Mayor Bloomberg's response to Saturday's police shooting is dividing black leaders, with some demanding immediate action and others urging patience while an investigation takes place.
Mr. Bloomberg yesterday said it seemed as if "excessive force" had been used in the killing of an apparently unarmed man, Sean Bell, who was leaving a strip club in Queens at 4 a.m. on the day he was to have been wed. The mayor met yesterday for two hours with more than 30 clergy and elected officials in an effort to quell anger over the shooting, in which police fired 50 bullets at a car driven by Bell.
After leaving the meeting, participants staked out varying positions. On one end was the radical City Council member Charles Barron, whose call for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to resign faced derision from others who attended the meeting. On the other end stood the city's comptroller, William Thompson Jr., and the incoming state Senate minority leader, Malcolm Smith, who each praised the mayor's initial steps and pledged to wait for the results of an investigation by the Queens district attorney, Richard Brown, before calling for specific changes in police policy or leadership.
At a news conference after the meeting, Mr. Bloomberg deferred to Mr. Brown's investigation while also offering his own impressions. "It is, to me, unacceptable or inexplicable how you can have 50-odd shots fired, but that is up to the investigation to find out how that actually happened," the mayor said as he stood surrounded by many attendees of the meeting, including Rep. Charles Rangel; the City Council speaker, Christine Quinn, and several clergy members.
"I am, to put it mildly, deeply disturbed," Mr. Bloomberg later added. The mayor will travel to southeast Queens to meet with community leaders this morning.
In immediately reaching out to black leaders and the community, Mr. Bloomberg has struck a markedly different tone from that of his predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani, who battled often with the Rev. Al Sharpton and other black leaders. The mayor's response going forward will be a test of what has been one of his administration's top achievements: continuing the steady drop in crime while repairing the fractious relations that developed between predominantly black and Hispanic communities and City Hall. Those tensions peaked with constant protests at police headquarters following the death in 1999 of Amadou Diallo, an African immigrant who was shot 41 times by officers in the Bronx.
So what is so wrong with Mayor Mike's sentiment? Well for starters, the investigation into the shooting has not been completed. So for the City of New York's top Executive to go on the record and call the shooting excessive, well there is no proof of that yet. Wait till all the facts are in and then make your statements.
There are real reasons for the Mayor to NOT make statements like this. First, it only inflames the situation. Activists, such as Rev. Al Sharpton, will use statements like this as "proof" that the NYPD (the greatest police force in the world) is racist. Second, lets suppose that the DA does press charges, did Mayor Mike not just taint the entire jury pool? I can hear jurors now, "Well Mayor Mike thought it was excessive, so it was!" Third, in the eventual section 1983 civil rights law suit that will ensue, Mayor Mike will be the victim's star witness AGAINST the City of New York. How can the City's Corporation Counsel claim that it was not excessive force and therefore did not violate these guy's civil rights when his boss, THE MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY, said, in a press conference, that it was excessive force. This opened the City up for hundreds of millions in potential liability.
GOOD GOING MAYOR MIKE!!!!