Just in case you thought that things had finally calmed down and returned to normal between Big Apple Mayor Bill de Blasio and the boys in blue, don’t worry. They haven’t. But this week the cops and the mayor aren’t battling over something new. Instead, a nasty case from a couple of years back has sparked yet another round of accusations down at City Hall.
Back in 2010, Brooklyn resident Ruhim Ullah attacked police officers with a machete. (Yes… a machete.) In response, the cops shot Ullah in the leg and disarmed him. Given the reputation that the NYPD has among at least some in minority communities, one might think that Mr. Ullah would be grateful to get out of that one with his life, but alas it was not so. The machete wielding maniac found a lawyer to take up his case and sued the city for $3M. That case came to a close this week, but not in the way you might expect. And the cops hit the roof.
In a decision that earned City Hall and its lawyers a rare but justified outburst from top cop Bill Bratton, de Blasio’s team wrote a check to a machete-wielding thug who was shot by cops after he threatened them.
The payoff to Ruhim Ullah to drop his lawsuit was only $5,000 but the principle it represented — that cops who shot him did something wrong — sent Bratton into orbit.
“It’s outrageous that the city Law Department is continuing to not support the men and women of this department as they go about their duties,” he thundered. “Our cops work very hard trying to keep this city safe, and if they’re not going to be backed up by the city law office, we need to do something about this.”
Oh, and there was a little more icing on the cake as well.
The commish was still fuming when it emerged that lawyers under contract with the city to represent poor defendants had participated in a video calling for the execution of cops — and lied about it to city investigators.
The “reasonable” part of my brain immediately wants to offer a tip of the hat to the bureaucrats who cut this deal. The reality of the matter is that five grand is a very cheap bill to get rid of something like this. Just defending the case would probably have cost fifty times as much and the city is strapped for cash. That doesn’t even include the possibility that – depending on the jury – you might lose the case and have to shell out millions. Getting this guy to walk away for $5K was probably considered a master stroke by the lawyers involved.
But this story was bound to go public, and there couldn’t be a worse time for it. As the op-ed above indicates, it is far too easy to read this as the Mayor admitting that the cops did something wrong by shooting to wound a criminal who was attacking them with a blade that was half a yard long. The relationship between the cops and City Hall is already a toxic stew, and this was the wrong seasoning to toss in there. Better to suck it up, find the money and fight to have this case thrown out. Sadly, Bill de Blasio still seems to be oblivious to precisely how much damage his mishandling of the critical relationship with the NYPD is doing.