Mayor Bill de Blasio's State of the City: What Did He Say About Policing?

de-blasio
New York City Mayor calls on protesters to suspend their protests out of respect for the families of two NYPD officers who were murdered Saturday. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

Despite nasty spats with the press and Albany at the beginning of his administration, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio did manage to deliver on key campaign promises during his first year in office. De Blasio touted these hard-won successes—such as universal pre-K and expanded paid sick leave—in his State of the City address Tuesday. De Blasio also thanked the New York City Police Department for reducing crime to an all-time low and lauded the Department of Correction's end to punitive segregation of adolescent offenders. The mayor's speech then focused on how he would address inequality (the "Tale of Two Cities") with extensive affordable housing initiatives, calling for the construction of 80,000 affordable units, 160,000 market rate units, as well as preserving 120,000 existing affordable units.

But notably absent from de Blasio's State of the City: his ongoing conflict with cops.

De Blasio's accomplishments have been dramatically overshadowed by these long-simmering tensions.

This animosity came to a breaking point after a Staten Island Grand Jury failed to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the choking death of Eric Garner—a decision that came shortly after a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri failed to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

On the eve of the Garner decision, tens of thousands took to the streets in protest. Demonstrations have continued at a slower pace, but discontent remains. As advocates push for reform of the NYPD, their momentum has launched calls for change throughout the entire U.S. justice system.

After de Blasio said that he had warned his son about police, Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch slammed him as unsupportive of cops. When Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were gunned down in December, Lynch blamed de Blasio, saying he had blood on his hands due to these statements. Cops literally turned their back on de Blasio. An alleged policing slowdown then ensued, with arrests and summons plummeting for several weeks.

De Blasio has tried publicly to make nice with the cops. His administration adamantly supports the NYPD in a Muslim spying lawsuit. After the New York City Department of Investigation stated in a report that a music video advocating cop-killing was filmed at the Bronx Defenders' offices—and featured two attorneys from the legal aid firm—he effectively threatened their funding. He announced last week he would fight allegedly questionable lawsuits against the NYPD. The Department cheered the policy shift, according to reports.

If relations with the police improved, why not mention it?

Perhaps it's because any discussion of improvement could remind New York City residents just how dire relations had become.

For Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College, talk of these tensions could portray de Blasio as a "sore winner."

That is, discussing these issues could move the conversation away from his achievements and agenda and back toward a low point in his administration's first year.

"Politically, it made no sense for him to talk about it," Sherrill tells Newsweek. "It would have distracted attention from the housing initiative which was the main point—then the press coverage would have been about the police and not housing."