NYPD Union Has History of Turning its Back on Mayors
“I want all of my family and my brother officers to know that in the event of my death, the mayor should be denied attendance of my memorial service, as his attendance would only bring disgrace to my memory,” read the flier passed out among NYPD cops.
But the mayor referred to in the flier isn’t “comrade” Bill de Blasio, who is taking heat from many NYPD officers and their supporters for allegedly siding with anti-police brutality protesters over cops, two of whom were murdered over the weekend by a mentally ill man claiming revenge for the police killings of unarmed black men and boys.
No, it’s Rudy Giuliani, Mr. 9/11, the man who “cleaned up” crime-ridden New York by employing the sort of aggressive policing that’s caused so much seething resentment among the policed populace and so much right-wing reverence for his zero-tolerance approach.
Back in 1997, as leading attorneys representing the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) came under federal investigation for alleged racketeering, members of the 29,000-strong union raged not against the indicted lawyers but rather against Mayor Giuliani, who they faulted for failing to agree on a new contract and a raise.
“In a lot of ways, police officers feel they have been betrayed by Giuliani,” former NYPD lieutenant Thomas Fyfe explained to the New York Times at the time.
Fast-forward to 2007, when Giuliani, “America’s Mayor,” was seriously considering running for president. PBA President Patrick “Patty” Lynch, who said de Blasio has “blood on his hands” over the murder of two NYPD officers last week, made it very clear that his organization would not offer Guiliani any support.
“The inability to keep veteran cops on the job or to recruit adequate numbers of new ones can be traced directly back to the Giuliani mayoralty,” asserted Lynch. “While the city was rolling in money, the Giuliani administration cried future poverty and stuck New York police officers with three and half years without a pay raise.”
Lynch then hit his former boss where it really hurt, shooting down conservative notions that Giuliani, who presided over New York’s response to the events of September 11, 2001, would be a superior commander-in-chief in the war against terrorism:
Giuliani has wrapped himself firmly in the cloak of 9/11 for his own political purposes. But the real heroes of 9/11, those who helped to evacuate those towers and lived to tell the tale and all those who participated in the recovery and cleanup, know the truth. Rudy Giuliani has no real credentials as a terrorism fighter. His only credentials lie in managing the cleanup after a terror attack. The New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association could never support Rudy Giuliani for any elected office.
In his defense, Giuliani has gone out of his way to refute the PBA’s “blood on de Blasio’s hands” slander as “going too far.” Maybe that’s because Guiliani is all too familiar with the sting of the PBA’s often vicious and hyperbolic attacks.
As Fox News attempts to demonize Mayor Bill de Blasio by repeatedly trotting out Guiliani as a symbol of all that was well and good in a bygone era when mayors had the respect of their police forces, it’s worth noting that the PBA has attacked each and every New York mayor in recent memory.
Michael Bloomberg, de Blasio’s predecessor, came under PBA fire in 2004 over stalled pay raises. Union members staged noisy middle-of-the-night protests outside his home. They even threatened to set up picket lines at that year’s Republican National Convention. The union also faulted Bloomberg for failing to adequately address the cancer epidemic among police, firemen and other 9/11 first responders.
David Dinkins, Guiliani’s predecessor, was the target of what the New York Times called “the most unruly and angry police demonstration in recent memory,” when thousands of PBA members occupied the Brooklyn Bridge, damaged vehicles and mobbed City Hall over a 1992 proposal by Dinkins to create an independent civilian agency tasked with monitoring police misconduct.
Protesters chanted slogans like “the mayor’s on crack” and “Dear mayor, have you hugged a drug dealer today?” Some carried signs calling Dinkins “yellow-bellied.”
“He never supports us on anything,” railed officer Tara Fanning during the rowdy protest. “A cop shoots someone with a gun who’s a drug dealer, and he goes and visits the family.”
These incidents are “a reminder that NYC’s police unions have repeatedly and opportunistically abused their power and shabbily attacked every recent mayor,” tweeted former New York Times reporter David Firestone amidst the current de Blasio-bashing.
As NYPD officers literally turn their backs on de Blasio, it’s worth noting that this sort of behavior from PBA members is nothing new, despite what conservative politicians and pundits would lead you to believe. Every New York mayor in recent history has felt the wrath of the PBA, and periodic spats between City Hall and the men and women in blue are as much a part of the fabric of Big Apple life as the Yankees-Red Sox or Juliana’s-Grimaldi’s rivalries.