If you were looking for a moment when the wheels truly seemed to be coming off the Bill de Blasio administration’s relationship with the NYPD, the late-August call by a prominent police union to oppose bringing the Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn is a good candidate. The idea had been floated for Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to host the DNC, but the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, Ed Mullins, had some choice–and public–words for the mayor:
“While the Barclays Center is still new and glistening, the great city in which it stands is lurching backwards to the bad old days of high crime, danger-infested public spaces, and families that walk our streets worried for their safety,” Mullins wrote in an open letter running in Tuesday’s editions of the New York Post and The New York Times.
Mullins said de Blasio’s administration has made “dangerous choices” and as a result, the “degradation of our streets is on the rise.”
He added, sourly, “Right now, we don’t have a mayor who supports the police.” Mullins’s point was ostensibly that the NYPD shouldn’t have any additional burden put on it–indeed, that such a request would be chutzpahdik–while they’re being constantly second-guessed by a new administration. But it’s clear that the feeling had been building for some time and needed an outlet.
It’s worth keeping that moment in mind reading the latest news on the de Blasio administration’s ongoing power struggle with the NYPD. The background, briefly: de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, has been so involved with the administration that mayoral counsel Henry Berger is arguing she should legally be considered a consultant in order to shield her correspondence with the administration from reporters. McCray’s chief of staff, Rachel Noerdlinger, thus enjoys a high degree of access.
Noerdlinger, it was revealed by DNAinfo last week, is in a relationship with a man convicted of homicide and drug charges and who refers to police in derogatory language and nearly ran a cop off the road in New Jersey last year. De Blasio is sticking by Noerdlinger, who used to work for Al Sharpton. And now the Washington Free Beacon has unearthed something that New Yorkers probably had forgotten but the police groups might not have:
Rachel Noerdlinger, the controversial chief of staff to New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray, once called for boycotts of a local police union and all of its supporters, a position that could cause more headaches for Mayor Bill de Blasio as he seeks to minimize the fallout over Noerdlinger’s relationship with a convicted killer who has made disparaging comments about the police.
Noerdlinger, the longtime top aide to de Blasio’s wife, has been engulfed in controversy after it came to light that she is dating a convicted murderer and drug dealer who has called cops “pigs” and expressed distaste for white people.
The unearthing of these remarks by ex-con Hassaun McFarlan is said to have raised “serious concerns about Noerdlinger having a seat at top-level” New York Police Department (NYPD) meetings, according to the New York Daily News.
Noerdlinger in 2000, while working as Sharpton’s spokeswoman, called for the boycotting of companies that donated to the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which had been helping to pay for the defense of New York policemen acquitted on charges of murdering Amadou Diallo. The comments came at a time of high tensions in the city over the Diallo case.
As the New York Post reported at the time, Noerdlinger’s boycott call was made at the same time prominent Harlem Rev. Calvin Butts was stirring up public anger against both the police and then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani:
“There are many who are calling for calm, but I am not one,” he told The Post. “I think that people ought to be agitated, they ought to be active.”
Earlier in the day, Butts told worshippers, “There is an evil that permeates the place called City Hall,” and called on New Yorkers to stand up for their rights.
“There is no chance that your police will not be resisted. They must be resisted, they will be resisted,” he said in a sermon.
The benevolent associations, unions, and other police groups likely remember that controversy quite well. If so, they also remember the support they tended to get from the Giuliani administration, in stark contrast to the atmosphere of distrust building around de Blasio. The revelation that the administration now has someone on board who had been calling for a boycott of the PBA makes it easier to understand why someone like Mullins at the SBA sees a proliferation of red flags around this administration.
De Blasio has not proved successful at maintaining public safety while reining in police procedure. Actions have consequences, and a lot of New Yorkers remember well the consequences the last time distrust of the NYPD was allowed to drive public safety policymaking. And if de Blasio doesn’t remember that, he’s clearly got staffers who can remind him.