During New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s eulogy for slain Officer Wenjian Liu yesterday, hundreds of police turned their backs on the mayor. The show of scorn highlighted growing tensions between de Blasio and the New York City police.
Officer Liu was shot dead with his partner, Officer Rafael Ramos, on December 20. Married only two months previously, Liu’s police career embodied the American dream: after immigrating from China as a child, Liu wanted to become a police officer to help his community after the September 11 attacks.
More than 10,000 mourners arrived at the ceremony held outside the funeral home. Liu’s funeral arrangements were delayed to allow his family to travel from China to attend.
Police even went so far as to blame de Blasio for the death of Liu and Ramos. Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, among those who turned their backs on the mayor at a hospital the day of the killings, told the Associated Press de Blasio had “blood on his hands.”
De Blasio supported protests following the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Police union leaders accused the mayor of thus encouraging a hostile environment that allowed the officers’ deaths.
“Let us move forward by strengthening the bonds that unite us, and let us work together to attain peace,” de Blasio said at the funeral.
Though attending police seemed hardened to de Blasio’s words, Police Commissioner William Bratton urged officers to show respect. “A hero’s funeral is about grieving, not grievance,” Bratton said in a memo.
Retired police, like New York Police Department detective Camille Sanfilippo, also turned their backs on de Blasio.
“The mayor has no respect for us,” Sanfilippo told the Associated Press. “Why should we have respect for him?”
“Across this country, we seem to be under attack in the law enforcement profession,” national secretary of the Fraternal Order of Police Patrick Yoes told the Associated Press. “We are public servants. We are not public enemies.”
While tensions rise in New York, the city of Portland is actively working to improve police policies, training, and community relations.
On Wednesday, Portland City Council will discuss a new ordinance proposing furthered police reform. The ordinance would add $75,000 a year to the city’s already approved $240,000 annual contract with Rosenbaum & Watson – the Chicago-based team of academics working with former Oregon Chief Justice Paul J. DeMuniz as the city’s new compliance officer and community liaison.
Following a 2012 U.S. Justice Department investigation, the city of Portland began instigating changes in its police policies, training, and management.
The 2012 investigation found that Portland police “engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force against people with mental illness” and that “stun gun use by officers was unjustified and excessive at times.”
“Getting out and engaging people is a critical component of helping police build trust in our community,” Portland Police Chief Michael Reese said in a video released during the aftermath of Ferguson.
“The importance of building greater trust between police officers and the people we serve is paramount,” Reese said.
The Portland City Council’s review of the ordinance is scheduled for 2 p.m. on January 7 in City Hall’s council chambers.