New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ran as an unabashed liberal, in a city steered to the right during the administrations of Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg.
While he praised the need for police and acknowledged how difficult their jobs can be, he also supported proper policing and pushed back against Giuliani’s “broken windows” law enforcement strategies.
Then Eric Garner’s killers escaped a grand jury indictment and, on Saturday, two NYPD officers were gunned down in their squad car in Brooklyn by an obviously deranged career criminal who had delusions of making up for the death of Garner in Staten Island, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.
Now New York City is in crisis, and the repercussions are being felt nationally.
Some crises offer clear routes to calmness. Others seem like a blind person heading through a minefield. This is one of the latter.
Even as Sony hired the real-life Olivia Pope — Judy Smith — as it deals with the backlash of its movie cancellation at the hands of North Korea-backed hackers, de Blasio faces overt rebellion in the ranks of police officers.
No one watching the video of more than 200 officers and detectives who turned out spontaneously Saturday to salute the bodies of the two murdered officers can blame their anger. For as long as anyone can recall, police did a thankless job. They seldom got noticed for their good deeds and their mistakes — many of them profound — seemed magnified.
As one who has ridden in the back of a police car to witness what the job is like, you can easily understand the distrust and anger felt toward de Blasio.
But as Jon Stewart said the other night, you can support police officers, recognize the difficulties they face, and still demand the highest professional standards. These are actions that presumably do not include the choke-hold takedown and death of an unarmed black man for selling loose cigarettes.
de Blasio faces an immense challenge and this crisis will not ease until police who hate his politics and demonstrators who hate seeing black men slain needlessly are heard.
The biggest key to easing this crisis is likely perseverance.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.