New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has told members of the NYPD not to turn their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio again at the funeral for Wenjian Liu on Sunday.
“I issue no mandates and I make no threats of discipline,” Bratton wrote in a memo. “But I remind you that when you don the uniform of this department, you are bound by the tradition, honor, and decency that go with it.”
Officers turned their backs on the mayor during the funeral of Rafael Ramos over one week ago, as de Blasio addressed funeral attendees. A smaller group of officers turned their back on the mayor the evening he went to give remarks at the hospital where Liu and Ramos were taken after being assassinated in their patrol car.
Bratton initially called NYPD officers’ reaction to the mayor “inappropriate.”
The memo continues to say that officers who participated in turning their backs are only distracting from the funeral and destroying the image of the department.
“All officers were painted by it, and it stole the valor, honor, and attention that rightfully belonged to the memory of detective Rafael Ramos’s life and service,” Bratton said.
One NYPD source says officers are taking the memo from Bratton as a “veiled threat” and may very well disobey him.
“I never signed anything giving up my constitutional rights,” one NYPD cop said. Additionally, an online image with a skull and crossbones, captioned “Keep calm and turn your back,” is being circulated among law enforcement.
This split between the brass and street cops finds its focal point among NYPD captains, who were told by their union not to turn their backs on the mayor this Sunday.
“Captains and above will be in front at the funeral Sunday, because they won’t turn their backs,” the officer continued. “They are trying to keep us divided! I hope the support continues.”
Others told The New York Post that Bratton is only “trying to protect his boss and not make him look bad” and that the memo could work against the police commissioner now that cops know turning that turning their backs upset the mayor, so the idea of doing it again is more appealing. Also, law enforcement officers from outside of New York City, who plan to attend the funeral, are under no mandate to obey Bratton’s orders either.
Roy Richter, president of the NYPD Captains Endowment Association, wrote in a memo, “In this forum the appropriate protest is not a sign or turning away from mourners, or people the family has asked to speak, but rather cold, steely silence… In the coming days and weeks you will be looked upon by many for guidance, leadership and advice at a time when many of our peers and officers under our care are deeply angry. Unfortunately, but understandably, this anger provided visual displays of back-turning at the funeral of Police Officer Ramos that caused pain for his loved ones.”
Some officers say the captains are folding because a promotion above their rank does not require an exam like the ranks below it but rather a political appointment. Bratton approves any promotions above an NYPD captain but the promotion is under the certificate of the mayor.