Some may call it smear. Others may label it scandal. Folks may see it as undeniable hypocrisy. What I am referring to is a New York Daily News report alleging NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and several NYPD cops assigned to the dignitary security detail got into a traffic crash in 2015…a crash which was seemingly reckless (driving against the flow of traffic) and entirely avoidable.
Somehow that crash was cloaked. Until recently. Until journalists with the local newspaper did some digging.
First some background. Like most metropolis cities, the respective mayor has a perk of being chaperoned and safeguarded by city law enforcement officers. Among its vast array of specialty police units, the NYPD has one called the Executive Protection Unit. In NYC that coveted gig goes to the department’s top-rated detectives. Mayor de Blasio’s clique of cops bear the responsibility of getting him from A to B in a safe manner…or at least they’re supposed to.
Like the Secret Service does for President Trump’s protection, Mayor de Blasio’s security detail carts him around town and ensures his personal safety. Because, you know, someone may not really care for de Blasio and wish him harm.
Here’s what we know at this point: In August 2015 (Yes, quite dated. Isn’t it something how skeletons rattle when one declares interest in the commander-in-chief’s chair?), Mayor de Blasio was headed to a scheduled event, presumably late. The following indictment is not about being tardy for the party but for being a party to an at-fault crash and playing mums the word. The New York Daily News report indicates de Blasio’s security detail (two detectives in his car and other cops in a secondary NYPD SUV) were driving him when their unmarked, sleek Chevy Tahoe traveled west in an eastbound traffic direction. A crash with a boiler truck occurred.
No one was injured. NYPD Detective Edgar Robles pointed the at-fault finger at the driver of the boiler truck. However, the traffic crash investigation resulted in Det. Robles (driving the SUV containing the mayor) being found “at fault.” (Kudos to the NYPD traffic crash investigators for harnessing integrity and maintaining objectivity.)
“The driver of the incident [Detective Robles] was verbally instructed regarding the impact of safe vehicle operation,” said NYPD spokesperson Phil Walzak. That’s soft language for What the hell were you thinking? This ain’t Hollywood! OMG…the liability!
Kinda ironic that that same carload of cops chauffeuring the mayor would play chicken with the hordes of automobile traffic in New York City, huh? Never mind the jet-black SUV’s activation of lights and sirens to telegraph negligible police activity and carve out a trail. Never mind that the city’s top dog is on board that same official vehicle (funded by taxpayers) and ostensibly doing little to avert a potential disaster. Never mind the mayor’s campaign platforms to enhance traffic safety in the city’s overpopulated daily scramble. Nope. Keep on movin’ on.
More irony (hypocrisy) for you, directly related to this subject matter: Mayor de Blasio platformed against the city’s bicyclist demographic, saying, “We’ve seen them going the wrong way, weaving through traffic, going up on the sidewalks, all the things that many, many New Yorkers find dangerous and unsettling, and they can reach very high speeds [emphasis mine].” Hmmm, you mean like your security detail unit’s operation when you’re on board, Mr. Mayor?
The New York Daily News reporters wrote the following: “Both City Hall and the NYPD declined to say whether the mayor was running late.” Even if he were, does that cater cart blanche to do whatever the heck one wants? Activating lights/sirens did nothing but bring even more attention to a poor decision and a public safety digression.
Sorry not sorry: Public safety is always paramount, especially in a highly congested environment like the Big Apple.
With a police academy aspirant recently, I was discussing the ultimate responsibility of police discretion: to exercise such a principle with unwavering objectivity and critical-thinking skills before deciding to take police actions or not. And here we see an example of seeming overreach resulting in wanton disregard performed by a NYC cop whose discretion was severely flawed…because of the important guy in the back seat.
Pertinent to our particular discussion, NYPD’s Walzak framed discretion in this fashion: “The use of emergency equipment in the NYPD vehicle used to transport the mayor is up to the judgment and discretion of the detectives and supervisors assigned to the security detail.” That “judgment and discretion” somehow destined to go head-to-head with city traffic; it didn’t bode well, at all.
For the NYPD’s role in the matter, here’s where it stinks like sewage. In the New York Daily News, Graham Rayman reported that the mayor and his security detail were en route to a walk-run event (more irony) in Harlem when the traffic crash happened. Via sources (probably NYPD cops in or close to the group), Mr. Rayman unearthed “text messages” indicating the “commanding officer of the [Executive Protection] unit, Inspector Howard Redmond, ordered the accident be covered up. Sources said Redmond feared the headlines about the crash in light of de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, which seeks to reduce pedestrian and traffic deaths through stricter enforcement, according to multiple sources close to the Executive Protection Unit.” Inspector Redmond texted his concerns over the “optics” pertaining to the crash. Others in the know about this crash cover-up texted “no one is to know,” reported New York Daily News writer Ellen Moynihan.
Yet another ugly knot in this twisted saga claims Inspector Redmond directed subordinates to list Det. Robles as the driver in a “back-up” protection unit vehicle, and not the actual primary one involved. That was engineered to make it look like Mayor de Blasio was not present in that particular NYPD SUV. That was one way to orchestrate insulating the mayor from having any knowledge of the car crash—aka plausible denial, but under false pretense. Tampering with a witness also comes to mind, in a perversely different way.
This sordid situation swept away in 2015 and only now coming to light has more gray areas in it than much of NYC’s sidewalks’ scuff stains. Although a police report was completed (finding Det. Robles at fault), one was reportedly not filed with the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which is required by law when the damage is in excess of $1000. According to the Daily News’ investigation, the DMV has no such record. Whoopsie! Uh-oh! Can you hear the foot-peddling and doors slamming shut?
The Daily News reporters sought a copy of the 2015 police report via the city’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and were reportedly stonewalled when an NYPD spokesperson claimed that it would take four months to produce the four-page police report (most of which is comprised of blocks populated by check-marks, supplemented by a police officer’s narrative of facts). That signaled the jig is up. The NYPD reconsidered and handed over public records. That is why this story has resurfaced since initial revelations last month.
In an April 2019 report by New York Daily News reporter Ellen Moynihan et al., Mayor de Blasio played dumb on the matter. He told the media inquiring into the crash that “Everything about how an accident is handled is the responsibility of the NYPD. I don’t know enough about their protocols. That’s something to ask them.” Spoken like a hostage being whisked through Gotham.
How’s that for handwashing? Weren’t you there, Mr. Hizzoner? Don’t you oversee the city government? Shouldn’t you know its workings? Catatonic passenger since 2014? One-way stir any brain cells?
Some media coverage indicated the security detail detectives whisked the mayor away from the crash scene, walking on foot down the street. In every state, leaving the scene of a traffic crash is illegal. Mayor or not, this premise is prevalent, categorically taking personal responsibility for one’s involvement in a situation.
For a man running in 2020 he ought to check his 20/20. Executive Protection cops have been driving Mayor de Blasio around since 2014. I guess we are to believe the mayor and no one in the protection/security detail talk during car rides to and from events…and that Mayor de Blasio wears a blindfold during transit. I see nothing. I know nothing.
New York City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Queens) said: “Mayor de Blasio’s hypocrisy knows no bounds. He created Vision Zero in order to make the streets safer, but when his own SUV was involved in a car accident, it was covered up and hidden. Sadly, this has become just another example of the mayor refusing to play by his own rules.”
Bam! No bones about it: The innards of the largest municipal police department in the world, in a metropolis run by a Dem mayor on full display.