A war of words between police unions and Rev. Al Sharpton has left Mayor Bill de Blasio with a deer-caught-in-the-headlights position, the New York Times reports. The brouhaha began in the wake of the Eric Garner chokehold death at the hands of police, who used the barred procedure, after they tried to arrest him for the minor offense of selling loose cigarettes. Following the incident, de Blasio issued a statement that the matter would be investigated and then went to Italy on holiday, leaving NYPD William Bratton as the chief spokesperson on the incident. Bratton said all police would be retrained and defended the “broken windows” theory of policing which maintains that arresting people for petty crimes such as asking for subway swipes to get into the subway, dancing on the trains, selling loose cigarettes and drinking in public will bring down major crime. The “Broken Windows” theory, along with the institution of CompStat policing which has cops attacking high-crime areas as opposed to walking regular beats, and gentrification that is forcing poorer and more desperate people out of the city are all considered factors in why crime is at historic lows in New York City. Upon de Blaio’s return, he called a “healing” press conference with Sharpton and Bratton at his side, and in which Sharpton sounded off on the NYPD, said race was an issue in the Garner incident and demanded that the police officers involved be arrested. Then for the past two days police union officials blasted the mayor for not backing up police and for giving Sharpton a platform for bashing police without any defense for the rank-and-file cops on the street. They also blasted Sharpton and hinted at a possible police slowdown. Sharpton defended his views and vowed to march to Staten Island where the Garner incident occurred. Meanwhile, as the Times reported today, de Blasio is figuring out how to find some sort of middle ground between being a reformer that won the mayoral election on vowing to end stop-and-frisk, which hugely affected young people of color, and letting police know that he is even-handed in having their back. That’s the rundown on the situation. What do you think?
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