Before he ramped up his fight with charter schools yesterday (which seems to have annoyed both supporters and opponents of collocation), Mayor de Blasio visited the NYPD's 25th Precinct house in East Harlem, where he released a seven-point plan to improve police-community relations. The mayor may also quietly want to work on improving mayoral relations with some of the city's beat cops.
In last year's Democratic primary, de Blasio ran a campaign that was highly critical of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the stop-and-frisk tactic that was employed on hundreds of thousands of innocent New Yorkers. De Blasio also pushed hard for creating an inspector general over the NYPD as well as creating a legal framework that would make it easier for New Yorkers to sue the city if they think they've been racially profiled.
De Blasio's critics – including his GOP opponent Joe Lhota – seized on those positions as anti-police, claiming that crime will skyrocket in his administration. Aware of these fears and knowing that he needed to reassure some New Yorkers after he was elected, de Blasio picked Rudy Giuliani's ur-Police Commissioner, Bill Bratton, to lead the NYPD. Problem solved? Not quite.
Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal had a story that created a major headache for the mayor – that de Blasio personally called the NYPD to inquire about the arrest of a prominent pastor who supported his campaign. While it's unclear where the story originated from, there's much speculation that someone in the department who doesn't like the mayor picked up the phone and called someone at the Journal.
In his State of the City address, de Blasio barely mentioned police or public safety – beyond noting that shootings have decreased during his brief tenure. While the mayor repeatedly ripped Giuliani on the campaign trail last year, he should remember a valuable lesson from that administration: If New Yorkers don't feel safe, there's a corrosive trickle-down effect into every other aspect of their lives – from where they shop to where they send their kids to school. But with pre-K dominating the mayor's days, crime really hasn't been part of the mayor's public conversation – until the shooting of a police officer in Brooklyn on Wednesday.
Appearing at Kings County Hospital, de Blasio visited Officer James Li, who was allegedly wounded by a fare beater with a long rap sheet. Speaking after Chief of Department Philip Banks and Commissioner Bratton, the mayor struck the right tone while also knowing the press conference was not his moment to dominate the microphone.
But it's going to take time for some cops to gain trust in the mayor – who yesterday told officers at the 25th precinct that: “We owe it to you to have your back. We owe it to you to support you and you have my full support."
But as he presides over a police promotion ceremony today, the mayor will discover that having his back watched by them will be helpful as well.