Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday said he would agree to meet with the mother of Ramarley Graham, an unarmed black teen who was fatally shot by a police officer in 2012, as long as certain ground rules were observed.
The mayor has yet to meet with Constance Malcolm, Graham’s mother. The acquiescence comes just days after Officer Richard Haste resigned following an internal departmental trial in which he was found guilty of Graham’s death.
“A mother’s grief, there’s nothing, sadly, tragically, that can compare to how much pain she’s in,” de Blasio said, speaking at an unrelated news conference, adding: “If she said ‘I want to talk to you about what happened in the previous case, to understand it better’ ... that is acceptable.
“If she wants to talk about our efforts to change the police force and protect against this kind of incident in the future, I would do that,” he added.
De Blasio said he would not, however, be willing to discuss other ongoing cases, including the two other officers who were involved in Graham’s death. The two officers, Sgt. Scott Morris and Officer John McLoughlin, have yet to face a departmental trial.
“I would not be comfortable being in a room where anyone attempted to sway my view from either side about specific discipline actions on specific officers,” he said.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill told reporters that he would also meet with Graham’s mother. Malcolm said O’Neill agreed to meet her before a decision was made in Haste’s case, but that it never happened.
“Through their actions, it seems that the mayor and commissioner are more concerned with how they look in the media, instead of directly dealing with the concerns I have as a mother whose son was killed by their NYPD over five years ago,” she said in a statement. “I’m open to meeting with them, but each day I haven’t heard from them and learn of developments through the press it seems more and more like they’re playing political games.”
Malcolm added that she felt it was hypocritical that de Blasio has not yet met with her, but met with James Blake, a former tennis star who was tackled and handcuffed by a plainclothes officer in 2015. Blake, who was in town for the U.S. Open, was outside of the Grand Hyatt hotel in midtown when he was mistaken for a suspect in an identity theft investigation, police had said.
“His claims of not meeting with parties involved in an NYPD disciplinary process weren’t true of tennis celebrity James Blake, who he brought into City Hall the day after a disciplinary process had been publicly announced into the officer who assaulted him,” she said. “His claim of ‘equal justice’ also didn’t stop Commissioner[s] O’Neill and Bratton from meeting with Haste in September to encourage him to resign with his pension.”
Earlier this week, Malcolm voiced her frustration that Haste was allowed to resign rather than be fired, and that she wasn’t notified of the decision until after it had happened.
“The one process that actually followed through was the NYPD’s disciplinary process,” de Blasio said on Wednesday about the departmental trial, which took place after a series of failed grand jury actions in state court. The federal government also declined to bring charges following an investigation.
“And the fact that he resigned first, I understand why that’s painful to some, but I don’t find it to be the heart of the matter,” de Blasio said. “The heart of the matter is ... he’s off the force, he lost his pension.”