The five major New York City police unions have agreed to step back from using politically-charged rhetoric against the city's mayor and anti-police protesters, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Monday. The decision came amid calls from city officials for groups protesting police practices to also pause their activities out of respect for the families of two officers gunned down on Saturday.
"I think it's appropriate that the focus has to be on our murdered officers," Bratton said in a press conference alongside Mayor Bill de Blasio Monday afternoon.
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De Blasio, the target of fierce criticism following the execution-style killings of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, echoed the call for protest groups to also refrain from demonstrating until the families of the two fallen officers have been able to prepare funeral arrangements. The mayor also reiterated his belief that demonstrators have the right to gather peacefully to express their views, despite criticism by some police officials that recent protests against police practices may have incited the violence.
"We have to give people faith their concerns can be heard across the spectrum," de Blasio said.
He later went on to jab members of the media, saying the onus was on them to report on not just instances of violence, but also peace.
"I got calls from all over the country with admiration for the NYPD for the way it protected people's democratic rights. I heard from so many protesters who appreciated the NYPD. I heard from the NYPD officers and leaders who said they saw peaceful protests, respectful protests," de Blasio said. "I will keep on saying this over and over, the question is, will you tell the world about it?"
The mayor has been the focus of blame from police unions, who were angered after de Blasio expressed support for protesters and spoke of the need for police reform after a grand jury declined to indict an officer in the the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man. De Blasio also suggested at the time that his own biracial son may have something to fear in encounters with law enforcement.
“Let’s respect them while they go through this,” he said of the unions.
The shooting deaths of Ramos and Liu were allegedly perpetrated by a 28-year-old man with a lengthy criminal record and a troubled history. But the attacker's social media profile shows he may have been motivated in part by the deaths of Garner and other unarmed black men at the hands of police.
The mayor visited the homes of both of the slain officers on Monday, before addressing the public and police at the Police Athletic League. His remarks are the first since he was publicly snubbed by officers who turned their backs to him on Saturday when he entered the hospital where the victims were transported.
Like de Blasio, state and federal officials are working to calm the tensions quickly.
A source close to the police told msnbc that the Obama administration, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and de Blasio have reached out to the police unions, asking them to not do interviews until things settle down and to not politicize the situation, but more and more officials, former officials, and advocates are weighing in on it as the investigation into the event continues.
Bratton appeared on the "TODAY" show on Monday, attempting to appease both sides: He called the shooting a "direct spin-off" of the protests against acquittals of the officers who killed Eric Garner and Michael Brown, but also spoke out against the officers who turned their backs on the mayor. "I don't think it was appropriate, particularly in that setting, but it's reflective of the anger of some of them,'' Bratton said.
He went on to defend the mayor, citing increased benefits for officers and a growing budget to help train and upgrade police facilities and technology, but said de Blasio had clearly lost the trust of “some officers.”
President Barack Obama in a statement Sunday condemned the “murder of two police officers,” saying ”two brave men won’t be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification.”
Tensions between the New York City police union and the mayor’s office escalated over the weekend. Police responded to this weekend's killings furiously: The mayor’s hands are “dripping with our blood because of his words, actions and policies” and that the department has “for the first time in a number of years, become a ‘wartime’ police department,” the Police Benevolent Association said in a statement.
“I understand the emotions that generated that type of statement,” former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said on "Morning Joe" Monday morning, remarking that the killings were the first of its kind in decades. “This has had a traumatic, gut-wrenching effect on the department," Kelly said.
Cuomo, speaking from outside one of the slain officers' home, said Sunday, “The two police officers, its just unimaginable, there were no words, I was sitting with the family, there were looking at me, there are going to be some words, some wisdom.. his son said to me, why, why is my dad gone, what did my dad do wrong, and the truth is his father do nothing wrong.”
“I hope and pray we can reflect on this tragic loss of the lives that have occurred so we can move forward and find an amicable path to a peaceful co-existence. we would like to extend our condolences to the Liu family also,” the aunt of Officer Ramos said from her home in Brooklyn Sunday evening.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani blamed the president and black leaders for incendiary rhetoric, arguing they bear some responsibility for the officers’ deaths.
"We've had four months of propaganda, starting with the president, that everybody should hate the police," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "I don't care how you want to describe it -- that's what those protests are all about."
He accused de Blasio of "allowing protests to get out of control,” but stopped short of blaming him outright as the police had or calling for his resignation as others had.
NYPD Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were sitting in their squad car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn Saturday when the suspect, 28-year old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, approached the passenger side window and fired multiple rounds into the car, hitting the officers in the head and torso. Brinsley apparently fled to a nearby subway station, where he shot and killed himself. New details released by police Sunday night reveal Brinsley's long, troubled history with his family and the law, including 19 arrests in the last decade. He allegedly shot his ex-girlfriend earlier in the day in Baltimore County, Maryland, before heading to New York City.
Police say he accessed his social media accounts from his ex-girlfriend's phone, which he stole, and allegedly posted rants on Instagram in which he proclaimed plans to “put wings on pigs,” in other words, kill police. Brinsley also cited the recent deaths of Ferguson, Missouri’s Michael Brown and Staten Island, New York’s Eric Garner; police allies have blamed their deaths on the mayor and protesters.
In a statement released late Monday, Officer Liu's family thanked the city of New York and the NYPD for their support, as well as the FDNY and "EMS members who responded to the scene." The Liu family also thanked Gov. Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and Commissioner Bratton, and offered their condolences to the Ramos family.