Commissioner Bill Bratton, trying his best to narrow the rift between police and the mayor, told his officers not to disrespect the mayor at the wake of Officer Wenjian Liu, the officer assassinated 2 weeks ago, reminding them “that when you don the uniform of this department, you are bound by the tradition, honor and decency that go with it.”
Bratton believes that the show of defiance to the mayor takes attention away from honoring the service of the slain officers and the grieving families.
The police killings ramped up emotions in the already tense national debate over police conduct. Since Ramos and Liu were killed, police in New York have investigated at least 70 threats made against officers, and more than a dozen people have been arrested.
At Ramos’ funeral, hundreds of officers turned their backs to TV monitors displaying Mayor Bill de Blasio’s remarks to show their frustration for what police union officials have said is the mayor’s role in creating an environment that allowed the killings.
In a message to be read to officers on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said that act “stole the valor, honor, and attention that rightfully belonged to the memory of Detective Rafael Ramos’s life and sacrifice.”
“I issue no mandates, and I make no threats of discipline, but I remind you that when you don the uniform of this department, you are bound by the tradition, honor and decency that go with it,” Bratton said.
Liu, 32, had been on the police force seven years and had gotten married two months before he died. His widow, Pei Xia Chen, gave a tearful statement days after the shooting.
Bratton claims he understands where the officers are coming from:
Mr. Bratton, who has been serving as a peacemaker of sorts between the mayor and angry members of the NYPD, wrote that he understood “emotions are high.” But the focus of Sunday’s funeral should be on remembering a “life tragically cut short” and on the officer’s family, he wrote.
Mr. Bratton suggested the collective memory of Officer Ramos’s funeral is now fixated on what he described as an “act of disrespect” shown by a portion of the officers gathered. While every officer at the funeral didn’t do it, he said, “all the officers were painted by it.”
Bratton is right. As emotionally satisfying the show of defiance is for officers, the act of turning one’s back on the mayor deflects attention from where it belongs — on the slain officers and their families. In essence, turning your back on the boss is a political statement and not suitable for a wake or funeral.
Bratton’s fence-mending efforts between the police and the mayor will take a long time to bear fruit. There are other issues besides de Blasio’s statements about the Garner grand jury. The mayor ran an anti-police campaign for one, and some difficult negotiations coming up with the police unions are another source of tension.
In essence, de Blasio brought this problem on himself. And many observers believe only de Blasio can defuse the tension by apologizing for his comment implying that the NYPD is a racist organization.