New York Prepares For Slain Officer's Funeral
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. For the second time in two weeks, one of New York City's finest will be laid to rest. Funeral services today for Officer Wenjian Liu will be held at a funeral home in Brooklyn. Liu and his partner Rafael Ramos were shot to death last month in their patrol car.
At Ramos's funeral, scores of police officers turned their backs on the city's mayor in a sign of disrespect. The police commissioner is urging his officers not to repeat that gesture at Liu's funeral. NPR's Joel Rose reports.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: In a memo distributed to police across the city, Commissioner William Bratton asks officers not to repeat last weekend's act of disrespect toward Mayor Bill de Blasio when he delivers the eulogy today. The hero's funeral is about grieving not grievance, Bratton writes. At a press conference earlier this week, Bratton said the department has received dozens of threats on social media since Liu and Ramos were killed.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
POLICE COMMISSIONER WILLIAM BRATTON: Any threat made against my officers is going to be dealt with very quickly, very effectively. And we're not going to let any of them go by the board, believe me.
ROSE: Those threats have led to at least 20 arrests. Many in the department and beyond see them as proof of an anti-police climate in the city; one they say Mayor de Blasio himself has encouraged.
LEONARD LEVITT: He has set a tone that the rank-and-file and the many New Yorkers feel is truly anti-police.
ROSE: Leonard Levitt is the author of the book "NYPD Confidential" and a blog of the same name. He says this feeling has its roots in the mayoral campaign when de Blasio ran and won on a promise to perform the relationship between the NYPD and communities of color. And Levitt says many cops don't like the way City Hall handled the aftermath of a grand jury's decision not to indict the white police officers in the case of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died in police custody.
LEVITT: There was a feeling among the police that the demonstrators were allowed free reign across the city. They were allowed to take the roadways, the bridges and whatever. And one former deputy commissioner said to me, there's going to be a tragedy coming out of this because you're setting a very dangerous tone.
ROSE: Tragedy did strike on December 20 when Ismaaiyl Brinsley traveled from Baltimore to Brooklyn, where he shot officers Liu and Ramos before taking his own life. The head of the city's largest police union, Patrick Lynch, said Mayor de Blasio had blood on his hands. This week, Lynch and the heads of the other police unions sat down with the mayor for two hours before briefly addressing reporters.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
PATRICK LYNCH: There were a number of discussions, especially about the safety issues that our members face. There was no resolve, and our thought here today is that actions speak louder than words.
ROSE: Mayor de Blasio didn't speak to reporters after the meeting and hasn't taken questions all week. But his backers insist de Blasio has supported the police.
ERIC ADAMS: I don't think the mayor owes the police department an apology. I think he has been an extremely supportive mayor.
ROSE: Eric Adams is the Brooklyn Borough president and a former sergeant in the NYPD. He expects rank-and-file officers will heed Police Commissioner Bratton's call not to turn their backs on Mayor de Blasio today.
ADAMS: So I don't believe you're going to see a duplication of what you saw at Officer Ramos's funeral. I think you're going to see officers understand that this is a solemn time.
ROSE: There are signs that the NYPD's rank-and-file might have engaged in another kind of protest. Arrests across the city were down more than 60 percent for the week after the shooting of officers Liu and Ramos. Minor infractions and traffic tickets dropped more than 90 percent. But Police Commissioner Bratton tried to downplay the signs of a possible work slowdown.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BRATTON: Dealing with the demonstration since December 3, we have used in excess of 50,000 tours of duty. So that's been a significant strain and drain on our resources around the city. That's 50,000 fewer cops who have been out there this month making arrests, issuing summons.
ROSE: Bratton points out that the most important number, overall crime, was down 15 percent last week. For the year that just ended, New York City recorded fewer than 330 murders; the lowest total since reliable record-keeping began in the 1960s. But with today's funeral looming, no one at the NYPD is celebrating.
Joel Rose, NPR News.