Mayor Bill de Blasio was on ABC’s This Week yesterday, repeatedly — and sort of uncomfortably — ducking George Stephanopoulos’s questions about Eric Garner.
Stephanopoulos didn’t waste any time, after a boilerplate intro, in pressing the mayor on his reaction to a Staten Island grand jury’s decision last week not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death.
Stephanopoulos: Back in August, you promised to ensure a fair and justified outcome in the Garner case. Do you believe the grand jury’s decision met that standard?
De Blasio: George, I make it a point not to talk about any element of judicial process per se. I’d talk about what we have to do to fix the relationship between police and community.
Pretty much the kind of milquetoast response you might expect from a politician, but for a guy like de Blasio, who came to office partly thanks to his vocal criticism of police tactics like stop-and-frisk, it might have seemed a little weak. And Stephanopoulos, to his credit, wasn’t going to let him slide.
Stephanopoulos: Others are willing to, why not you?
De Blasio: Because as an executive in public service I think it’s important to respect the judicial process…
Stephanopoulos: So you respect the grand jury’s decision.
De Blasio: Respect the process.
De Blasio offered some talking points about improving community relationships, and he expressed some hope that body cameras, which officers began wearing on Friday, could make the NYPD more accountable. But de Blasio was even mum on the federal investigation into Garner’s death, declining to say much other than that the city is “cooperating.”
Stephanopoulos: So the civil rights case is going to proceed at the federal level. You do support that?
De Blasio: We are absolutely cooperating with the federal government.
Stephanopoulos: And do you believe that there was a civil rights violation here?
De Blasio: I am first of all not a lawyer, but more importantly I respect that the federal government will have its own investigation; NYPD will have an investigation as well, and will come to its own judgment.
After commenting last week that he worried about his own biracial son’s safety from the NYPD, de Blasio expanded a bit on how he frames the issue in his own home:
De Blasio: Look, I want to say it the right way, because I think there was so much misunderstanding here. What parents have done for decades who have children of color, especially young men of color, is train them to be very careful when they have a connection with a police officer, when they have an encounter with a police officer.
It’s different for a white child. That’s just the reality in this country. And with Dante, very early on with my son, we said, look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do, don’t move suddenly, don’t reach for your cell phone, because we knew, sadly, there’s a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color.