We the People: Elected officials must lead city toward reconciliation

Two NYPD officers were fatally shot while protecting the streets of Brooklyn. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced the officers were “ambushed and murdered” and “targeted for their uniform.”  Mayor Bill de Blasio, alongside Bratton, said, “It is an attack on all that we hold dear.”

It happened at Myrtle and Tompkins Avenues in Bedford‑Stuyvesant on Dec. 20, 2014. President Obama summed it up succinctly: “Two brave men won’t be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification. The officers who serve and protect our communities … deserve our respect and gratitude every single day.”

The murderer, a disturbed individual, approached the police car, opened fire without warning and shot Officers Rafael Ramos, 40, and Wenjian Liu, 32, in the head. They were rushed to Woodhull Hospital, where they died. The murderer killed himself with a shot to the head in a nearby subway station. A Taurus 9mm semi‑automatic pistol was recovered at the scene.

The shooting comes at a tense time in New York City history. The city has endured weeks of protests against the grand jury decisions to not indict police officers involved in the arrests and deaths of Eric Garner on Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The grand jury investigations failed to satisfy many people including Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Mark-Viverito.

A group of angry officers literally turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio when he walked past them at the hospital to check on the stricken officers. The protesters deny any responsibility for public disturbances that may have incited the murderer.

One incident caught on video showed protesters attacking police officers on the Brooklyn Bridge. The mayor referred to those assaults on two NYPD lieutenants as an “alleged” incident despite the video of the attack.

Leaders assume responsibility for incidents while politicians avoid responsibility and let events take their course. There has been insufficient direction or leadership from the City Council or the mayor since the Staten Island grand jury decision.

Police blame Mayor de Blasio for helping to create a climate of distrust in the city that now has turned them into targets. Pat Lynch, PBA president, and the mayor have been locked in a public battle over treatment of police officers and Lynch has accused the mayor and other leaders of taking the NYPD and “throwing them under the bus.”

Lynch suggested that police officers sign a petition demanding the mayor not attend their funerals if they die on the job. The suggestion was prompted by an admission that Mayor de Blasio had warned his son about trusting the police. Lynch said. “That blood on the hands starts at the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor,” and, “After the funerals, those responsible will be called on the carpet and held accountable.”

Calls for calm from elected officials out of respect for the slain police officers were disregarded by protesters who disrupted traffic on Fifth and Madison Avenues. The protestors carried banners condemning police policies that target quality-of-life crimes and blocked holiday strollers while chanting “NYPD, KKK, how many kids did you kill today?”

If the mayor and other leaders cannot see that it is time for forceful action to stop such blind and misguided hate speech, then we need new leadership.

The Reverend Calvin Butts, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, called on the mayor to apologize to the NYPD for his failure to support them and stated the mayor is “not showing the leadership that a city like New York needs.” He called on him to meet with PBA President Lynch. That is a good place to start.

Congressmember Michael Grimm pled guilty to one count of tax evasion as part of a plea bargain to settle the 20-count federal indictment filed against him. He likely faces years in prison when sentenced but never mentioned resignation while he assured the voters who reelected him that he is determined to move on from this chapter in his life.

The disgraced politician repeatedly lied in his campaign and insisted he did nothing wrong. He originally called the indictment “a political witch hunt” which he promised to fight until “exonerated.” Oh, well. That was just one more lie he delivered to his constituents.

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