If we were to list the things the vast majority of New York Police Department officers want for the city they protect, and then make a second list of the things that the vast majority of city residents want for the place where they live, those wish lists would be nearly identical.
Officers want to be treated well and to work in relative safety. Residents want to know they can respect the cops and trust them to be fair and professional. Nearly all want a safe and prosperous city. Nearly all want a city where officers receive respect from civilians and show it in return.
That so much strife has sprung up speaks to the opportunism and shortcomings of a few key players, coupled with a series of horrendous events. That strife, though, does not and cannot be allowed to define the relationship between the city's protectors and its residents.
Everybody here, cop and civilian alike, should mourn Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, gunned down by a madman Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn. Everybody should mourn Eric Garner and Monday his daughter Emerald visited a makeshift NYPD memorial to express her condolences to the families of the two officers.
The posturing and politicking of those who support and attack the police for professional reasons have little to do with the lives or feelings of ordinary people.
Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said there is blood on Mayor Bill de Blasio's hands. Lynch's accusation that de Blasio has any responsibility for the killing of two officers is opportunistic, divisive and destructive. Let's not forget that Lynch has contract negotiations and a union election coming up.
But de Blasio ran a mayoral campaign highly critical of the department and has given voice to the fears of young black men and their parents toward officers who haven't always treated them fairly.
Now as mayor, his message must bring together the entire city. In a speech Monday at a Police Athletic League luncheon, and later at a news conference, de Blasio floundered in trying to provide the reassurance and direction forward that are needed. Lately, he seems to need Commissioner William Bratton at his side to project authority to an unnerved city.
The mayor said that protests and politics should be postponed until the slain officers are buried. In fact, the mourning must be followed not by more protests and politicking, but by reconciling police policies and shortcomings in the way those policies are put into practice. The mayor correctly asks for peaceful protests, but he also must condemn inflammatory and ugly anti-police rhetoric.
The relationship between the city and its officers can't be defined by a madman who killed two cops or by a cop who choked a man to the ground by his neck. The relationship between the city and its officers must be defined by the vast majority of cops and civilians who respect, trust and need each other. Calm is now called for. Caring is now called for. Enough damage has been done.