Wickham: Silence of NYC’s good cops widens divide

Wickham: Silence of NYC’s good cops widens divide

USA Today

DeWayne Wickham, Distinguished Professor of Journalism and Dean
School of Journalism
Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland

When Mayor Bill de Blasio stepped to the podium Saturday to eulogize Rafael Ramos, one of two New York City cops killed by a black gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, five days before Christmas, hundreds of police outside the church staged a silent protest that sullied the solemn occasion.

The officers turned their backs to the large televisions set up for the overflow crowd to see Ramos’ funeral. Their pivot away from the screens was meant as a protest against the mayor, whom Patrick Lynch, the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, accused of having blood on his hands for not being more supportive of the city’s police officers.

That charge and the lemming-like act of back-turning were cheap shots that came as the city grieved the death of Ramos and Wenjian Liu, who were shot to death as they sat in their patrol car. The officers’ deaths came in the wake of a series of street demonstrations following a grand jury’s decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, a white New York City police officer who was videotaped using a chokehold to subdue Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, whose death was labeled a homicide. Pantaleo and several other cops were attempting to arrest Garner for illegally selling untaxed cigarettes.

In his first public comments after the grand jury’s decision, de Blasio said he could relate to the pain Garner’s father was feeling and admitted that he and his wife, who is black, have warned their son about how “to take special care in any encounters he has with the police officers, who are there to protect him.”

That’s a warning many black parents routinely give their boys — and one that de Blasio, understandably, would offer his mixed-race son. They could also have reminded him that New York has long been a petri dish for police abuse of blacks. Remember Abner Louima. Amadou Diallo. Patrick Dorismond. Sean Bell

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