De Blasio Takes New Tack After Latest Grand Jury Decision


Eric Garner and Akai Gurley were black men killed by New York City police officers. Although both deaths provoked anger in the city’s minority communities and renewed debate about policing in the nation’s largest city, the grand juries in each case brought different outcomes, with one officer indicted, one not.

And there was another striking difference: the public reactions from Mayor Bill de Blasio.

De Blasio was emotional and pained in December after a grand jury declined to indict Garner’s arresting officer, but he was cool and restrained last week when the officer who shot Gurley in a darkened stairwell was charged with manslaughter. That measured response may have helped the mayor maintain the uneasy truce he has struck with a police force that recently rebelled against him.

“The change in strategy implies the mayor may be trying to avoid fallout similar to the prior incident,” said Costas Panagopoulos, a Fordham University political science professor. “If his previous response was judged to be problematic, the mayor may be learning from what he perceives to be mistakes.”

After the indictment in the Gurley case, instead of an emotional speech, his press office put out a three-sentence statement in which the mayor “urged everyone to respect the judicial process as it unfolds.”

The next day, de Blasio faced reporters and was careful not to say anything that could appear to antagonize the police or share in any satisfaction that minority communities may have felt about the indictment. He again deferred to the judicial process, warned against comparing the two cases and noted that the Garner case was particularly painful “because people watched every second of his death.”

His aides dismissed the notion that de Blasio changed tactics because he was second-guessing his comments after Garner’s death.

“He calibrates according to context and circumstances while always steadfast to the core principles of public safety and reform,” Peter Ragone, a senior adviser to de Blasio, said Monday.

The police unions, to this point, have declined to comment further. Liang could face up to 15 years in prison.

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