The police officers’ union is joining current Police Commissioner Bill Bratton in throwing their old boss under the bus.
In a sharply-worded statement today, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said Mr. Bratton was “absolutely correct when he said that morale of the police force is awful”–and blamed “the heavy-handed way that past management dealt with our members from within the department” as well as cutbacks that have “put public safety and our officers at risk.”
But Mr. Lynch also seemed to take a shot at Mayor Bill de Blasio and other pols who have made reforming the department a priority, calling out “politically ambitious officials” who made police officers “the undeserved target of politically ambitious officials who blamed them for the failed stop and frisk policy instead of those who instituted it.”
“Being blamed for having to implement something you disagree with is a morale crusher,” he said.
In a televised interview over the weekend, Mr. Bratton complained that police morale had sunk dramatically under the tenure of his predecessor, Ray Kelly.
“Morale coming into this department was awful,” he said. “The public didn’t understand that, politicians didn’t understand it, but it was a very dispirited organization. It was an organization, I think, beat down over several years, beaten up by the political establishment.”
But Mr. Kelly’s brother, Donald, shot back on WABC Radio’s Curtis & Kuby’show, saying the criticism was nothing but a “cheap shot” from a man jealous of his kin. “I think it’s a cheap shot by Bratton. I think he’s paranoid of Ray and always has been, and he’s a back-slapping, smiling guy,’’ he said, according to the New York Post.
The police head count shrunk significantly under Mr. Kelly to less than 35,000. Last June, Mr. Bratton called that total “too small” and blamed it for the department’s aggressive use of stop-and-frisk, according to Capital New York. He has since changed his tune, however.
Mr. de Blasio has tried hard since his election to stress his appreciation to rank-and-file officers, hailing the NYPD as the best police force in the world, and repeating that he blamed the previous administration–not them–for policies he opposed, including the aggressive use of stop-and-frisk.
Update (3:00 p.m.): Asked about the statement at a press conference today, Mr. de Blasio agreed with the PBA, calling its assessment of low morale “a factually true statement,” which he blamed on tensions caused by stop-and-frisk.
“Well, the stop-and-frisk policy was broken and it created in many neighborhoods a rift between police and community. And it also made the job of the average police officer more difficult. That’s an absolute factual statement,” he said. “And by the way, I heard that very powerfully from a number of police officers over the last few years.”
The mayor–who was not asked specifically about the shot against him–went on to argue that, since he’d taken over City Hall, things had begun to change.
“Now that we have moved away from that broken policy–we’ve settled the lawsuits and we are changing the dynamics on the ground between police and community–I think the average officer’s having a much better experience and I think morale is starting to come back,” he said. “And I certainly think Commissioner Bratton has sent a very positive message from the very beginning, both in his respect for the men and women of the NYPD and for the notion that we have to have a real bond between police and communities.”