Late Monday evening, two New York City police officers were shot while responding to a robbery in the Bronx. The two officers, Andrew Dossi, 30, and Aliro Pellerano, 38, were both off-duty, a detail made all the more meaningful by the broader context: On the same day they were wounded, the NYPD "slowdown," the department's protest practice of cutting arrests and issuing fewer criminal summonses and tickets, carried into its third week.
The NYPD and the New York City Mayor's Office have been in an open feud since Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, two New York Police Department officers, were brutally murdered in Brooklyn last month.
Former police officers and union leaders have accused New York Mayor Bill de Blasio of being "anti-police," a perception that spread as the mayor lent his support for the protests over the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. De Blasio, they allege, enabled the climate that brought about the deaths of the officers. One, the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, ventured as far as to say that de Blasio has "blood on his hands."
In response, rank-and-file NYPD officers twice turned their backs on the mayor as he delivered eulogies at the funerals of Officer Rafael Ramos last month and Officer Wenjian Liu on Sunday. Even as the mayor decried the acts as "disrespectful," he also sought to smooth over tensions with a slantwise acknowledgement of them during the service for Liu:
Let us move forward by strengthening the bonds that unite us. And let us work together to attain peace.
New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has had some difficulty directly addressing the trouble. A few hours before Monday's shooting, Bratton served up this classic waffle about a police slowdown that has been marked by a 90 percent drop in summonses and a 56 percent drop in arrests in the five boroughs:
“At this time, I’ve not used the term slowdown, which would indicate it’s an organized or even comprehensive initiative.” Bratton added that he would look into it.
Following Monday's shootings, even the leading New York tabloids were split over what the news was. While the Post went with "Two More Cops Shot" on its Tuesday morning cover, the Daily News highlighted the broader schism. (Both back pages were sad about the Knicks.)
The immediate and the expansive are equally crucial. On Tuesday, as three men were taken into custody in the shooting case, the New York Post reported that Andrew Dossi, one of the officers shot on Monday evening, wasn't thrilled to have received a hospital visit from the mayor even after being wounded in an act meant to protect the public.
This is a problem. As The New Yorker's George Packer explains: "This is a disaster for a city that elected de Blasio with seventy-three per cent of the vote, and that also—judging by the wide and deep sympathy expressed after the execution of two officers in Brooklyn—generally supports its police force."
While, admittedly, it's been difficult to detect any perceptible difference in New York life during the NYPD slowdown, knowing that city hall and cops on the street are feuding is unnerving. Like the slowdown, even if the minor issues slide by, the big ones can't go unconfronted. As last night's events prove, dangerous crime isn't going anywhere.