New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio faced a mix of boos and applause as he took the stage to address a graduating class of 884 newly minted NYPD recruits Monday.
The speech at Madison Square Garden comes at a tense moment between the mayor and the NYPD. Hundreds of police officers turned their backs on de Blasio at the funeral of slain officer Rafael Ramos over the weekend, a sign of continued tension after police unions pinned blame for the murders of two cops on the mayor’s support of recent protests pushing for police reform.
The unions have criticized the mayor for supporting protests in the city after a grand jury decided not to indict a NYPD officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island. Ramos and a second officer, Wenjian Liu, were murdered Dec. 20 by a man who appeared to be angry and seeking revenge for the police-involved deaths of Garner and Ferguson teen Michael Brown.
The new graduates Monday did not follow their lead, though about a dozen members of the audience were spotted turning their backs. At one point, a heckler yelled at the mayor, “You created them!" when de Blasio spoke about police facing problems like poverty. Some applauded the heckler.
“Thank you for choosing what is a noble calling," de Blasio said. He highlighted his investments in technology for the department and praised the NYPD as the best police department in the country. The NYPD grads did not applaud the mayor's speech.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton received a warmer welcome from the recruits and their families when he took the stage after de Blasio.
"I want to be with the cops because I am a cop," Bratton said to applause.
Bratton acknowledged that morale in the NYPD is low but has publicly backed the mayor amid the increasingly bold protests against his leadership from some in the police department, calling the turning of backs at Ramos’ funeral an “inappropriate” infusion of po
litics at an event meant to mourn the loss of an officer and commemorate his service.
Police union leader Pat Lynch, who publicly blamed the mayor for the policemen's deaths earlier this month, was onstage with the mayor and other police leaders for the ceremony. Lynch's son was among the new graduates, according to The New York Post.
The mayor called on both the unions and anti-police brutality protesters to step back until both officers are buried. A funeral for Officer Liu is scheduled for this weekend.