De Blasio And NYPD Commisioner Tout Lower Crime, Amid Tensions
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
We turn now to the very public rift between the mayor of the nation's biggest city and its largest police department. Yesterday, scores of New York police officers turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio at a funeral for the second of two officers who were shot in their patrol car last month. Today, Mayor de Blasio broke his silence about that protest.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: They were disrespectful to the families involved. That's the bottom line. They were disrespectful to the families who had lost their loved one. I can't understand why anyone would do such a thing in a context like that. I also think they were disrespectful to the people of this city, who, in fact, honor the work of the NYPD.
SIEGEL: Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking today at a news conference at police headquarters in New York. Joining me to talk about this is NPR's Joel Rose. Joel, what else did Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton talk about today?
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Well, ostensibly, they called this news conference to talk about the final New York City crime statistics for 2014, which, by the way, are very good. Major crime was down 4.6 percent citywide. Crime was down across all five boroughs. Robbery is at an all-time low, murder also at an all-time low - all this continuing trends that began before de Blasio took office. De Blasio and Bratton were very quick to praise the officers of the NYPD for that. But then the tone of the news conference really started to shift noticeably when de Blasio started taking questions about the protesters inside the department who have turned their backs on him several times now. And as you heard at the top, de Blasio called those acts disrespectful to the families of the fallen officers and to the whole city.
SIEGEL: Police unions have been saying for weeks that de Blasio has encouraged an anti-police climate in New York. Why do they say that? Why do they think that?
ROSE: This tension goes all the way back to the mayoral campaign last year. De Blasio ran on a progressive platform to reform the NYPD's interactions with communities of color and to cut back on what critics of the department would call the over-policing of those residents. But things have really come to a head since the grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer involved in the case of Eric Garner, the unarmed black man who died in police custody last year. De Blasio said that was an outcome that many New Yorkers did not want. And he spoke in very personal terms about warning his own son Dante, who is multiracial, to take special care during his interactions with police. To many officers, it sounded like Mayor de Blasio was siding with the demonstrators in the streets against the NYPD. And things became really toxic when two officers were killed last month by a gunman who later committed suicide.
SIEGEL: Mayor de Blasio, as we heard, highlighted the overall crime statistics for 2014, which, as you said, were very encouraging. But there is another set of numbers, a recent drop in arrests, that actually potentially troubling. What's that about?
ROSE: Well, yes, we've seen a huge drop in arrests citywide now in the two weeks following the deaths of Officer Liu - officers Liu and Ramos. For the second week in a row, arrests were reportedly down more than 50 percent compared to the same week a year ago. And tickets for minor infractions were down more than 90 percent. So it's getting very hard to avoid the conclusion that there is a coordinated slowdown happening; whether this is something that was formally organized or not, we don't know. Commissioner Bratton noted that many cops have been working without a contract for several years. He did not dispute that arrests are down. But Commissioner Bratton says the department isn't exactly sure what is going on.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
WILLIAM BRATTON: We will take a look at who is maybe not doing the work that we expect of them. And we will deal with it very appropriately if we have to. We may see, during the course of this week as we come out of the turmoil of the past month, that things begin to return to normal on their own volition.
SIEGEL: Joel, it doesn't sound like this feud between the police and the mayor is simmering down anytime soon. Any sense of what it would take to repair this relationship?
ROSE: Well, police union leaders would like to see Mayor de Blasio publicly apologize for these remarks that have offended the department's rank-and-file. But he did not do that today. And anyone who was hoping to see a contrite Mayor de Blasio did not see that.
SIEGEL: Thank you very much. That's NPR's Joel Rose in New York.