Forget about the sudden departures of NYPD veterans Phil Banks or Rafael Piñeiro, the alleged cracks by first lady Chirlane McCray about Commissioner Bill Bratton and or even the easing of arrests for small amounts of pot. The City Council’s latest police-related bills threaten to unravel the relationship between Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
One of the bills would make illegal the already NYPD-banned chokehold, exposing cops to misdemeanor charges. Both Bratton and de Blasio oppose it, saying the NYPD policy is sufficient.
But the other bill reveals daylight between the mayor and commissioner. It would require cops to ID themselves to those they stop, and to inform them of their right to refuse searches if there’s no probable clause.
Bratton criticized it as “part of an ongoing effort to bridle the police and the city of New York.”
De Blasio appeared to oppose it, too. “We obviously have to protect the rights of our people, but we also have to make sure that we’re not, in any way, undermining the ability of law enforcement to do its job,” he said. But later he refused to say he would veto the bill if approved by the council.
Bratton’s critics have said he’s been boxed in by de Blasio and his reformist demands that strike at Bratton’s policing legacy.
But his supporters say Bratton learned a lesson under Mayor Rudy Giuliani 20 years ago, and has become a devilish politician. They say he has consolidated his position in the NYPD by forcing out Piñeiro and with Banks’ departure, and become closer to de Blasio.
Still others say it is de Blasio, not Bratton, who is boxed in — by the competing realities of being mayor. And that Bratton provides him with the cover of law enforcement respectability. De Blasio has backed Bratton on all major police initiatives. He has supported “broken-windows” policing and eased the pot arrests.
But when it comes to the police, the mayor’s words of support have been belied by his actions. His term may well be defined by the image of the Rev. Al Sharpton seated to his left at City Hall, and Bratton to his right. As well as that alleged attack by de Blasio’s wife that Bratton could not be trusted.
Let’s see whether the Staten Island grand jury indicts arresting officers in Eric Garner’s death. That could further test the Bratton-de Blasio relationship.