All eyes were on Bill de Blasio at the NYPD graduation ceremony held this morning. After an expanding rift between the Mayor and police officers was confirmed when “scores of mourning police officers” standing outside the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos turned their backs as the mayor delivered his eulogy, many expected to see another demonstration of disapproval.
However audience members at the ceremony held for 884 graduates at Madison Square Garden were split on de Blasio’s remarks, which were clearly aimed at mending the rift. The Mayor’s speech was full of praise for cops, who he once again called “peacemakers.”
“Thank you for choosing what is a noble calling,” he said. “You serve in the greatest and finest police department on this earth […] It takes a special kind of person to put their lives on the line for others, to stare down the danger.” De Blasio also praised police officers for their role in fighting poverty and “all manner of problems,” in a “still too divided society.” He said that officers “can be part of the solution.”
Police Commissioner Bratton, who called the demonstration against de Blasio “very inappropriate” when he appeared on Face the Nation yesterday, used somewhat softer language at the graduation ceremony today when he acknowledged that the city is in the midst of a “difficult time,” but promised that “we will work through it.”
Much like de Blasio’s remarks, Bratton’s speech was full of praise for police officers. The Commissioner emphasized that, though he’s moved up to the highest ranking office in the NYPD, he still identifies with his roots as a rank-and-file officer. “There are those that seek to use [the term ‘cop’] in a derogatory fashion, but […] it is a name of distinction,” he said. “For 44 years, I’ve been privileged to call myself a cop.”
However, Bratton had a few words that seemed to be at odds with rhetoric heard from Pat Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. The NYPD union leader, in an email sent to members days after Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot and killed in Bed-Stuy by a gunman, wrote that officers’ “number one priority must be to go home safely at each tour.” Lynch said the murders were a reminder that “our uniform makes us a target.”
Today, Commissioner Bratton emphasized to police academy graduates that, as officers, they have a duty to one another as well as to civilians. “In taking that oath … you are no longer just responsible for yourself, you are today responsible for keeping […] other cops safe,” he said. “And the 35,000 of you collectively will keep this city safe.”