Judging by NYPD crime metrics, 2013 is shaping up to be a pretty good year so far–there have been fewer murders than this time last year, and 2012 was itself a record low. Shootings are down, too. And yet, when it comes to public relations, 2013 has been an annus horribilis for New York police: weeks of protest in East Flatbush over the police killing of 16-year-old Kimani Gray, near-daily newspaper stories from the federal class-action suit against the department’s stop-and-frisk policy, and a field of mayoral contenders falling over each other to be the most vociferous critic of the city’s current policing regime.
Mayor Bloomberg may be a lame duck, but he’s not going to take all this criticism of his police department lying down. Today, in a surprisingly scorching speech to NYPD brass, he fought back against people calling for police reform.
“Hard to believe, but the NYPD is under attack,” Bloomberg said.
Probably because this is an election year. The attacks most often come from people who play no constructive role in keeping our city safe, but rather view their jobs as pointing fingers from the steps of City Hall. Some of them scream that they know better than you how to run the department. Some have even sued the NYPD and demanded a federal monitor over NYPD operations. They’ve also drafted politically driven legislation that is a reaction to two NYPD practices: Stop, Question and Frisk; and counter-terrorism intelligence gathering.
Bloomberg criticized legislation under consideration in City Council that would institute an Inspector General, which Bloomberg warned would create a deadly crisis of leadership. An I.G., Bloomberg warned, “would make it harder for the Police Commissioner to maintain unity of command and harder to enforce accountability, because there would be an appearance of a rival power. Whose policies should an officer on the street follow, and how will he or she know that their partner is following the same procedures when the bullets start flying? With confusion comes deadly consequences.”
Bloomberg also mocked legislation that would preclude officers from stopping New Yorkers based on their race, posing a hypothetical in which a witness told police that a 20-something white man in a blue windbreaker. “The officer under this bill could only use the color of the windbreaker as a lead,” Bloomberg said. “The officer would have to stop 80-year-old black women if they’re wearing blue windbreakers.”
Bloomberg warned that more accountability to judges will only cost the city money: “The bill would allow New York State judges to micromanage the NYPD. And you can bet that aggressive tort lawyers are licking their chops at the prospect of bringing more cases against the city that the taxpayers can ill afford.”
He invoked the specter of terrorism.”My message is simple: Stop playing politics with public safety. Look at what’s happened in Boston. Remember what happened here in 9/11.”
Bloomberg slammed the New York Times, which has run multiple editorials criticizing stop-and-frisk and the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims, and civil liberties organizations for failing to concern themselves with the shooting death of 17-year-old Alphonza Bryant in the Bronx last week, effectively accusing them of racism.
After his murder, there was no outrage from the Center for Constitutional Rights or the NYCLU, there was not even a mention of his murder in our paper of record, the New York Times. All the news that’s fit to print did not include the murder of 17-year-old Alphonza Bryant. Do you think that if a white 17-year-old prep student from Manhattan had been murdered, the Times would have ignored it?
Hammering on his attack on the opponents of stop-and-frisk as “special interests,” Bloomberg equated them with the National Rifle Association:
In Washington, some elected officials don’t have the courage to stand up against special interest groups on the right and pass common-sense gun laws. And in New York City, some don’t have the courage to stand up to special interests on the left and support common-sense policing tactics like stop-and-frisk. We don’t need extremists on the left or the right running our police department, whether its the NRA or the NYCLU.
The NYCLU responded to Bloomberg’s speech with a feisty barrage of tweets:
— NYCLU (@nyclu) April 30, 2013
@dnainfo You should ask him, “if you care so much about Alphonza, why do you call him ‘Alphonso’ and then ‘Alonso’ at presser?
— NYCLU (@nyclu) April 30, 2013
For its part, the Times told Politico that Bloomberg’s attack was an effort at deflection. “The Times aggressively covers violence in the city’s neighborhoods, and to select one murder as evidence to the contrary is disingenuous. His claim of racial bias is absurd.”
You can watch the whole speech here: