Mayor de Blasio took a break from refusing to answer questions about Groundhog Day to reflect upon the tumultuous last couple months in an interview with AP in anticipation of his State Of The City address next week.
Mostly, De Blasio reflects on the police rift and subsequent slowdown, concluding that he (and the City) have moved on: "It was a perfect storm. It was based on two tragedies. The death of Eric Garner and the murder of these two officers. People felt pain all around," de Blasio told AP. "I do believe things are much better. I believe the dialogue is moving forward."
The best part of the interview is de Blasio revealing the "playbook" his team designed for dealing with the crisis after Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were fatally shot in their car in Bedford-Stuyvesant by a disturbed individual, and tensions with cops escalated exponentially. Notably absent from this list: Bill Clinton.
De Blasio's planning on how to handle the crisis began the next day when shaken members of his inner circle devised a playbook.
Unveiled for the first time to the AP, that plan involved three parts:
—Stay on the moral high ground and maintain focus on the grieving families of the slain officers.
—Empower carefully chosen surrogates to speak on the administration's behalf, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Police Commissioner William Bratton, who allied himself closely with de Blasio but remained in good standing with the police unions.
—Avoid engaging in verbal warfare with the unions, hoping that the passage of time would dissipate the rank-and-file's anger.
For a while, the strategy failed.
It certainly did fail—cop union leaders wracked up their rhetoric saying de Blasio had "blood on his hands," encouraging cops to turn their backs to him at the funerals of the slain officers (de Blasio called that "an overstep — really inappropriate"). Then came the police slowdown, a virtual work stoppage at (that was at least somewhat welcome by NYers). And there were meetings arranged with police leaders that devolved into shouting matches.
So if his initial strategy failed, what powered de Blasio through the crisis? Two things: he was able to (mostly) keep his head down and wait out his most venomous critics until they became cartoonish (by mid-January, 69% of NYers thought cops were in the wrong). And, as always, money.
Money may also have played a subtle role in brokering peace. Several of the police unions are working on expired contracts and while the PBA is in arbitration, the sergeants union is close to a deal. Also, the City Council announced $7.3 million to purchase new NYPD bulletproof vests, and de Blasio has dedicated additional funding to defend police officers from litigation.
There's one other thing that may have helped smooth things over with police leaders: de Blasio now says he thinks he wasn't harsh enough with protesters who were (verbally) mean to cops while protesting the Michael Brown and Eric Garner decisions. So he's decided to be much less wavering now, something the unions no doubt are happy about: "I didn't understand how vile some of the language was," he said. "I wish I had understood better because there's no question in my mind it was unacceptable behavior even if Constitutionally protected."
De Blasio thinks your Constitutionally-protected protesting was mean. Deal with it.