12/22/2014 07:15 pm ET Updated Feb 21, 2015

The Appalling Politicization of a Tragedy

A god awful tragedy went down on the streets of my hometown two days ago. Two blameless cops executed in broad daylight. In the midst of our collective mourning, must we be subjected to the foul and incendiary finger pointing of the police union bosses? Must we hear from every retired Republican mouthpiece that crawls from the ooze to blame a sick act of violence on peaceful dissent? In their minds, dissent is treason, and speech is violence.

I pray the rank and file don't follow their union chiefs back into the muck. I desperately hope our good brothers and sisters who wear the uniform recognize what it means to turn their backs on a mayor who is virtually weeping as he pays his respects to their slain brothers.

This has never been a war on cops, and the Mayor's words and actions have never been "anti -cop". Strengthening accountability in the NYPD is pro-cop. Improving community trust of the police is pro-cop. I'm a civil rights lawyer who sues cops every day of my life, and I'm pro-cop. When I sit down at a deposition with an officer I see and feel him as a human being, with his own perspective, and his own set of values and beliefs. It helps me to be more effective in the litigation -- the more I can empathize and understand his motivations, the more effectively I can sort it out for a jury. And the ultimate goal of my practice and the rest of the civil rights community that I'm a part of is to create a police force that the community trusts.

The millions of people in this City who are uncomfortable with the way policing has operated for decades are not delusional. Their experience and perspectives are just alien to the union chiefs who make no efforts to understand. Rather than even try to empathize, the police union bosses just go into lizard survival mode, brainlessly attacking every perceived threat.

Millions of peaceful protesters are not a threat. Elected officials committed to professionalizing our police force are not a threat. On the other hand, PBA President Pat Lynch writing that "we have become a wartime police department, we will act accordingly" as he did in a publicly circulated memo just over a week ago, is a stark and dark threat. And the incitement and stark provocation spewing from his mouth is blackening this City.

I wrote this piece yesterday, but as I waited for it to be published, Police Commissioner Bratton himself endorsed Patrick Lynch's outrageous position, claiming it is "quite obvious" that the killings were a "spin off of the issues of these demonstrations". This is a craven capitulation to the union chiefs -- a real leader would have stood up and said precisely the opposite. How on earth is it "obvious" that a seemingly mentally ill, down and out criminal, with no real connection to any political movement, who shot his girlfriend in the stomach in a personal dispute, was a "spin off" of a people redressing their government?

We are shocked and deeply saddened by the execution of Officers Ramos and Liu. But it was a single act by one sick person. It had nothing to do with the collective protests taking place across this country. We can handle dissent in this City. We can embrace debate. We can work to ensure that our public servants serve us all. Or we can emphasize division and violence. It's unfortunate that the police union chiefs have chosen the latter, and unbelievably sad that the Police Commissioner himself has endorsed their view.