Opinion: How de Blasio abandoned the NYPD
How did we get here? Officer Randolph Holder, 33, who graduated from the police academy in 2010 and has been a member of the NYPD since, was killed in the line of duty last week. It is the fourth time in 10 months that New York City has lost one of its finest to a gun violence. Police officers, like most New Yorkers, are heartbroken and angry, and they are pointing a finger at Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Outside of Harlem Hospital, where Randolph was sent after getting shot in the head, officers seethed as they were told to wait outside because the mayor was visiting.
“You mean to tell me I can’t go inside and visit my brother because de Blasio wants to first?! He doesn’t even like cops,” fumed one member of the NYPD who was forced to wait outside of Harlem Hospital right after the shooting.
The sentiment among cops that de Blasio could care less about their welfare has existed for a long time, and his tenure at City Hall has only served to reinforce that notion.
During his run for mayor in 2013, de Blasio beat the drum against the NYPD with his crusade against the proven crime-fighting tactic of stop, question and frisk. The manner in which he did so treated the police as if they were an occupying force abusing the communities they patrol.
In February 2014, de Blasio’s friend and supporter, Rev. Orlando Findlayter, was arrested during a routine traffic stop. The arresting officers found Findlayter had not one, but two outstanding warrants on his record. As word of his arrest spread, de Blasio personally called the commander of the 67th Precinct, where Findlayter was being held overnight, and had him immediately released. Police officers were stunned that a mayor would meddle to such an extent and spring a perpetrator.
The deaths of Eric Garner on Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, as well as the subsequent fallout, did not help relations between the NYPD and the mayor’s office. When it was announced in 2014 that charges would not be filed against any officers in both of these cases, some took to the streets and marched. Protesters called police officers “terrorists” and accused them of perpetrating “America’s genocide,” among other heinous charges.
A responsible mayor would have called out these vile accusations, even if it cost him some votes. De Blasio’s silence was deafening. Cops felt that de Blasio would never have their backs.
Days later, an officer would be assaulted by protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge. Shortly after that, Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were brutally assassinated by a man who wanted to put “wings on pigs.”
Since those tragic events, the mayor has made no progress in repairing his relationship with the police. In fact, de Blasio has only made it worse while at the same time making enemies of more uniformed services. Despite overwhelming public support, he kicked and screamed as police officers and firefighters asked to be given more than $27 a day if they were permanently disabled in the line of duty. Never mind that this happened after a multi-year effort by the city to recruit more minority members of uniformed services, particularly for the FDNY – a truly “progressive” push.
Recently, in the wake of several tragic mass shootings, de Blasio is taking up former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s mantle of supporting gun control. At the same time, he continues to hinder policies police use to get guns off the street, by forcing police to have one arm tied behind their backs.
Police officers throughout the NYPD have no faith that de Blasio’s words of condolence hold any true meaning. They want to be led by someone who stands up for them when they are called “terrorists” and are made into villains. As a city, we are looking to come together to mourn the loss of Holder, and de Blasio’s leadership certainly does not bring New York’s Finest any peace of mind.
As another officer put it while standing vigil for Holder outside Harlem Hospital, “I am hurt, I am afraid, I am a target, and de Blasio doesn’t give a damn.”
Evan Siegfried, a Republican strategist, is president of Somm Consulting, a public affairs firm based in New York City. He can be followed on Twitter @evansiegfried.