NYPD Confidential - An Inside Look at the New York Police Department
Home Page
All Columns
Contact Leonard Levitt
Search this site
Printable versionSend to a friendEmail Leonard Levitt

De Blasio's Brain Muddle

January 26, 2015

Whenever it comes to Al Sharpton, Mayor Bill de Blasio´s brain seems to go into a tailspin.

Take the mayor’s remarks on Martin Luther King Day, in which he credited Rev as the force that galvanized the city against the Stop and Frisk policy of former police commissioner Ray Kelly. De Blasio’s opposition to Stop and Frisk became the centerpiece of his election campaign.

“Deeds matter in this work, and when it came time to address a broken Stop and Frisk policy, Reverend Sharpton helped to organize that silent march,” de Blasio said, referring to a Father’s Day protest in 2012.

“And that silent march down Fifth Avenue ... changed this city. It changed the thinking, it changed the discourse, it changed the trajectory of this city,”

Those words sure sound good. But they aren’t true. Sharpton was all but invisible over the Stop and Frisk debate until 2012 — late in the game.

Indeed, when it came to police abuses Sharpton was muted, if not invisible, during the entire 12 years of the Kelly/Michael Bloomberg administration.

As the Daily News’s Adam Lisberg deliciously wrote in 2010 after Sharpton denied he could be bought, despite accepting a secret $110,000 grant from Bloomberg in return for the Rev’s silence when Bloomberg changed the two-term limit law so that he could run for a third term: “But taking a dive on term limits showed Bloomberg that he [Sharpton] might be able to be rented.”

As far as Stop and Frisk goes, the leader in the fight to abolish it was the NY Civil Liberties Union. Here now is some history that the mayor might well remember the next time he opens his yap about Sharpton.

Back in 1999, following the fatal police shooting of the unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo by four officers of the NYPD’s Street Crime Unit, the City Council required the department to issue quarterly reports on its Stop and Frisk numbers.

Such disclosure was to begin in 2001. But the department did not supply the figures until 2007.

By then, Kelly had abolished the Street Crime Unit — whose function had been to get guns off the street. Instead, he assigned virtually the entire department, including recruits out of the Police Academy, to conduct stops, largely of black males, virtually all of whom had committed no crime.

In Feb., 2007, the Civil Liberties Union pressured Kelly into releasing the figures through 2006. The figures showed that stops had ballooned from 97,000 in 2002, to 500,000 in 2006. Those figures appeared the next day in a front page article in the New York Times.

The department continued to produce the reports [quietly to the City Council], and the Civil Liberties Union continued to release them publicly. Although the media reported on the numbers, Stop and Frisk gained little attention from the public or elected officials.

Then, in May 2012, the Civil Liberties Union held a news conference, revealing that in 2011 the number of stops had reached a high-water mark of 685,000. The number of stops of young black men was greater than the number of young black men in the city.

That news conference — not Sharpton’s Father’s Day march — changed the debate over Stop and Frisk. Says the NYCLU’s Associate Legal Director Chris Dunn: “It turned the debate from NYCLU advocacy into a broader public discussion.”

The news conference with its eye-popping numbers also caught the attention of the mainstream media and that of the 2013 mayoral aspirants, including Bill de Blasio.

Meanwhile, a class action lawsuit, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights in 1999, had gone nowhere. In 2008, after Stop and Frisk figures were first made public, that organization filed a second action in federal court. Five years later, in her historic ruling, federal Judge Shira Scheindlin found the police department guilty of a pattern and practice of racial profiling.

In Nov., 2013, de Blasio was elected mayor.

Mayor de Blasio winged off to Paris for a quick day trip, where, in a gesture of anti-terrorism solidarity, he left a bouquet of flowers at the office of the stricken satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and another at the kosher market where an Islamic militant killed three Jewish shoppers and a store worker.

Yet de Blasio’s gesture — at least towards the Jews — and his appearance over the weekend at an Orthodox Jewish synagogue on the Upper East Side, seemed as scripted as it may have been sincere.
Contrast his concern with that of Rudy Giuliani, who, despite whatever else he may have done, was consistent.

Consider Giuliani's slight of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who a month after 9/11 offered the city a $10 million check in honor of the 9/11 victims. At the same time, the prince said the United States should “reexamine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance towards …our Palestinian brethren [who] continue to be slaughtered at the hands of Israelis.”

Giuliani returned the check, saying, “I entirely reject that statement. There is no moral equivalent to this act. The people lost any right to ask for justification.”

The prince dispelled any doubts as to whether Giuliani acted properly when he responded that the mayor had succumbed to “Jewish pressure.”

So why did Giuliani seem sincere about Jewish concerns while, at least to this Jewish reporter, de Blasio seems inconsistent and out of character — no less so than his recent praise of the NYPD after his year-long anti-police words and deeds?

No matter how many bouquets of flowers he lays, no matter how many synagogues he visits, how can he expect to be taken seriously about his concern for the Jews when the person he has called the country’s “most important civil rights leader” is known for past anti-Semitic remarks? And of whom de Blasio has also said: “The more people attack him, the more I want to hang out with him.”

That person, is, of course, Al Sharpton. Not too many Jews will forget Sharpton’s remarks during the 1991 Crown Heights riots, which were sparked after a car in a Hasidic rabbi’s motorcade sped through a red light and accidentally struck and killed an eight-year-old black boy, resulting in a fatal, retaliatory stabbing of a Jewish rabbinical student.

“If the Jews want to get it on,” the Rev said then, “tell them to pin their yarmulkas back and come over to my house.”

The Rev has never apologized for that crack, any more than he has apologized for his actions during the Tawana Brawley incident. If de Blasio wants to show his concern about Jews, he might begin by persuading Sharpton to do just that.

No one has ever suggested that, when it comes to voting, police officers are any more sophisticated than the rest of us. But they sure do know how to play hardball.

Take the upcoming election for the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. Here, cops are faced with this choice: On one side, we have Pat Lynch, the 15-year incumbent president, who has brought an organization into the 21st century that was but a step from organized crime.

Recently, though, Lynch has angered many in the city by saying the mayor “has blood on his hands,” suggesting that he was, in part, responsible for last month’s assassinations of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.

Lynch then upped the ante when he appeared to orchestrate officers turning their backs on the mayor at the two officers’ funerals.

And he went over the top when he appeared to orchestrate a work slowdown, resulting in the non-enforcement of minor crimes for a couple of weeks.

Opposing Lynch are a slate of officers — two of whom, Joe Anthony and Michael Hernandez, running for first and second union vice presidents, are currently under indictment in the city’s long-running ticket-fixing scandal. Brian Fusco, who is running for president, was charged departmentally.

In all, ten cops — three union trustees and seven union delegates — have been indicted on felony charges in what seems to have been systemic ticket fixing and which cops acknowledge has gone on since time immemorial. Eight hundred cops — many whose voices were picked up on wiretaps — have been charged departmentally.

Here now is where things get ugly. Making the rounds on the internet are two images of the opposing slate. One is called “The Wire, starring Bronx Trustees Joe Anthony; Brian McGuckin; and Michael Hernandez.” Beneath their pictures are the words, referring to the ticket-fixing scandal: “They knew about the wiretap. They continued to call you. Now they want your vote.”

The second image is of another man on the opposing slate: John Giangrasso. Under the title “The Giangrassos,” there is a picture of him wearing a sport jacket and tie, smoking a cigarette while holding his arm around a semi-nude woman. Beneath the image are the words: “Booze. Boobs. Brawn.”

Across the screen are the words: “John Giangrasso for Treasurer?”

The election is in May. The stakes are high as the PBA, with its 25,000 members, is among the city’s most powerful unions.

The opposing slate argues that Lynch has been in office too long and forgotten his roots among the rank-and-file.

On the other hand, do the cops want to risk electing officers with felony charges hanging over their heads like a sword of Damocles?

« Back to top
Copyright © 2015 Leonard Levitt