It was the monthly news conference at Police Plaza, with the mayor and the police commissioner and his top staff, announcing yet another low in crime statistics.
But something was different at last week’s news conference. In my two years of watching Mayor Bill de Blasio in office, this was the first time he seemed comfortable interacting with NYPD officials.
He answered reporters’ questions about policing strategies without hesitation. He amplified Commissioner Bill Bratton’s answer to a question. When Bratton conflated the names of Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce and Deputy Commissioner Dermot Shea, introducing Boyce as “Bob Shea,” de Blasio joked, “You’ve turned them into one person.”
Bratton maintains that de Blasio has given the NYPD “everything I’ve ever asked for,” including funding for improved technology and about 2,000 more cops.
“No question, he’s much more involved,” a former police official said of the mayor. The former official asked to remain unidentified so he could speak frankly.
“I don’t think he ever had a personal relationship with a cop before becoming mayor, but now he has a half dozen cops surrounding him on his detail, so he has gotten to know police officers as people,” he said.
Whether this newfound kinship is calculated or heartfelt is difficult to say.
“I think he has changed,” said Ed Mullins, head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association and one of the mayor’s harshest critics. “He was pounding the cops, two of whom — Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos — were killed . . .”
“I had a 3½ hour meeting with him after Liu and Ramos were killed. The conversation was rough,” Mullins said. “I do think he realizes now that he cannot operate the city on backs of the police, and that lawlessness is going to be a problem.”
Indeed, at the news conference, de Blasio said, “This administration does not tolerate violence. This administration does not tolerate disorder. The NYPD is out there protecting the public.”
“I think he realizes he needs the cops, that maybe cops aren’t as bad as he thinks,” Mullins said. “Whether it is deep in his blood, I don’t think is the case. When push comes to shove, I don’t know where he stands. But I am willing to give him a chance.”