In a defiant defense of the New York Police Department, Mayor Bill de Blasio challenged President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to look into the eyes of the city’s police officers and assert their claim that the department is “soft on crime,” hours after the Department of Justice released a statement describing the city as a dangerous place where crime abounds.
“It’s an unacceptable statement that denigrates the people of New York City and the men and women of the NYPD. It is an outrageous statement and it’s absurd on its face. It ignores a quarter century of progress in this city bringing down crime,” de Blasio told reporters Friday night, standing beside NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill at police headquarters.
The Department of Justice sent warning letters Friday to nine so-called sanctuary jurisdictions around the country, including New York City. The letters warned that cities could lose millions in federal funding if local law enforcement officials do not begin to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
In a statement about the letters, the Department of Justice said, “New York City continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city’s ‘soft on crime’ stance.”
“I would say to President Trump and to Attorney General Sessions — if you believe this statement is accurate, come here to New York City, look our police officers in the eye and tell them that you believe they are soft on crime. See how that feels,” de Blasio said.
O’Neill, who has led the department since last September, lashed out at the Trump administration, specifically chiding them for discounting the work of federal law enforcement agencies that have contributed to the city’s crime reduction.
“When I heard that statement, my blood began to boil,” O’Neill told reporters. “To say we are soft on crime is absolutely ludicrous. In 2016, we locked up over 1,000 people in a hundred gang take downs — most of them are still awaiting sentences or in jail. Maybe we should ask them if they think we are soft on crime.”
Since 1993, murder is down 82 percent, shootings are down 81 percent and overall crime is down 76 percent, O’Neill said.
“I find this statement to be absolutely outrageous,” O’Neill said after listing the names of NYPD officers recently killed in the line of duty.
In its letter, the Department of Justice requested New York City provide documentation by June 3 showing that it is in compliance with a 1996 federal law stating that local governments may not interfere with immigration officials when requesting an individual’s citizenship or immigration status.
Both Trump and Sessions have vowed to crack down on sanctuary cities, painting the jurisdictions as obstructionist local governments hampering federal immigration officials’ efforts by harboring undocumented residents in their cities.
Neither de Blasio nor O’Neill addressed the letter more broadly, or the possible threat of funding cuts if the city continues its current policies.