July 17, 2016
Jon Belmont: Eric Garner died of an NYPD chokehold two years ago today, and we welcome Mayor Bill de Blasio live to 1010 Wins to talk about this. Good morning, Mayor.
Mayor de Blasio: Good morning, how are you?
Belmont: I’m okay, thank you. Thanks for joining us. A Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict any officers, federal prosecutors still going back and forth on possible civil rights charges. Do you think justice delayed is justice denied?
Mayor: No. We have to understand this is a very complicated and obviously tragic case. And it is now in the hands of the US Justice Department, and I think the Justice Department over decades is the gold standard in terms of looking at complicated dynamics between police and communities and obviously questions of civil rights. So this is being handled by the highest authorities in the nation, but it is not a simple case, and they are looking very, very thoroughly at it. I spoke to U.S Attorney General Loretta Lynch earlier in the week, and she affirmed to me it’s a high priority. It’s getting a lot of very focused attention, but they have to do things the right way.
Belmont: You’ve sort of addressed that, but on the other side of this equation Garner’s widow says she feels like officials are dragging their feet. What would you say to her?
Mayor: No one is dragging their feet. Everything is being done meticulously because we want to make sure that what happens is fair to everyone involved. These are tragedies. These are situations that no one intended to happen, and we have to make sure the resolution afterwards is fair and just, but look the real issue is preventing these tragedies. It’s working to make sure they don’t happen again in the future. That’s the discussion that’s happening all over America and I have to say – the NYPD is doing some of the very best work in the country in terms of retraining our officers in how to deescalate incidents and to avoid the use of force when possible, and into how to recognize that all of us as human beings have bias, have blind spots. The NYPD is systematically retraining the entire police force to recognize those implicit biases, overcome them, and protect everyone including of course our officers in the process. The real conversation we need to have is how do we prevent these tragedies going forward, and I’m proud to say Commissioner Bratton and his team have taken exceedingly impressive steps towards that goal.
Belmont: Yet we still have seen the use of some chokeholds since Garner died two years ago. How do you explain that Mayor?
Mayor: It’s very clear in the NYPD regulations what is acceptable and what is not. I’ve always said there are some circumstances when an officer’s life may be in jeopardy, when an officer may be fighting with an assailant that’s a one on one struggle – that’s a different kind of dynamic – but in typical policing the regulations are clear, and the entire force is being retrained in how to properly follow those rules and regulations. And I think it’s working. I think you see more and more a very smart, restrained use of force by the NYPD. Complaints against the NYPD are down 25 percent – civilians complaints down 25 percent over the last two years. At the same time crime has been driven down by the NYPD. Obviously the broken policing of stop and frisk has been fundamentally reformed, and at the same time we have higher gun seizures – 20 percent more gun seizures than last year. So the NYPD is doing a great job of protecting people while using minimal force and avoiding unnecessary confrontations with civilians.
Belmont: Mr. Mayor, I’m wondering about your personal and political dynamics. Have you managed to make peace with police who said you were too sympathetic to protestors and not supportive enough of them?
Mayor: I think there are always people who like to inflame tensions. Bluntly, they’re on both sides of the spectrum. They are on the right, and they are on the left. Some people prefer to say things that cause division rather than look for unity. The vast majority of police do their job well, follow all constitutional guidelines, and serve with distinction. The vast majority of protests are peaceful and attempting to utilize their first amendment rights for social change as has been done in this country for centuries.
Belmont: Just about a minute left. “I can’t breathe” lead to those chants of “black lives matter”, how do we increase the respect between cops and minorities nationwide?
Mayor: I would say it this way. Look at the fact that in Dallas – in the middle of that tragedy – as the shots were raining down, the police instinctively went to protect the protestors, look at the fact that days later there was Black Lives Matter protest in New York City where they stopped and had a moment of silence for the fallen officers in Dallas. There are a lot of people who want to find unity, and we can do it in this city. We’ve taken the right steps to improve our police force and protect our officers. We have the new vests, the new training, the new technology – that also keeps our officers safe. But we need a lot more talk in this country about how to bring police and community together. Neighborhood policing where there is a true partnership between the police and community is the way forward – that’s what we’re instituting here in New York City. We have a lot of willing partners on the ground in communities who want to be closer to the police, and a lot of police officers who want to be a part of the change. That’s how we’re going to get it done.
Belmont: Mayor de Blasio thanks so much for joining us.
Mayor: Thank you.
Belmont: You are always welcome here on 1010 Wins.