Family and friends gathered by the thousands Friday to say goodbye to NYPD Detective Steven McDonald. In contrast to most line-of-duty police officer funerals, in which most attendees did not personally know the deceased, virtually all of the thousands in and around St. Patrick’s Cathedral that morning knew of McDonald and a large portion knew him personally.
Shot and paralyzed in 1986, McDonald had an unmatched role in New York City’s civic life. Literally unable to speak initially after being shot he became a unique voice, both tirelessly supporting and encouraging his fellow police officers and publicly forgiving the teen who nearly killed him.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill attended a memorial for NYPD Detective Randolph Holder this afternoon, marking one year since Holder was murdered while on duty.
Held at PSA 5 in Harlem, the memorial included about 200 police officers and about a dozen members of Holders family. The memorial included remarks by Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner O’Neill, PBA President Pat Lynch and the current commanding officer of PSA 5, as well as Detective Holder’s father. The ceremony concluded with an unveiling of a plaque dedicated to Detective Holder’s memory.
There was no discussion of politics or the variety of issues facing the NYPD and the Mayor, with the speakers focused on Detective Holder and his family, along with the at times grave challenges that police officers regularly face.
William J. Bratton concluded his second term as New York City’s police commissioner Friday with a sun-dappled stroll through a cheering crowd of several hundred police officers and invited guests. Leaving the NYPD’s One Police Plaza headquarters with his wife Rikki Klieman, Bratton smiled, waved, shook hands and hugged his way across Police Plaza. Waiting at the end of the line were his successor, Chief of Department Jimmy O’Neill, and his boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio. With some final goodbyes Bratton and his wife mounted an antique fire engine for a short ride through the arch of the Municipal Building and onto Park Row.
Bratton leaves behind a re-energized New York City legacy, having led the NYPD through continued declines in crime over his 32 months in office, and stood as a central figure in the de Blasio administration’s public profile. He’s been an enormous political asset to the Mayor, both for his Department’s success in continuing to push crime rates down and for his essential public role as de Blasio’s prime voice on public safety. His polite Boston-accented bluntness has mostly been welcomed by the public, giving his “progressive” boss room to operate amidst a determined chorus of “hellholers”; critics who from de Blasio’s election declared that the City is destined to become a crime ridden hellhole with de Blasio in charge. Preventing that from actually occurring and fighting the creation of a public perception that it’s occurring are both vital and Bratton largely succeeded on both. He certainly has critics though, and a small but vocal group stationed themselves near the end of Bratton’s walk.
His successor Jimmy O’Neill is, so far in his career at least, not nearly as large a public personality and doesn’t display any evidence of a craving of the spotlight. The large post-Bratton vacuum will be filled, but whether it’s by Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner O’Neill or critics is, of course, to be determined.
Orchard Beach, once nicknamed New York City’s Riviera for its broad crescent beach, hosted a visit from Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Chief of Department Jimmy O’Neill this afternoon. de Blasio and O’Neill, named by de Blasio as the next NYPD Commissioner, inched their way along the boardwalk for about 45 minutes posing for pictures with a steady flow of well-wishers.
It was a very positive reception for the pair, with no vocal negative reactions apparent. de Blasio, readily recognizable, maintained a steady refrain of “have you met our new commissioner” as he exchanged pleasantries with the stream of people approaching him. O’Neill appeared to enjoy the walk, although he was less absorbed in it than de Blasio. At times O’Neill, in uniform and still the highest ranking service member of the Department, appeared equally absorbed in what he’s done for decades – watching the goings-on around him and the operation of his Department.
Mayor de Blasio and his administration face a very large transition in Commissioner Bratton’s departure, larger than in any other commissioner replacement. Bratton arrived as a dominant public figure, well-known to New Yorkers from his prior stint as New York’s police commissioner and enormously comfortable in the public eye, and his public visibility has dwarfed that of all of de Blasio’s other commissioners. O’Neill is a very well regarded chief, but largely unknown to the public and a very different persona than Bratton. He may well succeed in both managing the NYPD and in the larger public role that comes with being commissioner, but his tenure will undoubtedly be very different as he moves into the post-Bratton vacuum.
This very small moment in O’Neill’s rollout as commissioner and de Blasio’s simultaneous lead up to a reelection campaign was a success, moving both efforts incrementally forward. As they departed de Blasio commented to O”Neill on the warm reception, optimistically emphasizing that “they want you to succeed.”
Out of sight, out of mind. That notion applied to the few sign-holding Rockaway residents who appeared at Mayor de Blasio’s boardwalk press conference on Friday. The four I spotted were relegated to a “free speech zone” invisible to Mayor de Blasio and most of the several hundred people in attendance.
In this view from the camera riser, looking away from the lectern on the boardwalk where Mayor de Blasio spoke, the “free speech zone” is faintly visible deep in the center of the picture and close to the white trucks on Shore Front Parkway. The “free speech zone” is also about 10-15 feet lower than the boardwalk, ensuring that the Mayor and other speakers could not see the “free speech zone”, much less the signs.
Police directed sign-holders to the “free speech zone,” despite objections.
In her State of the City address, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito addressed a topic central to the City’s well-being; the NYPD and its relationship with the citizens of New York. She noted the reality that all plans for changing and improving New York City depend on a basic underpinning, New York City remaining safe, and that such safety is “ensured by the diverse men and women of the New York City Police Department.” Mark-Viverito lamented the “senseless murders” of Detectives Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, saying that those murders “left a gaping hole in the hearts of New York.” She also praised Commissioner Bratton and gave a shoutout to the “wonderful” local precincts.
Mark-Viverito again promised to seek a 1,000 person increase in the NYPD’s headcount and praised the City Council for a program in Mayor de Blasio’s proposed budget to fund replacing aging bullet-resistant vests for the NYPD.
Mayor Bill de Blasio joined Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and several senior NYPD officials at One Police Plaza today for a press conference touting remarkable crime statistics for 2014 and discussing the mayor’s troubled relationship with many in the NYPD. The mayor and commissioner began by proudly discussed the NYPD’s accomplishments in pushing crime numbers lower than the record-setting 2013.
The Q&A was quite lengthy, running almost 40 minutes. The Q&A included detailed discussion of the 2014 crime stats and a discussion of two specific cases: a Manhattan man allegedly shot by his adult son while in his Beekman Place apartment and the Manhattan DA’s decision to not charge Sandford Rubenstein in connection with an alleged rape. The mayor and police commissioner also addressed the mayor’s friction-filled relationship with the PBA and rank-and-file police officers and the recent episodes in which police officers turned their back on Mayor de Blasio at the funerals of murdered NYPD detectives Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.
An excerpt featuring Mayor de Blasio’s and Commissioner Bratton’s statements on police officers turning their back to the mayor is here.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton today addressed the widely reported actions of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of police officers who turned their backs when Mayor de Blasio spoke at the funerals of Detectives Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. Speaking during a press conference at One Police Plaza de Blasio termed their actions “disrespectful to the families” of Ramos and Liu and “disrespectful to the people of this City.” Bratton’s reaction was harsher, condemning “a labor action being taken in the middle of a funeral” by officers who “embarrassed themselves.” He also condemned “the selfishness of that action” which “took so much attention” away from the slain detectives.
Detective Rafael Ramos, murdered alongside Detective Wenjian Liu, was buried Saturday amid a sad yet powerful show of support and remembrance. His funeral at Christ Tabernacle Church in Glendale was attended by an estimated at 25,000 people, predominantly uniformed police officers from New York City and around the country, and many elected officials. Vice President Joe Biden, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio were among those elected officials, with each speaking during the service.
The funeral concluded with a quiet and somber moment as Detective Ramos’s casket was carried out to a waiting hearse. Taps echoed off the front of the church as an NYPD honor guard saluted amid a sea of officers. Thousands remained silently at attention as the honor guard folded the flag covering Detective Ramos’ casket and presented it to his widow and two sons. The silence was broken only by the roar of engines as police helicopters flew overhead in a missing-man formation and scores of motorcycle cops moved past the family into position at the head of a lengthy funeral procession, leading Detective Ramos to his final resting place.
As he seeks to regain his political footing Mayor Bill de Blasio led a moment of silence today for slain Police Officers Rafael Ramos and Winjian Liu. de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray joined dozens of administration staffers in the “bullpen”, a large open work space in City Hall, with de Blasio speaking ahead of the moment of silence. Talking of “pain” and “mourning”, de Blasio offered “support and solidarity” to the slain officers families as well as urging a broader theme of community-police “healing.” He also lauded the police department and its members for their work and sacrifices.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito held a press conference this morning to condemn the recent killing of two NYPD officers and offer support to the victims’ families and the Department. Mark-Viverito, who has had her share of political tensions with the police force, spoke in somber tones accompanied by about 25 of her fellow council members. She began by characterizing the deaths of Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos as “a cold-blooded assassination.”
When asked about Mayor de Blasio’s comments yesterday blaming the media for fostering divisiveness, Speaker Mark-Viverito response that “I don’t share in that thought”, appears to leave the mayor increasingly isolated.
Here is the english portion of her full opening statement. (She also made a statement in spanish.)
Update – Q&A:
Mark-Viverito answered several questions, including her reaction to some protest groups rejecting the call for a moratorium on protests, whether she shares the sentiment expressed by Mayor de Blasio that media coverage of protests has fostered divisiveness, whether the council will table any pending NYPD-related bills, whether she’ll attend the Ramos and Liu funerals, her reaction to PBA President Pat Lynch’s comment that responsibility for the bloodshed begins “on steps of City Hall”, how long a protest moratorium should last and whether her “show of support … will be received as … political expediency.”
A few feet and widely differing world views separated pro- and anti-NYPD demonstrators Friday evening. Gathering just down from City Hall on Broadway, about 50-75 NYPD supporters drew substantial media attention and about 100 counter-demonstrators. The evening consisted mostly of the two groups shouting at each other as on-duty NYPD officers calmly kept the peace.
As has been true of most of the recent demonstrations, elected officials were not involved. The only elected official I spotted was Assembly Member Jose Rivera, who circulated among the crowd watching and, as always, recording video. At least two mayoral aides were also there observing.
The pro-NYPD group was at first outnumbered. Many of the counter-demonstrators joined a march that passed by, however, and the group standing on Broadway shrank. The emotions did not diminish.
Mayor Bill de Blasio today urged the Justice League NYC to “denounce violence”, but did not condition his scheduled meeting with them on any specific denunciation. Speaking at an unrelated press conference, de Blasio broadly condemned protestor violence and urged anyone aware of such violence to cooperate with the police. His scheduled Friday meeting with the Justice League NYC has drawn criticism from PBA President Pat Lynch, who has demanded that the group “publicly denounce the individuals who assaulted police officers or who have attempted to incite violence during these protests.”
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