Atlantic Cities

Bill de Blasio and the NYPD Are Off to a Rocky Start

Bill de Blasio and the NYPD Are Off to a Rocky Start
REUTERS

Last Friday, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton promised to bring a new level of transparency to the country's largest police department. "There should be no secrets in the NYPD,” Bratton told the Citizens Crime Commission during a breakfast meeting. "We are going to do more to open up the organization, to make it more inclusive, to make our information more readily available to the public, and to try and format it in a way that is more easily retrievable.”

Bratton didn't get specific, but it's unlikely the past week's "transparency" is what he had in mind. Not only have NYPD lips been surprisingly loose about the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, they've also spread word of some unbecoming behavior by Mayor Bill de Blasio. 

On Monday night, New York police stopped Bishop Orlando Findlayter, who campaigned for de Blasio and was a member of his transition team, for a traffic violation. That led to the discovery that Findlayter had some outstanding warrants, and he was arrested. When de Blasio heard the news, he called the arresting precinct around midnight to find out what was going on, and learned that Findlayter had already been released. While it appears de Blasio had little to do with that release, his decision to intervene in a law enforcement matter on a friend's behalf is now news. 

New York Comptroller Scott M. Stringer scolded de Blasio on Wednesday, telling reporters that the mayor "shouldn’t be involved in any way about somebody’s arrest." 

Stringer's right. It's inappropriate for chief executive (at any level) to interfere with a criminal investigation. But so far only New York's Chris Smith has noted the other important aspect of the NYPD's newfound chattiness:

[F]or 12 years the NYPD spoke with one and only one voice: Ray Kelly's. The commissioner was usually the sole police official on the podium at press conferences describing major cases. The rare unauthorized leak was dealt with swiftly and decisively: When particulars relating to the murder of Imette St. Guillen turned up in the newspapers, Kelly launched an internal investigation that combed detectives' cell-phone records to see if they'd called reporters.

Any number of people could've leaked de Blasio's late-night phone call to the Wall Street Journal (the first outlet to report it). But what does it say if it was a member of the NYPD? Smith says that the department's rank-and-file are "troubled by what they see as de Blasio's blanket inference that they were racist for carrying out [stop-and-frisk] under Kelly." Is this payback?

It'd be lazy to attribute the decision by one leaker (or two, or even a dozen) to a 30,000+ person agency, but between these leaks, and the anger police unions have expressed about de Blasio's decision to settle the stop-and-frisk lawsuit, it's clear that the mayor's office and the NYPD have got off on the wrong foot. 

Top image: Bill de Blasio. REUTERS/Craig Ruttle/Pool

Mike Riggs is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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