NEW YORK - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio received some boos and heckles Monday at a police graduation ceremony, the latest chapter in his tension-filled relationship with the nation's largest police force.
The rift between de Blasio and much of the rank and file has grown considerably in recent weeks, and the leaders of the police union have blamed the mayor for fostering an anti-NYPD atmosphere they believe contributed to the ambush slayings of two officers earlier this month.
Twice in a week - including at the funeral for one of the officers - some officers turned their backs to de Blasio, adding an air of acrimony to the normally celebratory graduation ceremonies, which were held Monday morning at Madison Square Garden.
The 884 new police officers sat stoically in their seats when de Blasio was introduced to speak, and many in the audience tepidly cheered. But boos could be heard from some in the crowd in the seats reserved for cadets' families and friends.
About a dozen or so people in the stands stood with their backs turned to de Blasio, emulating the searing pose of disrespect that hundreds of officers struck at Officer Rafael Ramos' funeral on Saturday. Some appeared to be in uniform, but it was unclear whether they were members of the New York Police Department.
De Blasio, a Democrat elected last year on the promises of keeping crime low while reforming the NYPD, effusively praised the new officers.
"It takes a special kind of person to put their lives on the line for others - to stare down the danger," he said. "Because that's what you will do. You will stare down the danger. You will keep the peace."
He continued: "You will confront all the problems that plague our society - problems that you didn't create."
But as he drew a breath to continue, a shout could be heard from the crowd: "You did!"
That heckle was met with laughter and some applause from the crowd and briefly flustered de Blasio, who had been speaking at a quicker-than-normal pace, seemingly to eliminate any pauses that could have been filled with boos.