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New York Mayor and Police Commissioner Hold News Conference; Mayor Says Police "Must Be Respected"

Aired December 22, 2014 - 16:00   ET


WILLIAM BRATTON, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: And once those families arrive here, the Liu family will then be in a position to work on arrangements for the funeral services for their loved one.

In terms of the issues that we have been dealing with and facing, I have had the opportunity today to talk with the leadership of all five of our police unions, in line with what the mayor has referenced, asking that demonstrations and other forms of protest be put on hold until after the Christmas holidays and after these funerals, that in discussions with the five presidents of our various unions, they have also, if you will, standing down in respect for our fallen members until after the funerals.

And then we can then continue the dialogue that had begun about issues and differences that exist. So I want to thank them for that action. I think it's appropriate that the focus has to be on our murdered officers and their families to ensure that we honor them and honor them in the way that the NYPD has traditionally always done for its fallen heroes.

Almost 48, 49 hours ago, two officers were murdered. And as I referenced in the beginning of my comments, the detectives of the NYPD have done an extraordinarily skillful job, as they always do, putting together the story of what led up to this murder, seemingly senseless murder.

And we are going to share again with you, as Chief Boyce did yesterday, some of the details of that investigation and once again ask for your assistance. Chief Boyce will be assisted by Pat Conry, Chief Conry, whose detectives have been leading that investigation.

So, Chief Bob, if you could come up, please.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

ROBERT BOYCE, NYPD CHIEF OF DETECTIVES: I would just at this point like to thank not only Brooklyn detectives, but also members of the special investigations unit and the detective bureau for assisting, and as well as our -- the intelligence bureau that's been helping us out quite a bit with outside agencies as well.

We are in touch with FBI, ATF and other police departments around the country to kind of tap down on this individual, where his whereabouts are and what he's been doing the last couple of weeks. As I said yesterday, he had tried to commit suicide about a year ago.

We got that from family members. We're still delving in on that. What we're seeing in our social media investigation, basically on Instagram, he put out 119 images on his Instagram account.

A lot of these things are self-despair, but they're also anti- government. He goes in on November 25 of this year on an anti- government tirade and he's called for a new challenge of BTF, which is burn the flag, and which he goes on extensively on his Instagram account about America and its inequities, quite a bit.

He talks about Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin. As I said, we have recovered his cell phone from Baltimore. And there are over several thousand of images on it. We're paring that down as well.

One of the cell phone images that we have is a video of Union Square Park where he is a spectator watching one of the protests. We date that at around December 1. Again, he's just a spectator it seems. As people are walking by, he is recording it on his cell phone.

We found that down in Baltimore, where he left it. A couple of other things about him. The computer crimes squad is also working very hard to kind of like come up with a profile or an image of this individual. And it's quite scary.

He doesn't talk about guns a lot. We spoke with his ex-girlfriend, the lady he shot, and very courageous young woman. She actually -- he put the gun to his own head when he broke into her apartment. And then she talked him out of that and he later shot her before he left.

That's where we're going with that. She said she'd never seen him with a gun, before that instance. We're looking forward to identify that one piece of time where he was in Brooklyn from about 12:07 hours to the time of occurrence, 14:47 hours.

What you see over here is some images. We have a tape of Atlantic Center Mall, where he is, he's walking around. And if we can play that tape. We're asking the public's assistance if they have seen him, because right now we don't know where he was for two hours.

And, as you can see, he's walking around there. He has a bag in his hand. He's had that bag in his hand for most of the day. We have him with that bag over by the crime scene as well. We believe the gun was in that bag at that point. That's what we're thinking right now.

It's a Styrofoam container within that white bag. That's what we're thinking right now, he pulled it out when he did the shooting. Again, public help for us. If we can identify where he was, that jacket is quite distinctive, with the Indian sign on it. You will see it and he's wearing something, very distinctive shoes as well.

We found another Instagram message from that morning again threatening to kill police. We have a very disturbed young man here.

Pat, you want to -- just want to --

PAT CONRY, BROOKLYN CHIEF OF DETECTIVES: Yes, I will just -- good afternoon.

I will reiterate what Chief Boyce has already said. We're seeking the community's assistance with this very important investigation. We have been able to establish the whereabouts of Ismaaiyl Brinsley from the early morning hours of Saturday, the 20th, when he's in Maryland, through his travel up to New York from Manhattan and indeed into Brooklyn.

What we do have is a gap in his movements for about two hours and 30 minutes. Between 12:00 and 2:30 p.m., when we believe he's in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, Fort Greene or Bed-Stuy. He's last seen in the Atlantic Terminal Mall at around 12:00.

We're seeking the public's assistance. If anyone has seen this individual, Saturday the 20th, between 12:00 and 2:30 p.m., we urge you to call our Crime Stoppers hot line, 1-800-577-TIPS. The male is a male, black, 6'1'', approximately 235 pounds.

He was wearing the clothing you see over here that Chief Boyce describes. Particularly, I would like you to focus on that patch with the Indian arrowhead in red and white, very distinctive. If anyone saw that male on Saturday the 20th during those hours in Bed-Stuy or Fort Greene, we urge you to call our Crime Stoppers hot line. Thank you.

BOYCE: Just to reiterate, people are stepping forward who do know him who are saying -- who are painting the same picture what we already know, that he's a very troubled man and that he was at rage with police officers.

That seems to be the issue, anti-government, anti-police. And that's where we're going forward. So, I would urge everybody with any information on this man to step forward now. Thank you.

BRATTON: The investigation that we have conducted so far leads us to believe that he acted alone.

Early on, there was concern that was he, in fact, a lone player? Nothing in the investigation up to this point would lead us to believe that he was anything but a solo operator, if you will. And we did enhance our security, the security that had already been heightened over these couple months around terrorism issues, at some of our station houses and as we always do with our officers asked them to continue their heightened sense of awareness, something that you want our officers do at all times in any event.

But at this time, it looks like that he did in fact operate alone. However, since the incident, we have received a number of what I would describe as copycat types of threats, and we have been investigating those, as you would expect, with incredible care.

And, as of this time, none of them have proven to be anything of significance. However, we always err on the side of caution and will continue as these threats come in, copycat or otherwise to focus on them and follow up on them.

So, with that, that we are now going to be able to -- questions for any of us here at the podium.


BRATTON: Actually, let me ask Chief Boyce to speak to that. It is the idea of affirming that, in fact, he was a solo player, and just additional evidence that might be gathered. Did he have conversations with people that flesh out his motivation? What was going on in his mind in these last two hours of his life?

They have done a great job literally following him from Maryland up to the Atlantic Terminal. And then he dumps the phone and we lose him.


BOYCE: Well, the first part of it is, we owe it to the family to find out what happened. And that's our main concern here to the family.

So, I had to explain to his mother and father, officer Ramos and his wife as well, as the Liu family. Very difficult to do. We owe it to them to found out exactly what happened. We're also looking for other witnesses to paint better picture of this individual to see if he told anybody before hand.

So, that's why we're seeking to build this case up so we know going forward exactly who talked to this man and may have stopped him.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: The point I think here, again, the commissioner said there have been copycat threats.

Anything like that needs to be taken very seriously. I just want to emphasize. And the simplest thing any New Yorker can do is call 911. I want to make sure there's -- and I'm asking all of our colleagues in the media to please get this message out.

If you hear someone make a physical threat against a police officer, if you see something on social media that is a threat against a police officer, call 911 immediately.

We would much rather get too much information than too little.


QUESTION: As you lead the city through this very time, you are getting a lot of criticism from across the board. Have you learned anything or adjusted your behavior at all, particularly for those who say you haven't been outspoken enough criticizing some of the rhetoric used against the police department and police officers?

DE BLASIO: I think the point here is, we're in a very difficult moment.

Our focus has to be on these families. And we are in a season again that suggests we have to find a way forward. It's supposed to be a time of peace, it's supposed to be a time of reconciliation.

I have throughout my public life expressed tremendous respect for the NYPD. It's very well-documented. I will continue to. I also think in a democracy that people express their desire for a more fair society, and that's right and proper as well. But they must do it peacefully.

There can be no violence and certainly can be no violence against those who protect us and who represent our society. The police are our protectors and they must be respected as such.

But I think the most important reflection, in answer to your question, the most important reflection I can give you right now is, in this tragedy, maybe we find some way of moving forward. That would be an appropriate way to honor these fallen officers and their families that are in pain right now, is somehow knit our city together, bring police and community closer together.

I have always believed we could. There's never been a doubt in my mind that we are working towards a day when there's greater harmony between police and community. It is achievable. It must be achieved.

And Commissioner Bratton, to his tremendous credit, has devoted his entire life to this mission. And I learn from him every day about how much perseverance it takes to get there. But we have to get everyone to move away from anger and hatred of their differences. We have to address them peacefully.

We have to give people faith that their concerns can be heard peacefully across the spectrum. And we have to move forward. It's not going to be the kind of city it was meant to be if there's a division between our police and our community.

QUESTION: There were text messages that were going around this weekend. We were told that they were from (OFF-MIKE) delegates from (OFF-MIKE) and in the text messages, it was said no enforcement action in the form of arrests (OFF-MIKE) is to be taken unless absolutely necessary --


BRATTON: Let me stop you right there.

Nobody has owned up to those messages. You find that delegate that basically was going to stand up and say that he sent that message. Men and women of this department have been before and after this awful event, this awful tragedy doing what we expect of them.

And New York City police officers are sworn to protect and serve, and they're out doing just that. There has been no indication whatsoever of any stepping back from that responsibility. In this day and age of social media, anybody can put up any posting and claim to be from any organization.

And so in terms of that issue, this department has and will continue to serve the residents of New York in a way that has allowed this city to become the safest large city in the country, but one that always, as in every city in America, where our officers are at risk of those, whether deranged or otherwise, who would seek to attack them. And we had the unfortunate attack certainly over the weekend. But

that type of social media mongering, if you will, it has had no impact on the delivery of services by our cops. They are the best in the country and they are continuing to serve. Thank you for the question.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) What is your reaction? What was your family's reaction to what (OFF-MIKE) and also (OFF-MIKE) and say you're either with us, the police, or you're against us? (OFF-MIKE)

DE BLASIO: I think we have to transcend that. I really do.

We have a deeply troubled career criminal, previously suicidal individual who did this heinous crime, who assassinated two police officers. It's a horrible thing. And I emphasize the one immediate lesson to learn from that is, any time we have any evidence, we as citizens need to step forward and act.

We need to protect our police as they protect us. That's what we can learn from this troubled individual's horrible actions. But you have to separate the various things going on here.

And, in a democracy, it's our obligation to do so. It's our obligation to do so. We have people who are trying to work for a more fair society -- anyone who does that nonviolently, I respect that. I respect our men and women in uniform. Those are not contradictory thoughts.

In fact, the very question -- I don't blame you for the question. I think you are reflecting what a lot of people are saying. But think about it. Does that suggest that therefore police and community can never come together, that there always has to be a wall between them? No, we can't allow that. We cannot allow that. We have to keep working for harmony between police and community and for understanding.

So, I believe we will transcend this. I believe we'll overcome this.



DE BLASIO: First of all, I think we need to honor the families by not getting into a back-and-forth. There will be a time for me to talk about my own personal views. I will simply say I think what he said was a mistakes and it was wrong. But I'm not going to elaborate because we need to focus on the families. We need to focus on healing.

I think that's what leaders do. I think leaders have to rise above the fray and the anger and the back-and-forth and take us somewhere. So I'm going to do everything I know how to do to help move us forward.


REPORTER: Given that you said the one lesson we can take from this is that if you see something, you have to say something, did Baltimore County officials do what they were supposed to do when they faxed a warning to the NYPD? Wasn't there some kind of an interstate alert that can be shared instantly among police departments and have you spoken to them about this?

BRATTON: We wish the technology were like it's portrayed on television and in the movies. We are moving along fairly quickly fortunately. And I'll ask Chief Boyce to speak to the particulars, which he did yesterday, about the controversy that someone is trying to create between this department and Baltimore.

There is no controversy. It's an awful tragedy that occurred. One of the things that I think you're well aware of, that we're investing over $160 million, money that the mayor and Cy Vance, our district attorney from Manhattan, has moved forward is the equipping of all of our officers with smartphones and 6,000 of our police vehicles with tablets. That in a messaging system where we're going to receive a picture, we could instantly send that picture out to any cop on their post, no matter where they are. Even if that information came in a half an hour before, the most an officer sitting in a radio would have received was an alert on a description of a black male, mid-20s that basically is making threats against police officers.

So that issue in terms of timeliness and the current state of the art, if you will, for advancing information between agencies, we're continually trying to find better ways to improve that. Let me ask Detective Chief Boyce to speak to the particulars of this case because there has been some confusion on timelines. I think we -- I thought we made it clear yesterday about that. But obviously, some of you might not have been at that presser yesterday.

ROBERT K. BOYCE, CHIEF OF DETECTIVES, NYPD: We investigated this fully yesterday. Baltimore County Police Department were made aware in around 1:30 in the afternoon of this threat on the Instagram account by the victim's -- ex-girlfriend's family. They immediately got the information, called the 70 precinct.

The 70 precinct officer did a great job. She immediately notified her sergeant. Her sergeant told her to call intercity correspondence as is our operating procedure. All things were done exactly the way they were supposed to.

Within about 45 minutes later, we had a document to move on of this individual. One minute after that document was faxed, the double homicide occurred.

So, there was no -- there was no lapse on anybody's part. They have been great partners to us in this investigation, the Baltimore County Police Department.

REPORTER: The video that you found on his cell phone, can you describe what it showed, from his angle (INAUDIBLE)

BOYCE: Just basically he's standing there like anybody else watching the picture of an event go by, protest go by. He was not participating it. He was just taking a picture of it. (INAUDIBLE)

BOYCE: Just noise from the protest. That's it.

BRATTON: Speaking if I may for the -- as an aside on the technology issue, we're spending a huge sum of money over the next year on technology for this department. You're aware of a lot of it. We've talked about it.

One of the systems that we're buying is called ShotSpotter. And that's an acoustic detection system where we're able to triangulate in areas where we have high rates of gunfire, the majority of which oftentimes is not even reported to us if there's no injury, that we are installing those devices in certain precincts around the city. It's not operational yet. But in ironic twist, one of the systems installed caught the four shots that were fired on Saturday and mapped it exactly where the incident occurred.

So, again, technology is constantly evolving. This type of technology is going to be of great assistance to us in the future. The mayor's been a champion of it from the get-go when he was first introduced to it.

Part of the reason we want this technology is that in an instance like occurred on Saturday, two officers down, not able to communicate, radio for help, we would have, if this system had been fully operational, been able to start dispatching cars to this area because we had documented even before 911 calls came in that shots were fired at that location.

So, it's just, again, one of the ironies of the events of Saturday that the technology that will in fact in the future help to save lives is in the process of now being installed.

REPORTER: Mayor, you referred to the protesters as people who are working to advance justice in society. The chants that we're hearing at the protests "NYPD, KKK," "How do you spell racist, KKK"

Would you feel comfortable with your young adults in your household chanting like this at the protests and we're hearing virtually every protest?

DE BLASIO: Of course not.

REPORTER: And what do you make of these specific -- as well as the young students who are getting in cops faces and yelling at them, murderer, murderer?

DE BLASIO: We've talked about this so many times, I'm not going to talk about it again. And now, the question is, what are you guys going to do? What are you guys going to do? Are you going to keep dividing us?

I'm not talking about every single one of you. But let's get real, just in that question -- 25,000 people marched down one of our streets a few days back, absolutely peaceful, no chants like that, peacefully calling for what they believed in as American citizens. And the NYPD protected them and I told people at the time, I've said it repeatedly, I got calls from all over this country with admiration of the NYPD for the way it protected people's democratic rights. I heard from so many protesters who appreciated the NYPD. I heard from NYPD officers and leaders who said they saw peaceful protests, respectful protests.

What you manage to do is pull up the few who do not represent the majority, who are saying unacceptable things, who shouldn't be saying those things. And they -- some who physically attack police officers, which I've said is absolutely unacceptable, we will prosecute them to the fullest. Everyone must participate in finding those individuals, providing information to the police, intervening to stop them, alerting the police. I will keep saying this over and over.

The question is, will you tell the world about it because you all are part of this, too. So, yes, there are some bad people who say inappropriate things. There are some people who say hateful things. They have no place in these protests. They are not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about -- excuse me -- I'm talking about the vast majority of New Yorkers like the vast majority of Americans who believe in peaceful democratic process. I don't care where they are on the political spectrum. The vast majority of our citizens are good and decent people who do not say negative things, racist things, nasty things to police, threatening things to police.

The few who want conflict attempt that and unfortunately so many times you guys enable that. I don't see reports on the many decent good people. I don't see reports on the everyday cops who do the exemplary thing and hold the line and show restraint and discipline no matter what invective is hurled at them --


REPORTER: What I'm hearing at the protests I've covered, people are throwing fake blood on your officers --

DE BLASIO: You know what? I'm telling you over again -- I'm telling you over again, that's how you want to portray the world but we know a different reality.

There are some people who do that. It's wrong. It's wrong. They shouldn't do that. It's immoral, it's wrong, it's nasty, it's negative. They should not do that.

But they, my friend, are not the majority. Stop portraying them as the majority.

REPORTER: Mayor, a follow-up on that dialogue. Twice today, you called on the demonstrators or the leaders to have hiatus so the families can go through the grieving process to bury their dead. Are you going to make direct communications with the protest organizers to do exactly that or asking --

DE BLASIO: Yes, absolutely. We've done that already. We will continue to --


REPORTER: Are you planning to attend the funeral?

DE BLASIO: Absolutely.

REPORTER: What would be your desire --

DE BLASIO: The same -- unfortunately I've been to funerals for police officers, fire officers, sanitation officers, we'll do the same thing and show respect for them and their family.

REPORTER: Mayor, the commissioner said this morning that some officers, not all but some officers have lost faith in you as a leader. Do you agree with that? And even if it's unfair, what are you going to do to take care of that rift?

And he also said what happened was a direct outcry of some of these protests. Do you agree with that?

DE BLASIO: I'll let him obviously define his own words.

On the first question, I will keep reaching out to everyone who serves this city. They don't have to all agree with me. There are 35,000 people almost in uniform in the NYPD. I think they are, like every other part of our society, a group of people, a lot of different viewpoints, a lot of different backgrounds, said repeatedly.

Many, many journalists have said, do you think police officers think -- I always stop them and say, there are 35,000 individuals. They all have their own views, like every other individual in our society. So the way I would frame it is, I think some people feel one way, others feel another way.

But to me, that's not what I need to pay attention to. I need to support them regardless of what they feel. And I have. The commissioner will tell you about almost $400 million in additional investment we've put into the safety of our officers beyond that which was in the budget in June. The almost $400 million we have added since to protect our officers.

Actions speak louder than words. So I will continue to support them. They have a right to their opinion 100 percent. I'll continue to support them.

BRATTON: Inasmuch as my comments you're referencing, let me explain those comments. Do some officers not like this mayor? Guaranteed.

Some officers don't like me. Amazingly, some don't. I can't quite understand that. But some don't.

Some of you have been around this town for a while. Can you point out to me one mayor that has not been battling with the police unions in the last 50 years? Name one. Name one. So, the experience of this mayor in terms of some cops not liking him,

it's nothing new. It's part of life. It's part of politics. And it is what it is. This is New York City. We voice our concerns and we voice our opinions.

So, what I suggest that, as I mentioned, in conversations with the heads of the five police unions, that the rhetoric that had been so much a part of the issues over these last several weeks, that we will engage in dialogue once we get our officers respectfully mourned and buried. And return to dialogue where we can hopefully resolve whatever differences are out there.

But in terms of -- debate is healthy. Discourse is healthy. It's not impacting on the public safety of the city at this moment, that in the sense that we had an individual who we're trying to determine his actual motivation who took the lives of our two officers and murdered them, cold-blooded. And we will attempt to determine so we learn from it and as we continue to analyze social media and continue to educate the public about seeing something and saying something, we can prevent it from happening again.

But the idea that some cops don't like this mayor, some cops don't like their boss, some cops don't -- that's life. There are 35,000. They're great cops. They're caring cops. We just lost two of the best.


REPORTER: When you came into your position, you said that morale was very low in the department. One of the ways you gauged that was by talking to the union leaders. In fact, that was the only point of reference that you made in terms of being low morale in the beginning.

At this point, do you still believe that they speak for the low morale that's in the department now or are they kind of -- have they grown out of touch with the officers they represent?

BRATTON: Union leaders are free to say what they believe and what they feel based on their representation of their members. I don't quarrel with that. That's part of the bargain with them. That's part of the agreement that we have with them.

Morale and policing -- I've been doing this for 44 years. It goes up, it goes down.

Your morale goes up and down. Look at the changes in your newsrooms, all the colleagues that have been laid off, the companies that are closing, your fear about jobs. You aim to tell me anybody in this room is running around with high morale at the moment? You're in an industry and a profession going through great change. We're one going through great change also.

So, we work on morale. But morale oftentimes is something that we can't control. People have -- I have 35,000 individuals that might be having a good time at home, they might be having bad time at home. They might be having a good day, they might be having a bad day.