Police Nationwide on High Alert After Shootings
The killings of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu while they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn created a heightened sense of danger for law enforcement officers nationwide, in what had already become a tense standoff with the public over police use of force.
The two officers were shot in broad daylight by 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley on Saturday.
Police departments and unions in large cities in particular are urging law enforcement officials to be cautious, given what some have described as a fearful climate. Widespread protests and public expression of animosity toward police that led up to the shootings have added to concerns, particularly where social media is concerned. Before shooting Ramos and Liu, Brinsley posted an Instagram message with a promise to put “wings on pigs” as retaliation for the deaths of black men at the hands of white police.
Brinsley was black and almost immediately took his own life after shooting the New York Police Department officers, who were Hispanic and Asian.
Since the shooting, about a dozen threats against police have been investigated, including the arrest of one man who asked officers at a Manhattan police station how much time he would get for punching a cop in the face. After asking the question, he refused to leave and was arrested.
On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for a halt in protests against police until after the funerals of Ramos and Liu.
“I think it’s a time for everyone to put aside political debates, to put aside protests,” he said.
De Blasio made the remarks in a speech to the Police Athletic League. He arrived over 30 minutes late. The mayor has come under heavy fire from the police union and individual officers since Ramos and Liu were killed. On Saturday, about 200 officers turned their backs on him when he entered the hospital where the men were.
In New Jersey, the State Policemen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) warned its 33,000 members via email Sunday morning that they should “take extra personal safety steps and use increased caution in the coming weeks.” The email came from PBA Executive Vice President Marc Kovar.
The warning included a note that the “heightened hostility” from protests across the country “have led to a fever pitch of anti-police sentiment.” The PBA said that the resulting environment of “open hostility” has led to an unusually high number of confrontational encounters between police and the public during routine measures such as traffic stops.
“In addition to routine interaction, officers need to be vigilant for potential ambushes,” wrote Kovar. “The tragedy in New York City reinforce [sic] the need to always be cognizant of people targeting our profession.”
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Kovar recommended changes to normal routines, including meal break locations, and enlisting the help of backup on any unusual calls.
The National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) put out a statement of its own Monday afternoon via Twitter and Facebook to its members with a warning to be vigilant in a dangerous climate “fueled and exacerbated by the media and politicians.” NAPO members include over 1,000 police units and associations across the country—including the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association—and over 241,000 law enforcement officers.
The statement blamed a hostile political environment for tensions and the deaths of Ramos and Liu, despite the fact that Brinsley also shot his ex-girlfriend, who was not a police officer, before he attacked the police officers. The NYPD’s chief of detectives said during a media briefing over the weekend that Brinsley’s own mother told authorities she had been fearful of her son, who had a long criminal history that included at least 20 arrests and at two years behind bars.
“Politicians have created an environment of extreme hostility in communities across the nation,” read the NAPO statement. “Our nation’s leaders continue to crucify and demonize law enforcement officers as these officers work tirelessly and selflessly to protect us. When will this end? When will our leaders work with us, not against us, to build trust between officers and the communities that they serve?”
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NAPO advised officers to wear body armor, check weapons and radios, and noted that many agencies have suspended single officer patrols in favor or doubling or tripling up in teams.
Tim Reichert, a spokesman for the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, said in an email to Epoch Times on Monday that though it hasn’t heard of any specific measures its 35,000 federal, state, county, and municipal government law enforcement members are taking, recent events have had a chilling impact on an already dangerous job.
“Unfortunately, police officers are in harm’s way every time they put the uniform on,” wrote Reichert. “The events in New York definitely rocked the law-enforcement community nationwide.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.