“I’ve had to worry over the years… is Dante safe each night?” de Blasio said at a news conference, hours after the decision was announced. “Is my child safe, and not just from some of the painful realities of crime and violence in some of our neighborhoods, but safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors? That’s the reality.”
It was a tough stance for a city mayor to take in response to a case involving his own police force. And the law enforcement community, which viewed his comments as something of a betrayal, responded with anger.
“Police officers feel like they are being thrown under the bus,” Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said at a news conference Thursday.
But de Blasio’s willingness to publicly sympathize with Garner’s grieving family and angry protesters is partly explained by the fact that he was speaking from his experience as the father of two black children and as a progressive Democratic mayor, the first elected in New York in nearly 25 years.
On Thursday, after a night of protests across the city, de Blasio released an open letter highlighting some of the changes that have already been put in place, some prior to the Garner case. He spoke more about reforms at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
Here’s the full text of de Blasio’s open letter:
Eric Garner’s death was a terrible tragedy that no family should have to endure. For many across our city and our nation, yesterday’s grand jury ruling compounds feelings of grief with dissatisfaction and anger.As we reflect on the weeks leading up to yesterday’s decision and prepare our path forward, I want to share a snapshot of our short- and long-term plans to improve the relationship between police and the communities they serve.First, this is not the end of the story — only the end of a chapter. The NYPD and the Justice Department will initiate their own investigations.Second, New York City owns a proud and powerful tradition of expression through non-violent protest. Demonstrations and free speech are valuable contributions to debate, but violence and disorder are not only wrong — they are counterproductive.Frustration is understandable. Centuries of racism precede us. But working together, we can turn from that history and make a profound and lasting change in the culture of law enforcement and bring police and community closer together.We’ve already begun to make progress.We’ve dramatically reduced the overuse and abuse of stop-and-frisk, initiated a comprehensive plan to retrain the entire NYPD to reduce the use of excessive force and to work with the community, reduced arrests for minor marijuana possession, and given officers body cameras to improve transparency and accountability.And we know there is much more to be done.Finally, in recent weeks, protesters and activists have adopted a phrase that should never have to be said, but that the stains on our country’s history demand we say: Black Lives Matter.When invoking this refrain, we must be mindful that issues surrounding policing and civil rights are not just an issue for people of color, they’re not just a problem for young people, and they’re not just a problem for people who get stopped by police. They’re a problem for all Americans who care about justice.As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”Together, we must work to make this right, to work for justice, and to build the kind of city and the kind of country we need to be. And we will.Thank you,Bill de Blasio