Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared visibly upset Thursday as he spoke about the personal impact of the police-involved shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana earlier this week, saying he respects law enforcement but fears for his children.
“No parent of color — or parent of a child of color — can watch that and not be afraid,” he said in the Bronx. “You fear for the life of a child when you see a situation like this, because it’s inexplicable.”
The Democratic mayor was the target of police unions’ ire in late 2014 through much of 2015 when he said after a Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict the NYPD officer involved in Eric Garner’s death, that he had to “train” his biracial son on interactions with the police.
De Blasio called the two more recent incidents in other parts of the country — both caught in gruesome detail on amateur video recordings — a pattern that must be disrupted.
The mayor said he was “reeling” and it was hard to believe that “bias wasn’t part of the equation because of the level of overreaction.”
He also said he would still instruct his son, Dante, 18, to follow the instructions of a police officer if he is stopped.
The girlfriend of Philando Castile, 32, who was shot to death Wednesday night during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minn., had broadcast the aftermath live on Facebook while the officer still had his gun trained on Castile. She said Castile told the officer he had a permit to carry a gun, had one on him and was reaching for his driver’s license and registration.
In a separate incident Tuesday night in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Alton Sterling, 37, was apparently selling CDs in a parking lot when police approached him. After the officers wrestled Sterling to the ground, he was shot.
The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into his death.
De Blasio stressed repeatedly that he understands and appreciates the danger that police officers nationwide face while on duty.
He said the NYPD under the leadership of Commissioner William Bratton has retrained its officers in de-escalation tactics — an approach de Blasio insisted should be a “federal priority.”
Additionally, implicit bias training helps “people understand biases they didn’t even know they had,” de Blasio said.
New York City has also begun to use body cameras on its police officers.