Mayor de Blasio forcefully pushed back against the possible deployment of Federal law-enforcement personnel to New York City that was hinted at by President Trump in recent days, saying that it would set “a dangerous precedent.”
In a July 22 letter addressed to U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, the Mayor said the NYPD was fully capable of curbing the wave of violence that had befallen the city in recent weeks.
‘More Harm Than Good’
“We do not consent. We object,” he said of a deployment similar to that in Portland, Oregon, which has provoked violent clashes between Federal officers and residents there. “Do not send the proposed agents and officers from the Department of Homeland Security or other federal agencies to New York City. They have not been requested. They are not needed. And they have proved to bring way more harm than good.”
Despite a significant rise in killings and shootings citywide this year, particularly in recent weeks, the Mayor in his letter maintained that New York “remains the safest big city in America” and credited the NYPD.
“Sending in an army of rogue federal agents, unfamiliar with our streets and community leaders, to engage in tactics like those in Portland, will not help fight crime—it will undermine public trust in law enforcement,” Mr. de Blasio wrote in the five-paragraph letter, which was also sent to the Acting U.S. Attorneys for both the Eastern District and the Southern District, Seth D. DuCharme and Audrey Strauss, respectively.
Mr. de Blasio a day earlier pledged to go to court if Mr. Trump went ahead with a New York City deployment.
“It would backfire,” he said during his daily press briefing July 21. “From my point of view, this would be yet another example of illegal and unconstitutional actions by the President. And we have often had to confront him in court and we usually win. So, hopefully, it doesn't come to that, but, if needed, we will do that.”
Claims 'Sacred Obligation'
The Federal effort has consisted of sending personnel from the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to work together with state and local law enforcement to stem the rise in crime in several of the nation’s large cities.
Mr. Trump on July 22 announced that “hundreds” of personnel from those agencies would soon be deployed in Chicago, where violence, already high, further spiked in recent weeks.
In announcing the move, the President said it was his “sacred obligation” to protect the American people. He then offered a critique of “a radical movement to defund and dissolve” police departments.
“Extreme politicians have joined this anti-police crusade, and relentlessly vilified our law-enforcement heroes,” he said.
The deployment of Federal personnel will also extend to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mr. Trump did not mention New York City during his announcement.
“We'll work every single day to restore public safety, protect our nation's children, and bring violent perpetrators to justice,” he said. “We’ve been doing it and you’ve been seeing what’s happening all around the country. We’ve just started this and frankly, we have no choice but to get involved.”
'Steps to Quell Dissent'
In his letter to the Attorney General, Mr. de Blasio cast skepticism on that rationale, calling it calculated and cynical. “Rather, it is clear that these are political steps to quell dissent,” the Mayor wrote.
The city’s Corporation Counsel, James Johnson, said that while it is “not uncommon” for the NYPD and Federal officials to cooperate, such arrangements are done consensually and according to agreed-to protocols.
“It works well because we worked to avoid chaos. And the President is inviting chaos to an already difficult situation,” Mr. Johnson, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and high-ranking U.S. Treasury official, said during the Mayor’s July 22 briefing. “The Constitution gives the state and the city quite clear responsibility for local law enforcement.”
He said he was speaking with his counterparts elsewhere “and we are prepared and preparing to attack this in a coordinated way.”
‘We Have the Resources’
While Commissioner Dermot Shea acknowledged the “obstacles” the city was facing and also alluded to the NYPD’s partnership with Federal law-enforcement work on a number of issues, he also dismissed the need for a more assertive response from the Justice Department.
“We know we have a lot in front of us. Certainly, we had an interesting year here in New York City on a lot of levels, but we are going to get out of it together. And I always thank people for lending assistance, but we have the resources here,” he said during a CNN appearance July 21.
The president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, Ed Mullins, said that while Federal personnel weren’t necessary, city police need more support.
“I don’t think we need them. I think the New York City Police Department is more than capable of dealing with the crime and the crowds and even the riots and whatever it is that occurs,” he said during a July 22 phone interview. “What we need is the authority to do it, we need the political will from city government, city leadership, City Council, to stop playing games with the law and allow the police to enforce the law.”
Critical of New Restraints
Sergeant Mullins, along with Commissioner Shea, other NYPD officials and police unions, has been particularly critical of recently enacted legislation that criminalizes the use of certain restraint methods on resistant suspects. He and others have suggested that the legislation, signed into law by Mayor de Blasio earlier this month following the Council’s passage in June, have hobbled officers such that they hesitate to confront possible lawbreakers.
“The message to the criminals is that the New York City Police hands are tied based on all the methods and policies” implemented by the Mayor and the Council, he said.
Mr. Mullins said the early morning clear-out July 22 of an encampment at City Hall Park, initially occupied by protesters and then increasingly populated by the city’s homeless, and subsequent cleanup of graffiti on government buildings, including of Federal facilities, suggested the Mayor had been sufficiently alarmed at the prospect of a Federal deployment to act.
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