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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Live Press Conference on the Shooting of Two NYPD Officers; Official Cop Killer Had "Despair" Anti-Government Feelings; NYC Mayor: Time To Move Forward And Heal Division

Aired December 22, 2014 - 16:30   ET


WILLIAM BRATTON, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: What our obligation is, mine and the mayor, is to the best of our ability, to equip them, to train them, to lead them, and as much as possible, try to keep them safe so they can keep all of you safe.

And we work very hard at that. And the mayor referencing the $400 million -- think of that, the $400 million over the space of the last number of months, focused on officer safety issues. So the safer my officers are, the better technology they have, the better equipment they have, that they can keep the citizens of this city even safer.

When was the last time you saw that type of commitment to this police department? Not any time since I've been aware of over the last 20 or 30 years.

QUESTION: Mayor, can you speak a little bit to -- this morning, Commissioner Bratton also spoke about a bit of the division and the tension in the city, and he said it had harkened back a little bit to some of what was going on in the 1970s. I'm wondering whether it reminds you of that period as well. And as someone who ran on sort of ending that division between police and community, where do you go from here? What do you do to try to ease some of this tension?

DE BLASIO: I think the cardinal really laid it out perfectly. He talked about the fact that we always fear we could be slipping backwards. He used a beautiful analogy of the winter solstice and talked about how in ancient civilizations, people in the lead-up to it feared that the sun was leaving us and the light was going away. And then the light would return more and more, and there would be hope again, and that over time, that became part of our understanding of the world, and the holidays that we celebrate at this time of year are so powerfully invoke light and hope.

And so my answer to you is we have to move forward. There is no other choice. These divisions are very old. Some of them we've talked about, you know, in recent days. They go back not just decades, they go back centuries in their origins. They're deep. They have to be overcome for us to be a strong society. And I believe we will. I really do. The part of the -- what I've seen in the last year is a kind of progress I find very heartening, even with these very painful and difficult moments along the way. I still see so many leaders in this department and so many average, everyday NYPD officers who are trying to make things better, who are trying to bring police and community together.

I'm inspired by Commissioner Bratton, because he's spent a lifetime at it. And I think there's something powerful in the way you asked the question, because he saw what I saw, and we both lived in the same part of the world in the 1970s -- a very divided reality.

BRATTON: You were probably on the other side of the picket fence.


DE BLASIO: No, I was too young.

BRATTON: You grew up in Cambridge--

DE BLASIO: I grew up in -- he meant Boston versus Cambridge.

But the -- what we saw was a very divided society. And I was in my earliest years and then in my teens watching this painful division. It was unbelievable. As an American, I remember feeling at the time -- this was against the same backdrop as the Watergate years and one thing and another -- and I felt simultaneously inspired by seeing our nation overcome during the Watergate moment, heroes rise up, people stand up for democracy, people overcome things that seemed insurmountable, the nation somehow finding its way back together.

But across the river from where I lived, there was an ongoing strife. Well, I didn't know it obviously at the time, but right in the middle of the strife was a young man -- I believe the story I've heard outside South Boston high school, you were a sergeant at the time. I remember Commissioner De Grazio (ph) came up to you.

This commissioner had, in my opinion, some of his formative experiences in the midst of a strife much greater than anything we've seen recently, much more painful, much more pervasive. He took from that an inspiration to try and heal it. I would not have blamed Bill Bratton if in those days, in the 1970s, he said, this is just insurmountable. If you had been there at the time, I can tell you as an eyewitness, it seemed insurmountable. It seemed as if there was nowhere to go but to go backward.

But people persevered. He persevered. And I think it's very telling that a man who saw such pain and such division, instead of choosing to retire or go into another business, said, I'm going to farther and I'm going to go deeper, we can change this. We can make community and police come together. And we can keep people safe, we can make them safer. And that's what I've always admired about him, that he never loses sight of the goal and always helps all of us to move toward it.

And I've seen that extraordinary impact amongst the men and women of this department, what his leadership is doing in terms of giving people that sense that we have a way forward and we will achieve it. So that is my answer to you. We have no choice but to move forward, and I believe we will move forward.

BRATTON: Let me close, and inasmuch as, once again, you were referencing my remarks this morning. What the mayor was talking about was the profound period of change in the 1970s coming out of the '60s. And it was my formative years as a police officer, 1970 coming into the Boston Police Department.

And I saw in my profession that I'm so proud of, the beginnings of much-needed change in the '70s. My college education was provided out of the change that was demanded that police must be more professional, must be much better educated. I saw the technology that was required, the many sciences that were improved upon.

So out of that crisis, incredible crises that surmounts anything I've seen so far in the turmoil of the moment, many great changes came. And out of the turmoil of the moment, I'm seeing many great changes already occurring. The mayor supporting with those hundreds of millions of dollars changes that will make my officers much safer, will keep them much better informed, will be able to allow them to deliver much-improved services.

So I also in that discussion this morning talked about this being a change moment. The '70s were a change moment that my profession benefited so phenomenally from. As we go back to New York City in the 1970s, back then, we were killing police each year in the performance of our duties, 90 people a year. We have transformed the NYPD over that 40-year period of time where we have some of the lowest if not lowest rates of use of force of any police department in the United States. So out of crises comes opportunity and challenges. And I intend to embrace the opportunities and challenges as we address these crises. And I think I can successfully predict that as we did in the '70s, we will come out of this better and stronger as we go forward.

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That video is going to be available from BCPI (ph), that video clip we just showed you, just contact our office.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN GUEST HOST: This is THE LEAD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux in for Jake Tapper today. We begin with breaking news. In our "National Lead," you saw that there with the police force in mourning and on high alert. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio just spoke for the second time today, to try to ease the tensions in the street between him and the NYPD. De Blasio saying that those execution-style murders which police say were revenge killings for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, well, he asked for your help in tracking down those other potential threats against the cops.

So I want to bring in our CNN justice reporter, Evan Perez, and Sara Ganim, who's at a growing memorial for the officers in Brooklyn. And, Even, you and I watched this together about 40 minutes or so. Very comprehensive. We learned a lot about the new details about Ismaaiyl Brinsley, anti-government, anti-police. Instagram postings, more than 119, they're looking at his cell phone. Somebody who was full of self-despair and anti-government feelings here.

Explain to us and talk to us about the time line here, because we learned in Baltimore, he turned the gun on himself to his head. The girlfriend convinced him not to shoot himself. He ended up shooting her. Goes from Baltimore to Manhattan and then to Brooklyn. But there is a window in which they don't know where he is. Why is that important?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, from about noon to about 2:30, they don't know where he is. There is the last bit of video that he emerges -- that emerges of him is at the Atlantic Terminal mall in Brooklyn around 12:00. There's video that the police are now providing. After that, he tosses his phone. This is the phone that has been key in knowing that he was heading up I-95, crossing the Lincoln Tunnel into New York. He's in Brooklyn. It causes the Baltimore County police at about 2:10 to call the precinct in Brooklyn to say, there's a guy who's been posting threats against police and he's in Brooklyn, and he's trying to convey a warning. That phone call takes about 30 minutes. We find out in this press conference that at about 2:46 is when the Baltimore County police at the request of the NYPD sends the fax with the wanted poster so that they can circulate.

MALVEAUX: And why is that important? He's a lone wolf. They don't suspect somebody else. Why are they asking the public for help?

PEREZ: Well, you know, because during that period, it's very key to find out what he was doing. Perhaps, you know, did he buy the gun there, did he obtain the gun there? They believe that no one helped him. But if there is some interaction at that point that could lend more facts to what happened here, then they want to make sure -- that person committed a crime, whoever gave him this gun. He had a record. There was reason why they want to make sure that they get tips from the public. Because a minute after they received this fax is when these officers are killed.

MALVEAUX: All right. I want to bring in Sara Ganim, who's there at the scene in Brooklyn. A lot of people who of course are mourning those officers and also expressing a great deal of tension and anxiety when it comes to the mayor of the city, de Blasio. I know that many people are calling for some sort of apology or explanation from him, because they felt like many of the comments that he's made over the previous weeks have been very sympathetic towards the protesters, against some of the police actions that they have seen on the streets and not in support of the cops. What are they asking -- what are you hearing from them? What's the mood there in terms of what they want from this mayor?

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I want to make something clear, Suzanne. You know, it's really not that far from here and not that long ago that community members in New Yorkers were protesting the streets, they were protesting the NYPD and many of the issues related to the recent deaths of unarmed black men, and they were across the country, not just here in New York.

But I have to say, I want to make this clear that all day today, we have been here, we have heard none of that here at this memorial. We've seen quite actually the opposite. We've seen community members coming here and shaking hands with police officers, giving them hugs. We've seen groups of officers, NYPD, showing up all day to pay their respects. They are lighting candles side by side with the community. They're interacting, they are showing support to each other. There is one instance that I saw today that was very representative of

the whole day, the whole afternoon, and that was a woman who came with a note for the son of one of the slain police officers, and the note simply said, "Jaden, your father did nothing wrong." She was having trouble getting that note up onto the brick wall, because it was hard to tape onto brick. And a police officer stepped out and grabbed some duct tape and actually helped her tape it to the wall. It was really symbolic of the afternoon.

I do, just in full disclosure, want to say that in the last couple of minutes, for the first time today, we've seen protesters come out here and start yelling at groups of police who are mourning their slain police officers.

MALVEAUX: Yes, Sara, I want to ask about that. We are hearing people in the background there. What are they shouting and what is their main point there, the fact that they are gathering here where there's a memorial for these two police officers? Obviously emotions are very high there on the street. What do those protesters want, what do they say?

GANIM: It's just a few of them, Suzanne. Like I said, just in the last five minutes, and they're quite frankly yelling at a group of police officers who are standing here silently, just looking at the memorial of candles and flowers and posters. And they're yelling similar rhetoric that we've been hearing over the last couple of weeks related to the shooting of -- the chokehold death of Eric Garner and the shooting of Michael Brown in Missouri. So it's very, you know, sentiments that we've been hearing.

But I have talked to people here in the last couple of hours, and they have said, look, those conversations should be had. This isn't the time or the place for them. They want those conversations to happen later when people have cooled down a little bit, away from the funerals, at least after the funerals of these police officers.

A couple of women came up to me and said, look, if we start criticizing the mayor, and many people here in New York have, some of the officials, they say, if we start criticizing the mayor, it's only going to make things more worse, it's only going to incite more violence. This doesn't bring our community together. And so for most of the day, the feeling here was that whatever was going on, the feud in city hall was not something that should be here in the community right now.

MALVEAUX: All right, Sara, you stay there. Evan, I want to bring you back into the conversation again. Because the commissioner talked about a number of potential copycats, that they are concerned about that. Walk us through, if you will, he talked about technology and how important that was, the Instagram postings, too -- if you see something, say something. What's the current state of the investigation and whether or not they think they could be other police officers who are being targeted?

PEREZ: Well, that is a huge concern. The FBI, the ATF, the NYPD, they're tracking down dozens of these threats. And you know, threats are easy to make. You know, anyone, any fool can just go on the TV -- I'm sorry, on the Internet and post a threat. And you have to run each one of those down. It's a very manpower-intensive thing to track those people down and interview them. And find out whether or not there's a -- and a bunch of them have been just people who were drunk and posted stuff online. So that's one of the issues that they're facing now, because it does breed that type of thing. There are some that they're taking a little more seriously, and it's going to take a little more time.

The other thing the NYPD was talking about just now was about putting in the hands of officers more smartphones so that when they have a threat like this, they can instantly see a picture of who they should be looking out for.

It's not clear whether that made a difference here, Suzanne. But it is something that could save a life here and there.

MALVEAUX: All right, Evan, thank you so much. We appreciate Evan Perez and Sara Ganim, who is there on the scene in Brooklyn. We'll have a lot more after a quick break.


MALVEAUX: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux in for Jake Tapper. We just heard for the second time today from New York City's mayor and his city is mourning the murders of two police officers.

We want to bring in Charles Ramsey, Philadelphia police commissioner and co-chair of President Obama's Task Force on the 21st Century Policing. Thank you so much for joining us here.

First of all, we saw this press conference with the police commissioner as well as with Mayor De Blasio. I want to bring up this here. I have so much to ask you. But he did say he respects the peaceful protests. He also respects the men and women in uniform.

But he was pressed when asked about these chants from some protesters saying "NYPD KKK" or the fact that some protesters were throwing fake blood on police officers.

And he blamed it on the media and saying, that's just a different reality than what's going on out on the streets here. What's your reaction to that? Is he dealing with a different reality than what's really being portrayed in the media?

COMMISSIONER CHARLES RAMSEY, PHILADELPHIA POLICE: Well, I've been involved in dealing with a lot of protests in my time. The morning -- majority of people are peaceful and respectful. There's usually a small group of people that engage in the extreme rhetoric, the signs and so forth. But it's not representative of the larger group in most instances. I think that may be what he was referring to.

MALVEAUX: Does he need to go further -- did he need to go further? What were you hoping that the mayor would say in light of this incredible tension now between the New York Police Department and the mayor? RAMSEY: Well, I think they're going about this the right way now. That is that everything is being set aside until after they pay honor and tribute to the fallen officers. That's all that matters right now, taking care of those grieving families at this point in time and the members of that department that are grieving.

All the controversy and all this other stuff can wait. I think it's the right thing to do. So keep the words very measured and respectful and just focus on the families right now.

MALVEAUX: You and I go way back from the time you were the police chief in the WASHINGTON, D.C. area. And you know what it is like to be in Chief Bill Bratton's position at this moment when you are dealing with a community and community policing, how important that relationship is.

We saw the NYPD officers turn their backs on Mayor De Blasio over the weekend. What does Bratton need to do to get these two sides together?

RAMSEY: Well, the turning of the backs is very unfortunate at that point in time. But it's a very emotional time. And, again, it's not the time or place for that sort of thing. But Bill Bratton is one of the best police commissioners in the entire country and he will guide his department through this.

He's taking it a day at a time. Step one is to get those officers buried, pay proper tribute and respect to them and their families. And then deal with these other issues afterwards.

MALVEAUX: And we heard the mayor say that he believes that they can transcend this moment and that it, in fact, is a moment, a very difficult moment. How do they do that?

RAMSEY: Well, it's going to take some time. Obviously there are hard feelings there. It's going to take some time. But everyone needs to be willing to sit down and talk about their differences and move forward, especially in areas where there is common ground.

Certainly the future of New York City, the safety of New York City and its residents, is something they all ought to be able to great upon. I think Bill is experienced enough, savvy enough to guide the department through this particular point in time.

MALVEAUX: And finally here, you have experience in dealing with the kind of tension, with the community, dealing with the policing. What do you think you need to do?

What does this police department need to do to restore the confidence and the faith and the trust in their officers because we know that so many of them are good men and women doing their jobs?

RAMSEY: Well, I think that we all have to take a good, hard look at ourselves. It's not just New York, Philadelphia, you name the city. There are challenges here. There are tensions. We've got to find ways to break through that. We have to find ways to improve our own operations and we have to work with the community to do the things they need to do as well.

MALVEAUX: All right, thank you so much. Appreciate it, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, for being with us. And of course, the New York police shooter hinted at his plan on social media, but could others also be doing the same. How police are now tracking potential copycats that is next on THE LEAD.


MALVEAUX: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux in for Jake Tapper. More on our National Lead, the murder of two New York City cops this weekend, the shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, detailed his plans to kill the officers on the social media site, Instagram.

In one post he wrote, I'm putting wings on pigs today. They take one of ours, let's take two of theirs. The mayor is now asking for your help in identifying other potential copycat threats online.

I want to bring in CNN's money technology correspondent, Laurie Segall, has been speaking with her sources, joining us live from New York. So Laurie, tell us how seriously are they taking these threats?

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN MONEY TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Very seriously, Suzanne. You just heard at this presser they said they looked through 119 Instagram images from the shooter. That's since been taken down.

But I spoke to my sources at the NYPD they say they are looking at the people commenting on the shooter's page. They are following up, looking at their friends. They said they're taking this very seriously. They are working 24/7.

I was told their currently trying to track down a gang member who posted a picture of police with a gun to his head. They're saying this is something they have to take seriously. They don't want to risk it.

You heard Mayor De Blasio say, if you see something, say something. He was referring to this new age of the internet. If you see something on the internet, you have a responsibility to try to say something and prevent something tragic like this from happening.

MALVEAUX: Yes, it's a different world. Laurie Segall, thank you so much, reporting from New York City.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux sitting in for Jake Tapper. I turn you over to my colleague, Wolf Blitzer, in "THE SITUATION ROOM."