In the shadow of an upside down department flag, the head of the city’s largest police union blasted the city’s top cop Monday for firing the officer whose chokehold resulted in the death of Eric Garner.
A fiery Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said the department was “frozen” and “rudderless” in the wake of Police Commissioner James O’Neill’s decision to kick Officer Daniel Pantaleo off the force — and used the upside down flag to emphasize his point.
“We’re in distress,” Lynch said during a lower Manhattan news conference that followed O’Neill’s long-awaited announcement.
“Our police officers are in distress — not because they have a difficult job, not because they put themselves in danger, but because they realize they are abandoned. The captain has jumped ship. The mayor has told him to do it, and the streets are falling into chaos.”
The angry union boss even hinted at a work slowdown, urging his rank-and-file to use the “utmost caution” when executing arrests, especially if a suspect resists. He said cops should back each other up, call for a supervisor when making an arrest and request an ambulance when touching a member of the public.
“The people of New York City will not accept any work slowdowns by any public servants,” said Mayor de Blasio. “I want to believe that there are some limits that even a union leader who often has been willing to be divisive, understands. It’s not legal to suggest a work slowdown. And I believe the men and women of the NYPD do not think that way. They’re here to do their job.”
During an appearance on NY1 on Monday night, de Blasio called Lynch’s denunciation of O’Neill “reprehensible.”
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Lynch and Pantaleo’s lawyer Stuart London said the city offered Pantaleo a deal that would have saved his full pension if he had agreed to leave the department quietly on his own. But they said city officials pulled the deal off the table over the weekend, leaving Pantaleo with a pension based only on his personal contributions, and nothing from the city.
De Blasio denied he put the kibosh on the deal..
“Don’t believe anything Pat Lynch says,” the mayor said.
But a police department spokeswoman, Devora Kaye, told the Daily News a pension deal was discussed with Chief of Department Terence Monahan.
“Chief Monahan discussed this as one of the possible options that he thought was fair based on the protections afforded to Tier Three members and those with over 20 years on the job,” Kaye said. “The decision was ultimately the police commissioner’s and he made the determination that Officer Pantaleo could no longer serve as a New York City police officer.”
Some officers on patrol said O’Neill had a difficult decision.
“If he chose not to fire him, there would be protests everywhere,” said one Manhattan cop. “The number of arrests would be off the charts. It would be easier to take out one guy. He chose what was better for the city than what was better for the police force.”
But others weren’t as diplomatic towards the commissioner.
“No one believes it was his decision [to fire Pantaleo]. Cops are pissed for sure,” said an NYPD line sergeant in Manhattan. “Could’ve been any of us. O’Neill has lost whatever little respect he had left.”
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