Adams slams opposition in response
By Jonathan Lemire
One of New York City's police unions announced its opposition to the city's bid for Brooklyn to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention, claiming that crime is on the rise and criticizing Mayor Bill de Blasio's public safety policies.
The Sergeants Benevolent Association, which has 13,000 members, took out a full-page ad in Tuesday's The New York Times saying that the city was "lurching backwards to the bad old days of high crime, danger-infested public spaces, and families that walk our streets worried for their safety."
"Mayor de Blasio has not earned the right to play host to such an important event," read the ad, which was an open letter from union president Edward Mullins to the Democratic National Committee.
The ad denounced de Blasio, a Democrat who took office in January, for providing "a public platform to the loudest of the city's anti-safety agitators." The line was a clear reference to the Rev. Al Sharpton, the fiery civil rights leader who was invited to speak at City Hall after a black Staten Island man was placed in a fatal chokehold by a white NYPD officer.
"The NYPD is understaffed, overworked and underpaid," the ad read. "Morale among police officers is low, and there are few signs that it will get better any time soon. Our Mayor cannot be a leader in the fight against crime without supporting his police force."
De Blasio dismissed the ad as a negotiating tool in the union's ongoing contract talks with the city.
"It's clearly an effort to advance their position in terms of their contract talks," said de Blasio before an unrelated Brooklyn news conference. "It's an irresponsible act on their part. It's fear-mongering to try to benefit their own position in contract talks."
De Blasio also disputed the ad's claim that crime was rising in the nation's largest city. Though shootings have ticked up so far in 2014, homicides are down, as is the overall crime rate.
"Negotiate based on the facts," de Blasio said. "Don't try to stoke fear in the city we love."
The city's other police unions, including the large Patrolmen's Benevolent Association which represents rank-and-file officers, did not respond to a request for comment about the ad. A spokesman for the DNC also declined to comment.
A delegation from the DNC toured Brooklyn and its bid's centerpiece venue, the Barclays Center, earlier this month. The other contenders for the convention are Philadelphia, Phoenix, Columbus, Ohio and Birmingham, Alabama.
A decision is expected by early next year. The Republicans have announced that their convention will be in Cleveland.
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Later on Tuesday afternoon, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams released a response to the Brooklyn Eagle regarding the SBA's statement:
"SBA President Edward Mullins’ open letter to the DNC, published in today’s New York Times, is an inaccurate and frankly inane spewing of political vitriol, all at the expense of everyday New Yorkers, including the men and women of the NYPD whom he represents. He makes unfair accusations against Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Bratton and the broad-based coalition of thousands who are all working together to strengthen police-community relations, keeping our city the safest big city in America while ensuring everyone is treated with courtesy, professionalism and respect. We are making significant strides toward reducing crime to even further lows, but we need to be united in this pursuit, not divided as President Mullins is attempting to make us.
“The Democratic National Convention is an important pursuit for Brooklyn and the rest of our city; it will put our borough on the main stage and have a major economic impact. Every New Yorker should be onboard with this goal, including our police unions; after all, tourism helps to pay the salaries of our officers. For the SBA leadership to say that our first-rate police department cannot keep our city safe is the wrong message. If terrorists could not keep us from hosting big events, then nothing should, especially not a select few who object to the change of direction from the winds of positive and progressive change that have blown through this city.
“President Mullins’ open letter was a closed-minded view of our city’s ability to keep the 52 million visitors we get every year safe.”
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Early Wednesday morning, councilmember Jumaane Williams gave a statement of his own in response to the SBA's op-ed:
"The open letter the SBA addressed to the DNC is not just 'objectionable' as Police Commissioner Bratton called it, but is completely disgraceful. The spirit of the letter is disingenuous because the facts are flat out wrong. Unfortunately this has come to be the norm for the SBA and all police unions when discussing police reforms. These tactics have been the most divisive aspect of the public safety debate; misinforming their members and selling fear to the public. Whether the DNC should be held in Brooklyn is not the issue here, but was used as another opportunity to push more scare tactics.
"NYPD's own data proves that New York City remains the safest big city in the United States. In fact, the homicide rate has continued to fall and overall crime is down 3.6 percent. Statistics further show that shootings have increased approximately 10 percent year-to-date. This increase, however, still represents a downward trend, as this year has seen the second fewest shootings recorded by NYPD, and is only second to the previous year. Additionally, shootings this year are far lower than in 2012 when the abuse of Stop, Question & Frisk was at its peak, down 22.4 percent.
"No amount of lies about the abuses of Stop, Question & Frisk can change the fact that what was being done was unconstitutional and no data has concluded causation between exponentially increased frisks and number of shootings. The unions have lost in court, in elections and by law. Perhaps if they work on really caring for their union members, they can remind them that Stops are still allowed, needed and should be conducted as long as it is done constitutionally. Police unions can play a vital role here making sure that officers know how to conduct constitutional stops that will help make all New Yorkers mores safe.
"What a day it will be when the SBA and the other unions decide to sit down as productive partners in this conversation. This posture is not only immature but dangerous. If this is another way to stay relevant while fighting for contracts, it is my hope that they not play with the lives of hard-working officers and communities looking to support them.
"I call on the SBA and all police unions to stop this irresponsible behavior and come to the table like productive adults."