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OpinionColumnistsLeonard Levitt

O’Neill’s peril: Trusting de Blasio

NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill announced a campaign to

NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill announced a campaign to improve relationships with police officers and residents on Oct. 11, 2016. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

Maybe the New York Post got it wrong a couple of years ago when it famously quoted the mayor’s wife, Chirlane McCray, warning her husband he couldn’t trust then-police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Maybe a more accurate rendition was that Bratton warned his successor, JamesO’Neill, he couldn’t trust Mayor Bill de Blasio.

How else to explain de Blasio’s ramping up O’Neill’s pained and heartfelt cry following the fatal police shooting of Deborah Danner, an emotionally disturbed Bronx black woman, to pile on the NYPD and the sergeant who shot her, exacerbating racial tensions and jeopardizing O’Neill’s relations with his rank-and-file?

“We failed . . . There was a person in crisis . . . We were called to that apartment to help someone we ended up killing her,” O’Neill said Wednesday at a breakfast of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City.

A few hours later, de Blasio used O’Neill’s words — which were true, certainly on a cosmic level — to release his logorrheic inner self.

“It’s quite clear that our officers are supposed to use deadly force only when faced with a dire situation, and it is very hard for any of us to see that that standard was met here,” de Blasio said. “The sergeant involved last night had the training; he had the tools to deal with this situation in a different manner. Commissioner O’Neill made this very clear earlier this morning. It was certainly protocol that called for deferring to the Emergency Services Unit — that was not followed. There was obviously the option of using a Taser — that was not employed.”

Setting a tone that O’Neill surely did not intend, de Blasio concluded, unequivocally: “Deborah Danner should be alive right now. Period.”

Asked Friday whether Danner had struck the sergeant with the baseball bat; how close she stood to him; and whether she had been violent in any of the four previous encounters when cops had been called to her building, O’Neill declined to answer because of the ongoing investigation.

Why then, did the mayor go over the top on the sergeant before the investigation was completed?

Meanwhile, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is charged with investigating the deaths of civilians by police, said he would not involve himself in Danner’s case. He said Danner’s baseball bat was a weapon, and the case fell outside his jurisdiction. Instead, it will be investigated by Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clarke.

Some have compared Danner’s death to that of Eleanor Bumpurs, a mentally disturbed black Bronx woman who was fatally shot in 1984 by Officer Stephen Sullivan during an eviction proceeding after she rushed at officers with a 10-inch knife. Ben Ward, the city’s first black commissioner, called the eviction “dumb.” He referred to Bumpurs as “everybody’s grandmother,” but defended Sullivan’s shooting.

Although subsequently indicted by then Bronx District Attorney Mario Merola, Sullivan was acquitted by a senior Bronx judge. As thousands of demonstrators protested the acquittal outside the courthouse, then-PBA president Phil Caruso said of Merola in what could be viewed as a cautionary warning to O’Neill and de Blasio: “The people still hate you and now we hate you, too.”

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