When Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the huge crowd that gathered at the Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens for NYPD officer Rafael Ramos’s funeral on Saturday, December 27, many in the sea of officers outside the church turned their backs to the large video screen broadcasting the eulogies being delivered inside.
The following morning, however, the officers’ boss, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton, had harsh words for those officers, saying on CBS’s Face the Nation that their actions were “very inappropriate.”
“I certainly don’t support that action yesterday,” Bratton said. “I think it was very inappropriate at that event. That funeral was held to honor Officer Ramos. And to bring politics or to bring issues into that event, I think, was very inappropriate and I do not support it. He is the mayor of New York. He was there representing the citizens of New York.”
The officers’ display of disaffection was a replay of the night Ramos and fellow officer Wenjian Liu were ambushed and murdered by a man who claimed to be avenging the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. On December 20, as de Blasio walked into Woodhull Hospital, a line of NYPD cops used the same gesture to express their disdain for a mayor whom many in the rank and file feel has betrayed them with his rhetoric and his actions.
A week later, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association head Patrick Lynch, president of the major police union, did not endorse the officers’ apparently spontaneous display — though nor did he condemn it immediately after the funeral.
On Sunday-morning TV, Bratton defended de Blasio, a personal friend and the man who appointed him, saying, “This is a mayor that cares very deeply about New York City police officers.” Still, the commissioner acknowledged that morale in the NYPD is low and that some officers feel de Blasio has been antagonistic toward the department throughout his tenure. Turning away during the mayor’s address, Bratton conceded, “is reflective, unfortunately, of the feelings of some of our officers.”
On NBC’s Meet the Press, Bratton predicted that the split in the department “will go on for a while” and suggested the tension goes beyond issues of police brutality and race relations, extending to more mundane concerns, such as ongoing contract negotiations.