After Akai Gurley Verdict, de Blasio Defends Vertical Patrols in NYCHA

Family of Akai Gurley at his funeral.

Family of Akai Gurley at his funeral. (Photo: Kena Betancur for Getty Images)

A day after a Brooklyn jury convicted NYPD Officer Peter Liang of manslaughter in the killing of public housing resident Akai Gurley, Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the kind of routine stairwell search that precipitated the 28-year-old unarmed man’s death in 2014.

Speaking at an unrelated press conference in Manhattan, the mayor argued that having cops regularly conduct so-called “vertical patrols” in New York City Housing Authority developments prevents crime and protects the tenants. Mr. Liang had been climbing the darkened steps at the Pink Houses in East New York with his gun drawn, in violation of police procedure, and fired the weapon when Gurley entered the stairway and startled him.

The rookie cop then fled the scene instead of administering help while Gurley bled to death.

“Vertical patrols are necessary as part of keeping our public housing residents safe,” Mr. de Blasio told reporters. “We have to be in our public housing developments, to protect people, there’s no question about it.”

The mayor took a moment to hype his “neighborhood policing” plan which has young officers like Mr. Liang work with more experienced cops, and has every precinct meet and cooperate with local leaders.

“We have to work constantly to do them the right way, and that means in a way that’s respectable to the residents of that development, in a way that is communicative, and understands the needs of the development,” Mr. de Blasio said, explaining how vertical patrols would work under his new model. “Vertical patrols done the right way are necessary for safety.”

The two officers shot during Mr. de Blasio’s State of the City address last week were also conducting a vertical patrol in public housing, and the Gurley family has called for an end to the policy. Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch—who decried the Liang conviction—has also criticized vertical patrols as being dangerous to officers.

Mr. de Blasio said he would not heed such calls, but he also dismissed claims from police unions like Mr. Lynch’s that Mr. Liang’s conviction would scare cops off from doing their jobs rigorously.

“Every police officer knows there are dangers,” he said. “I admire each and every one of them.”

After Akai Gurley Verdict, de Blasio Defends Vertical Patrols in NYCHA