The summer of 1992 was a tense time in New York City. The city was just a year removed from the ugly riots in Crown Heights the summer before. The police killing of of a 22 year old father of two named Jose "Kiko" Garcia that July kicked off 6 days of intense rioting in Washington Heights. Those riots were fueled not just by the killing, but also by seemingly credible allegations that the shooter, Officer Michael O'Keefe, was on the take from neighborhood drug dealers.
In response to repeated incidents of alleged brutality and corruption, the idea was floated to create an independent civilian entity that would look into allegations of police misconduct, the office we now know as the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
The reaction from the NYPD's rank and file to the idea that an independent agency would be created to look into their business was swift and incredibly ugly. It culminated in a full on police riot at City Hall on September 16, 1992.
And the man who would become the city's next mayor, one Rudolph Giuliani, was right in the middle of it, fanning the flames of racial resentment for his own political gain, something Giuliani would do repeatedly and is still doing today.
But that riot was a doozy.
Thousands of off-duty police officers thronged around City Hall yesterday, swarming through police barricades to rally on the steps of the hall and blocking traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge for nearly an hour in the most unruly and angry police demonstration in recent memory.
The 300 uniformed officers who were supposed to control the crowd did little or nothing to stop the protesters from jumping barricades, tramping on automobiles, mobbing the steps of City Hall or taking over the bridge. In some cases, the on-duty officers encouraged the protesters.
While the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association had called the rally to protest Mayor David N. Dinkins's proposal to create an independent civilian agency that would look into police misconduct, the huge turnout — estimated by the Police Department at 10,000 protesters — and the harsh emotional pitch reflected widespread anger among rank-and-file officers toward the Mayor for his handling of riots against the police in Washington Heights last July, his refusal to give them semiautomatic weapons and his appointment of an outside panel to investigate corruption.
And Rudy Giuliani was right there cheerleading the entire thing.
The Mayor also assailed Rudolph W. Giuliani, the probable Republican mayoral candidate, who spoke out against the Mayor at the union rally. Mr. Dinkins said Mr. Giuliani had egged on the protest irresponsibly for political reasons. "He's clearly, clearly an opportunist," Mr. Dinkins said. "He's seizing upon a fragile circumstance in our city for his own political gain."
Giuliani denied that he was egging on the cop protestors, some of which were carrying signs proclaiming that Mayor David Dinkins, the city's first (and only) African American mayor, was "on crack." But everyone knew Rudy's denials were bullshit. He was all too happy to stir up racial resentments among the NYPD, a force that was much, much whiter 22 years ago than it is today, to score political points against the city's black mayor.
And all for the mere suggestion that maybe the NYPD could benefit from just little, completely toothless, independent oversight.
The whole thing was a pretty ugly spectacle, as a preliminary report presented by then acting NYPD Chief Ray Kelly.
Acting Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly yesterday ordered 42 New York City police officers disciplined, in a report that condemned both on- and off-duty behavior in the recent demonstration at City Hall.
The strongly worded 13-page interim report assailed the actions of officers who took over the steps of City Hall and blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge as "unruly, mean-spirited and perhaps criminal."
The report also assessed the response of commanders and officers assigned to control the Sept. 16 demonstration as "lethargic at best." It singled out a captain and two sergeants for failing to maintain the police lines, as well as a uniformed officer who it said waved protesters past barricades while he shouted racial slurs.
The behavior of the protesters "was an embarrassment to a department widely respected for its professionalism," Mr. Kelly wrote in the report to Mayor David N. Dinkins about the demonstration, which was sponsored by the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the police union. "Also, the inability of the on-duty personnel assigned to police the demonstration has raised serious questions about the department's willingness and ability to police itself."
And don't think for a second that this police protest was solely about policy. It wasn't.
The demonstrators used racial slurs, including one on-duty officer who was overheard making a racist remark as he allowed the protesters to cross police lines at City Hall. The demonstrators were also drinking, although none were observed drunk, and several thousand of them broke through police barricades in front of City Hall and blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge, "in clear violation of the law."
Kelly's report strangely omitted Giuliani's participation, but Dinkins most certainly hadn't forgotten.
Mr. Dinkins has cited the protest as a prime example of why such a board is needed and criticized the participation of Rudolph W. Giuliani at the rally. Mr. Giuliani, who is expected to try to oppose Mr. Dinkins in the next mayoral election, has defended his actions and criticized Mr. Dinkins's response.
And it worked for him. Whipping up a mob of 10,000 cops, many of them drunk and at least some of them overtly racist, against the city's first and only African American mayor had paid big dividends. Giuliani went on to defeat Dinkins the next year with strong support from the Police Benevolent Association and the NYPD rank and file.
So when Rudy Giuliani opens his yap to stir the racial shitpot on behalf his pals at the NYPD to further his own political fortunes, just remember that he's been doing this shit for decades.
And now he's stirring up shit again — even flimsier shit, though just as racist — against the nation's first black president.
Same as it ever was.
Rudy Giuliani is a scumbag.
(h/t Ross Barkan)
(image via NYDN)