their patrol car in Brooklyn on Dec. 20 by a gunman who had vowed to avenge the deaths of African Americans, union officials said De Blasio shouldered some of the blame.

Lynch said then: "There is blood on many hands, from those that incited violence under the guise of protest to try to tear down what police officers did every day. That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor."

At a funeral for Officer Rafael Ramos over the weekend, hundreds of uniformed police officers turned their backs on the mayor while he was speaking. Officer Wenjian Liu's funeral is scheduled for this weekend.

Bratton told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday: "That funeral was held to honor Officer Ramos, and to bring politics, to bring issues into that event, I think, was very inappropriate and I do not support it."

New York newspapers also weighed in.

"With these acts of passive-aggressive contempt and self-pity, many New York police officers, led by their union, are squandering the department’s credibility, defacing its reputation, shredding its hard-earned respect," the New York Times said in a Tuesday editorial. "They have taken the most grave and solemn of civic moments — a funeral of a fallen colleague — and hijacked it for their own petty look-at-us gesture."

The New York Post reported Tuesday that, compared with the same time period last year, arrests by the NYPD have plummeted 66% since the two officers were killed. The Post said arrests for minor infractions like traffic violations, public urination and public drinking had all but stopped, dropping by 94% for the week starting Dec. 22.

Those drops follow suggestions that circulated among police union members to stop making arrests unless absolutely necessary since the killings of Ramos and Liu.

A spokesman for the NYPD told the Los Angeles Times that he did not have the information to confirm or deny the Post's figures and suggested The Times make a request in writing for further information. The NYPD did not respond to an ensuing written request Tuesday.

At least one union official has reportedly warned members not to carry out a similar back-turning protest at Liu's funeral Sunday.

“In this forum the appropriate protest is not a sign or turning away from mourners, or people the family has asked to speak, but rather cold, steely silence,” Captains Endowment Assn. President Roy Richter wrote to members in a memo obtained by the New York Daily News on Tuesday.

Richter did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

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