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Tension is also cause for police soul-searching

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton at a news conference

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton at a news conference on Dec. 22, 2014 in Manhattan. Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

In the wake of the senseless deaths of two police officers, a police union leader and the NYPD's political supporters have blamed everybody in sight whose views differ from theirs on the poisonous relationship between cops and blacks.

They need to get real. That's the only way things will get better.

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch blamed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's words, actions and policies for the hostility toward cops.

"There's blood on many hands tonight. That blood on the hands starts at the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor," Lynch said after Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were gunned down on Saturday by a 28-year-old black man with a long record of crimes and a sad history of mental illness.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani blamed President Barack Obama and protesters. Former Gov. George Pataki added U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to the list, insisting his and de Blasio's "divisive anti-cop rhetoric" helped inspire the deranged cop killer. De Blasio blamed the news media for dividing the city.

There's some evidence that in his twisted mind, Ismaaiyl Brinsley believed he was punishing police for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown when he killed the cops, after shooting a girlfriend and before putting a slug in his own head. That's just crazy. There's no justification for killing two good men. And it made an explosive situation even worse.

But the bad blood between the NYPD and blacks predates the recent tragedies. And it won't get better until police accept that they are part of the problem, too. It has its roots in the history of racial oppression enforced by police, and has been inflamed in recent years by the long list of unarmed black men who've died at the hands of officers.

Amadou Diallo, 23. Patrick Dorismond, 26. Akai Gurley, 28. Ramarley Graham, 18. Sean Bell, 23. Reynaldo Cuevas, 20. Timothy Stansbury, 19. Ousmane Zongo, 43. And that's just a sampling from recent years in New York City, where the number of killings overall by police has actually dropped. Similar lists could be compiled for municipalities across the country.

In almost every instance, the officers involved were exonerated or never charged with a crime. And I can't remember a single time when police publicly allowed for even the possibility that an officer deserved any blame.

The pain of losing so many fathers, brothers, sons and spouses is as searing for loved ones when those men are black civilians as it is when those who die are good cops.

Add the recent indignities of stop-and-frisk and the inequities of mass incarceration, and it becomes clear there have been serious issues roiling the waters between blacks and law enforcement in New York City for a very long time. The best thing honorable officers could do is insist that the bullies, racists, brutes and incompetents are culled from the ranks.

But people who reflexively blame cops and those who reflexively give cops a pass are both part of the problem. So are the opportunists who just blame every political opponent in sight.

Alvin Bessent is a member of the Newsday editorial board.