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De Blasio Struggles To Rebuild Trust With NYPD Rank And File


There was another tense encounter today between the nation's largest police force and the mayor of its biggest city. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is struggling to rebuild trust with the rank and file of the NYPD after two officers were fatally shot in their squad cars earlier this month. He addressed the graduating class of the city's police academy this morning. NPR's Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: More than 800 new police officers took the oath of office in front of family and friends at Madison Square Garden. The graduation speaker was greeted with a mixture of boos, catcalls and polite applause.


BILL DE BLASIO: Thank you. Congratulations, officers. It is an honor to call you officers.

ROSE: Mayor de Blasio did get a few cheers from the crowd - for example, when he quoted a line from the Bible.


DE BLASIO: Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God. We lost two peacemakers nine days ago. We lost two heroes. They were children of God for sure. We mourn Detective Rafael Ramos and Detective Wenjian Liu.

ROSE: The man who shot the officers claimed it was in retaliation for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who died at the hands of police. The head of New York's largest police union has said that Mayor de Blasio has blood on his hands for encouraging the ongoing protests against police brutality. And on Saturday, several hundred NYPD officers turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio outside the funeral for Officer Ramos. The mayor has kept a low profile, but his police commissioner, Bill Bratton, has been working the national talk show circuit.


BILL BRATTON: I certainly don't support that action yesterday. I think it was very inappropriate at that event.

ROSE: That's Bratton speaking yesterday on CBS's "Face The Nation." Bratton appeared on two of the big Sunday talk shows, trying to play down the tension between the mayor and the NYPD. But on NBC's "Meet The Press," Bratton acknowledged that rift is real.


BRATTON: I think it's probably a rift that is going to go on for a while longer. The issues go far beyond race relations in this city. They involve labor contracts. They involve a lot of history in the city that's really different from some of what's going on in the country as a whole.

ROSE: Most NYPD officers are working without a labor contract. Many in the department were angry about Mayor de Blasio's promises to reform the way the NYPD interacts with communities of color.

CHRISTINA GREER: De Blasio is in a very difficult position.

ROSE: Christina Greer is a political scientist at Fordham University.

GREER: He has to, on the one hand, make sure that the people who elected him feel as though he's working on their behalf.

ROSE: But on the other hand, de Blasio has to repair his relationship with the NYPD's rank and file and their union. And on this front, he has a lot more work to do says Jeanne Zaino, a professor of political science at Iona College.

JEANNE ZAINO: The mayor's really got to give people the sense that he and the police are working together, and that they are both focused on the same goal which is the safety and security of the city. And that's where he's really struggled.

ROSE: When de Blasio took office, his critics predicted that crime in the city would surge. It hasn't. Major crime, including murder, remains at historic lows. But Zaino says that reality is getting lost in the public rift between the mayor and the police. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.