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The New Face of Mayor de Blasio

February 2, 2015

Is there a new Bill de Blasio when it comes to the NYPD?

Here are some of the things the Mayor did last month in support of the police:

Last week, he called for change in the city’s Law Department following the disclosure it paid $5,000 to settle a nuisance lawsuit by Ruhim Ullah, who police shot in the leg and who then sued the department for $3 million. De Blasio acted after Police Commissioner Bill Bratton declared himself “outraged” by the Law Department’s payment because Ullah had pleaded guilty to threatening cops with an 18-inch machete.

“It’s outrageous that the city Law Department is continuing to not support the men and women of this department as they go about their duties. … If they’re not going to be backed up by the city law office, we need to do something about that,” Bratton said last week.

According to the NY Post, the Mayor summoned Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter, who had approved the deal to save money, then announced he was putting an end to a policy that was decades old and involved past administrations.

“If our lawyers conclude,” the Mayor said, “as they did in this instance, that a case brought against police officers regarding the performance of their duties lacks merit, then that case will not be settled, even if economic cost-benefit analysis suggest otherwise.” Last week, the Mayor also demanded that a legal aid group, known as Bronx Defenders — which the city has funded to the tune of $40 million — “take immediate action” after it was discovered that two lawyers from the group had participated in a rap video calling for the execution of cops.

De Blasio’s demand followed a city’s Department of Investigation’s report that the lawyers and the group’s executive director had made misleading statements about the extent of their knowledge about the video.

Called “Hands Up,” the video opens with two Brooklyn rappers holding guns to the head of a white actor playing an NYPD cop, as the song’s opening line declares, “For Mike Brown and Sean Bell, a cop got to get killed…It’s time to start killing these coppers.” The two lawyers initially claimed they didn’t know what the video would look like. But the DOI discovered the two were aware of the lyrics and that the Defenders’ executive director had lied about her involvement.

Last month, the Mayor also announced he would veto a City Council bill to criminalize cops’ use of chokeholds, making them punishable by prison time or a fine. Current New York Police Department regulations bar them in most circumstances.

De Blasio’s promise to veto the bill came the day after his NYPD inspector general released a report confirming that officers involved in ten recent chokehold cases received only minor discipline.

The Mayor also seems to be patching things up with the police unions.

In response to a letter from Lieutenants Benevolent Association President Lou Turco, de Blasio at a news conference three weeks ago urged people not to resist arrest.

The “chokehold” death of Eric Garner, who resisted arrest last summer, set off city-wide protests.

"If a police officer says you're under arrest you must — you must — submit to that," de Blasio said. "You must respect that the police officer has given an instruction and you have to respect that instruction.”

Meanwhile, it was learned that de Blasio had recently met twice with Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins, who had been among de Blasio’s harshest critics.

Mullins, who had called de Blasio a “nincompoop,” said he now considered the Mayor “a gentleman.”

So is this the same Mayor de Blasio who following Garner’s death welcomed Al Sharpton to City Hall as the symbolic equal of Bratton?

Is this the same Mayor de Blasio who defended Sharpton’s former spokesman Rachel Noerdlinger after she became the chief of staff to the Mayor’s wife when it was reported that her son and her boyfriend had posted anti-police rantings on their websites?

Is this the same de Blasio who ordered Carter to settle the Central Park 5 lawsuit — in which five black and Hispanic teenagers had been falsely convicted of raping a white female jogger — for the staggering figure of $41 million? The five had assaulted others in the park that night and confessed to assaulting the jogger. Their settlement specifically stated that the police and prosecutors had done nothing wrong.

Is this the same de Blasio who gave demonstrators, protesting the lack of an indictment in Garner’s death, free rein across the city? And whose spokesman after two cops were assaulted described them as “alleged” assaults.

OK, so what’s going on here? After a year in office, has de Blasio wised-up to the importance of having the NYPD’s back?

Or is he merely playing politics, believing he has won a public relations victory over the police unions that have criticized him and over the cops who turned their backs on him at the funerals of police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, assassinated on Dec. 20?

Referring to the much criticized remarks of Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, a civil rights attorney who has monitored the NYPD for the past 20 years said of the Mayor: “His politics are totally different now. This never would have happened before Dec. 20th. He is trying to wash the blood off his hands.”

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