By David Willman, Los Angeles Times (TNS)
New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton Sunday rebuked members of his department who publicly turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio at a funeral for a slain police officer.
The protest occurred Saturday when the mayor spoke at the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos, one of two patrolmen killed on Dec. 20 by an assailant who had vowed to avenge the deaths of blacks at the hands of police.
The mayor has been criticized by a police union leader and others for some of his remarks about relations between police and blacks, and for his administration’s closeness with Al Sharpton, the minister and cable television talk show host.
Scores of officers turned their backs when De Blasio’s remarks at the funeral were broadcast outside on a giant video screen.
“I think it was very inappropriate at that event,” Bratton said on CBS’s Face the Nation. The funeral was to honor the life of Ramos, not to air grievances over politics, he said.
Bratton’s leadership of the Police Department in the 1990s and, from 2002 to 2009, of the Los Angeles Police Department, has been credited with helping to lower crime rates. But he acknowledged the tensions while defending his officers.
Bratton said that since Ramos and Officer Wenjian Liu were shot and killed, the Police Department has investigated “over 50 incidents or reported threats against” city police. The cases have resulted in nine arrests, he said.
Bratton conceded that “morale in the department at this time is low.”
He cited a number of causes, including pending contract negotiations between the city and a police union.
He blamed growing tensions in part on “pent-up frustrations” related to economic disparities and mutual perceptions of disrespect.
In a separate appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, Bratton recalled his experience with defusing racial tensions in Los Angeles and said citizens and law enforcement need to “see each other … not look past each other.”
Bratton called for “hard work, a lot less rhetoric,” and mutual respect.
“We have a lot of talking that we’re going to have to do here to understand all sides of this issue,” he said.
AFP Photo/Spencer Platt