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[Black Star News Editorial]
Mayor Bill de Blasio words of condolences after suicide of police officer are empty without action...
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

On Saturday, Mayor Bill de Blasio sent out condolences after news emerged of the suicide of a Staten Island transit cop.

Condolences after the deaths of human beings are fine.

But actions to address the myriad problems we see in American policing—including, but not limited to the high rates of suicide among police officers—is more important.

Mayor de Blasio has already received condemnations from police apologists who believe he has unfairly criticized the NYPD and undermined them, which supposedly exacerbates police problems. Hypocritically, these folks never seem to see anything wrong with American policing even when it is involved in racist acts like choking an innocent man to death.

Somehow, too many officers refuse to accept responsibility that their often-racist behavior is what daily undermines them.

Mayor de Blasio will also receive criticisms from those, like the family of Eric Garner, who have been the victims of police brutality. Many will see his conduct as representing a sickening double standard. And until Black lives are treated with the same respect as White lives, or, the lives of police officers, we will continue to have serious problems between the police and the Black public.

The mayor could’ve built a bridge between New York’s Black, and Latino communities, and the police. That possibility was there when he first entered office. But the mayor dropped the ball.

Last night, Mayor de Blasio sent out the following statement:

“Tonight, our city mourns at the news that we’ve lost another NYPD officer to suicide. These tragedies cannot continue. We cannot lose any more of our officers. We cannot leave parents, spouses and children at home waiting for loved ones who will not return. I want to say as loudly and clearly as I can: it is okay to ask for help. If you or a loved one is in need: ask. Your whole city stands in support of you ready to answer the call.”

The issue of suicide among police officers is indeed a critical problem.

According to the Ruderman Family Foundation “first responders (policemen and firefighters) are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. In 2017, there were at least 103 firefighter suicides and 140 police officer suicides. In contrast, 93 firefighters and 129 police officers died in the line of duty. Suicide is a result of mental illness, including depression and PTSD, which stems from constant exposure to death and destruction.” And according to the National Alliance Of Mental Illness (NAMI), “Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life” and “The suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.”

These high rates of suicides among police officers should be a wakeup call to action for all politicians from any political party. Since the police suicide rate is so high why don’t we hear politicians addressing this loudly?

Mayor de Blasio calls himself a “progressive.” But where are his progressive policies now on policing?

If this mayor had employed a two-fold strategy, not only to eradicate racial policing, but to address grave police problems, like their high levels of suicides, like the high levels of domestic violence among them, he could’ve made ground-breaking changes.

If Mayor de Blasio had championed issues like police suicide he could have gotten more done for police—and could’ve use those gains as leverage to change the corrosive racist culture within the NYPD. Indeed, it would’ve been tricky, but it could’ve been done.

How many police officers would’ve denounced him if he had been seen forcefully, and publicly, using his bully pulpit to push the New York City Council, and legislators in Albany, to secure more funding for necessary programs to address problems like police suicide? And since politicians are always falling over themselves to show how much they are pro-police he could’ve gotten a lot done in this regard.

Really bold leadership is need now to fix all the problems we see in policing.

This includes everything from racist police brutality to the high rates of domestic violence and suicide that we see among police officers. Here is another question to consider: what happens when we allow suicidal cops—or those who abuse their spouses—onto our streets with guns? Should we be surprised when they abuse, or, kill innocent Black people, who are the most dehumanized segment of American society?

Sadly, the mayor’s comments will ring hollow to many NYPD officers who believe he is an enemy of police because he was first elected on a platform of reforming the police. The mayor’s statements yesterday will also seem insensitivity to Blacks who have been victims of police brutality and who have received no justice—like the family of Eric Garner.

All lives have worth, from all segments of American society. That should be the constant drumbeat message of our leaders.

Mr. de Blasio was able to gain the trust of African American, and Latino New Yorkers, because we believed he would fight for that basic human value. He has failed to properly do so.

If this mayor had been strategically brave while fighting to change policing in New York City he could have satisfied Blacks, and Latinos, who voted for change—and in the end, would’ve won over some of the entrenched forces in the NYPD.

But Mayor de Blasio is now not trusted by many on both sides of the continuing police divide.

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