Who is the real Mayor Bill de Blasio?
Is he the ever-smiling mayor who stumbles from crisis to crisis? Or, is he a shrewd politician who believes he can bedazzle New Yorkers with rhetoric?
Take an administration news release last week that hailed “transparency,” and pledged to amend section 50-a of state civil rights law to make disciplinary information about police officers subject to disclosure. It included statements of support from NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, Civilian Complaint Review Board chair Maya Wiley, six state lawmakers, three City Council members, and even the Rev. Al Sharpton.
There is only one problem: The de Blasio administration created the problem.
It began with a lawsuit involving the still unresolved “chokehold” death of Eric Garner in Staten Island in 2014 by Officer Daniel Pantaleo. When a judge ruled the CCRB must produce the number of Pantaleo’s substantiated complaints and specific disciplinary recommendations, the de Blasio administration appealed the ruling. So much for transparency.
Also, the NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters Larry Byrne had a eureka moment about a month ago. He claimed to have discovered that the NYPD, which for four decades had released the disciplinary records of cops through its personnel orders, was prohibited from doing so because of section 50-a.
Former Commissioner Bill Bratton could have overruled Byrne, saying his interpretation was incorrect and continuing to release the personnel orders. Instead, he went along with Byrne.
De Blasio could have overruled Bratton and ordered the department to continue to release the personnel orders. Instead, he went along with Bratton.
O’Neill, who in his few weeks as NYPD commissioner has shown himself as sensitive to minority concerns, also could have overruled Byrne. But O’Neill has also shown himself as savvy enough to not attempt to overrule the mayor.
It was left to one of the city’s small reform groups, Communities United for Police Reform, to call out the mayor on this.
The de Blasio news release, the group stated in its own news release, “fails to address the fundamental fact that this administration is responsible for creating new problems of reduced transparency, not the state law.”