NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City police union leaders said they rejected Mayor Bill de Blasio’s leadership after emerging from a meeting with the city’s police commissioner on Wednesday, suggesting the mayor’s effort to mend his unusually deep rift with police was failing.
The meeting with Commissioner William Bratton came only hours after de Blasio conceded he was still unable to say whether officers in the nation’s largest police force had embarked on a widespread work slowdown in the two weeks since two policemen were ambushed and killed.
The number of arrests and court summonses has plummeted across the city since the attack, with some police precincts recording a statistically improbable zero tickets for misdemeanors, suggesting many officers are ignoring all but the most urgent crimes.
“We don’t believe that there is a willingness on the part of City Hall to solve these problems,” Patrick Lynch, the president of the city’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
Lynch said he was also speaking on behalf of the detectives’, sergeants’, lieutenants’ and captains’ unions.
“So we as union leaders will take the time to sit down and discuss these issues and come up with solutions to them,” the statement continued, stopping just short of saying they had given up on talks with the mayor.
“We wish there was a leader in City Hall.”
The union leaders, who have said they have not sanctioned a slowdown, met with de Blasio last week but said that the meeting resolved nothing. The police department did not immediately respond to questions about the commissioner’s meeting.
While it is not unusual for union leaders to speak witheringly of a mayor, City Hall officials have been unable to point to any precedent for hundreds of uniformed police officers turning their backs on the mayor in disdain, as has happened at the slain officers’ funerals and other public events.
In contrast to his predecessors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, who between them ran the city for 20 years, de Blasio campaigned for office in 2013 on a platform that criticized some police tactics as prejudicial towards black and Latino New Yorkers.
His sympathetic remarks for the waves of street rallies across the United States last year against what protesters say are racist police practices further angered some of his police officers.
On Wednesday, de Blasio, who has filled his recent speeches with effusive praise for his police, told reporters at an unrelated event that he disagreed with the suggestion by some union leaders that he should apologize for his remarks.
“I respect the question,” he said, “but the construct is about the past, and I just don’t want to do that. I think this is about moving forward. I’ve always tried to tell the truth as I know it and I try to be respectful.”
He said it was too soon for him to say whether there was a police slowdown.
“We’re going to let this week pass,” he said, “and at the end of this week, we will make judgments and we will act accordingly.”
Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Michael Perry