New York City’s police officers are rebelling publicly against Mayor Bill de Blasio, who drew particular attention in recent weeks when he acknowledged that he taught his biracial son to be careful around police simply because of his race.
"What parents have done for decades, who have children of color, especially young men of color, is train them to be very careful when they have a connection with a police officer, when they have an encounter with a police officer," de Blasio told ABC News’ This Week. "It’s different for a white child. That’s just the reality in this country."
Police took de Blasio’s comments personally. Following the December 20 shooting of two New York City police officers, Patrick Lynch, president of the NYPD union Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said there was “blood on the hands” of the mayor.
Several days later, police officers turned their backs on de Blasio as he spoke at a funeral for one of the slain officers. Then, during a December 29 speech for an NYPD graduation ceremony, members of the crowd booed de Blasio multiple times. And according to the New York Post, police are now working as little as possible — arrests are down 66 percent — in open protest of de Blasio’s administration.
This revolt comes at a time when racial disparities in police use of force and the criminal justice system are getting a lot of attention. As protesters march around the country over the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in New York City, and other black men who have been killed by police, cops are reportedly feeling more and more under attack.
But this kind of tension between police, the public, and civilian leaders isn’t a new phenomenon. In the 1960s, similar tensions played out when black Americans around the country marched and even rioted against what many at the time viewed as a racist, corrupt criminal justice system. Police responded to the criticisms with the same kind of rhetoric they are using today — sometimes telling elected leaders, including in New York City, that they will not work if they’re criticized.