|NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton|
New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton said Monday that tensions in the city are echoing those in the 1970s — a fear he expressed only days prior to the ambush killings of two police officers.
“Who would’ve ever thought déjà vu all over again, that we would be back where we were 40-some-odd years ago,” Bratton said in an interview on NBC’s “Today.”
When asked whether he had seen such tensions or divide before, Bratton replied, “1970, when I first came into policing — my first 10 years were around this type of tension.”
Bratton’s assessment comes as two NYPD officers were shot and killed Saturday afternoon. The suspect in the killings invoked the police-involved deaths of Missouri teen Michael Brown and New Yorker Eric Garner in an Instagram post before shooting officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in their patrol car.
Bratton identified protests that followed the decisions by separate grand juries to not indict police officers in Brown and Garner’s deaths as a factor in the subsequent killings of Ramos and Liu.
“It’s quite apparent, quite obvious, that the targeting of these two police officers was a direct spinoff of this issue of these demonstrations,” the police chief said.
Lawmakers and police unions have accused New York Mayor Bill de Blasio of inciting anti-police rhetoric — or at least failing to do enough to cool tensions. Over the weekend, a video circulated online showing police officers turning their backs to the mayor as he entered the hospital where the two slain officers were taken.
“There’s blood on many hands tonight. Those that incited violence on the streets under the guise of protest that tried to tear down what NYPD officers did every day. We tried to warn it must not go on, it cannot be tolerated,” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said Saturday in a statement. “That blood on the hands starts at City Hall in the office of the mayor.”
On “Today,” Bratton acknowledged the internal rift between City Hall and the police.
“I think he has lost it with some officers,” Bratton said when asked if de Blasio had lost trust and confidence among the city’s cops, but he said the protest at the hospital wasn’t appropriate, “particularly in that setting.”
Bratton also praised de Blasio, saying he doesn’t believe the mayor has increased violent threats toward police officers, and noted that the police force had received an influx of $400 million in extra funds.
Only the day before the shooting of the two officers, Bratton had expressed concern that tensions and issues of “poverty, of race, of unemployment, of inequality in housing, educational systems” were escalating.
“Many issues of the 1970s are now revisiting us once again. And once again at the forefront of dealing with those will be America’s police forces,” Bratton said at a police promotion ceremony on Friday at NYPD headquarters, according to Capital New York.
Many Americans share Bratton’s alarm, according to a handful of recent polls.
Just Friday, a Gallup poll said the number of Americans citing race relations or racism as the most important problem in the country jumped to 13 percent, the highest since 1992 — in the midst of the Rodney King verdict — and up from 1 percent only one month previous in November.
Similarly, in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll also released last week, a majority of 57 percent of Americans said race relations are “bad,” including 23 percent said they’re “very bad.” A pair of polls from Quinnipiac University showed New York City voters disapprove of de Blasio’s handling of relations between police and the community — with approval numbers dropping even further among minorities.
In the second poll, a majority of New York City voters called for an end to the protests over Garner’s death but said the state’s attorney general should investigate deaths at the hands of police.
“We’re in a change moment,” Bratton said Monday. “The idea is to take out of this crisis, find opportunity to move it forward and I think that can happen. … We will seize on this tragedy, we’ll seize on all these issues and we’ll move forward.”
15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.
16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.
9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.