New York City police officers again turned their backs on mayor Bill De Blasio this Sunday at the funeral for Officer Wenjian Liu, 32. The action disregards a memo issued by the police commissioner asking officers not to repeat the silent protest shown during the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos, 40. Both Ramos and Liu were killed in a surprise attack by lone gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsley this December. Its aftermath has revealed extraordinary tension between the nation’s largest municipal police union, department leadership, City Hall and residents just as civilian protesters were escalating calls for police reform.
As with Ramos, hundreds of officers turned their backs just as the mayor began Liu’s eulogy. According to the Washington Post, even out-of-town officers joined in. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke tells the Post, "We might be reaching a tipping point with the mind-set of officers, who are beginning to wonder if the risks they take to keep communities safe are even worth it anymore. In New York and other places, we’re seeing a natural recoil from law enforcement officers who don’t feel like certain people who need to have their backs have their backs."
There appears to be disagreement within the rank-and-file however. "It’s two different police departments inside those walls," one retired officer tells the Post. "There are officers who really feel that the mayor has turned his back on the police department and that they are in increased danger. And then there are the officers who go home and tell their sons the same things that the mayor said he told his — if you’re black, be careful around police."
This Sunday’s funeral marks the third time in less than a month that officers have publicly turned their backs on the mayor. The first incident occurred in the hallways of the Brooklyn hospital where officers Ramos and Liu died.
Expect this story to develop. Later this month a new judge will hear arguments asking for a full release of transcripts of the grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case.