For a few hours Tuesday, the city’s police unions had a new Public Enemy No. 1.
Following his admonishment of how the NYPD managed the unrest and widespread looting from SoHo to the Bronx and elsewhere that lasted until the early morning of June 2, Governor Cuomo replaced Mayor de Blasio as the unions’ bête noire.
'Stop the Crap'
“It was a disgrace. I believe that,” the Governor said later that day of the police’s handling of attacks on businesses. “What happened in New York City was inexcusable.”
Speaking after the stores, including several upscale retail outlets, as well as Macy’s flagship on West 34th St., had been ransacked by roving bands of hooded and masked individuals, several of whom slipped from officers’ grasp, Mr. Cuomo said the 36,000-officer NYPD had failed in its mission “to protect the community, protect the property.”
“That is the essence of the police force,” he continued. “They did not do that in New York City last night.”
He couched his evaluations as “fact.”
Although he would later temper that assessment, his appraisal was met with incredulity and disdain from union leaders.
PBA: Cops Did Their Job
“Rank-and-file New York City police officers were out on the street last night doing our job,” Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, said in a statement. “Tonight, we’ll go out and do it again. It’s not our fault that our city and state governments can’t plan and work together, but we are suffering the consequences.”
Lou Turco, the president of the Lieutenants Benevolent Association, said the Governor’s remarks reflected his naivete about law enforcement and policing.
“The reason he’s saying we failed is because his policies failed and he needs somebody else to blame,” Mr. Turco said by phone a few hours after Mr. Cuomo spoke. He was referring to criminal-justice reforms signed into law last year that loosened bail rules for criminal suspects.
Citing vicious attacks on officers by agitators who disrupted the George Floyd protests that choked the city and police last week, Mr. Turco said the Governor’s comments were callous.
DEA: Shame on Governor
“What message is that sending?” he asked.
“What the hell would you have done? I want him to answer that,” Lieutenant Turco continued. “Stop the crap. If you’re going to condemn [officers] on TV, then you have to answer that. What would you have done? And he won’t answer it.”
The Detectives' Endowment Association, also referencing the attacks on officers, called the Governor’s remarks deplorable.
“More than 150 NYPD cops have been assaulted—4 were almost murdered—and all you speak about is how we aren’t doing a good job,” a DEA statement said. “As Governor, you should support the men & women who are working to stop NYC from burning. That’s what leadership is. Shame on you!”
Monahan Pushes Back
Chief of Department Terence Monahan, who has been out with his cops during the unrest, said he was “extremely outraged” by the Governor’s comments.
“I’m watching my men and women out there dealing with stuff that no cop should ever have to deal with. Bricks, bottles, rocks, hit in the face with bottles and continuing to go forward to make an arrest,” he told the New York Post. “For a Governor sitting in his office saying we’re not doing a good job, I’m outraged.”
Chief Monahan later said the Governor had called him to apologize. He said he hoped he would also do so publicly.
The Governor on June 3 did so, sort of.
“The actual officers are the best,” he said during his daily press briefing. “My issue was with the management and deployment, never about the police officers.”
But Mr. Cuomo did not retreat from the portion of his initial critique that did not spare Mayor de Blasio.
“I believe the Mayor underestimates the scope of the problem, I think he underestimates the duration of the problem and I don’t think they’ve used enough police to address the situation,” he said.
He several times said his option would be to “displace” Mr. de Blasio and bring in the National Guard..."and basically take over the Mayor’s job,” a possibility he repeated several times, but dismissed as unfeasible—for now.
“I don’t think we’re at that point,” he said, adding that supplanting the Mayor would bring about “a chaotic situation in the midst of a chaotic situation.”
Addressing Mr. Cuomo’s comments later that evening, Mr. de Blasio said they had “dishonored the men and women of the NYPD in an absolutely inappropriate way," and were counterproductive.
'Owes Cops an Apology'
“I think he's wrong,” the Mayor said during an interview on WINS radio. “And I don't think it's the way to get things done if we're trying to solve a problem...He owes an apology to 36,000 hard-working men and women who have been putting their lives on the line for all of us.”
Mr. Lynch, the PBA president, said this latest skirmish—and possibly the sharpest—between two self-styled progressives, undercut and endangered cops.
“Police officers are being run down, knocked down and almost shot on a nightly basis,” the union leader said. “The political tug of war between Albany and City Hall needs to stop, because it is putting police officers in danger.”