New York mayor heckled at police graduation ceremony

Law enforcement officers turn their backs on a video monitor as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during the funeral of slain New York Police Department officer Rafael Ramos on Dec 27, 2014. De Blasio drew heckles and boos as well as cheers o
Law enforcement officers turn their backs on a video monitor as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during the funeral of slain New York Police Department officer Rafael Ramos on Dec 27, 2014. De Blasio drew heckles and boos as well as cheers on Monday when he addressed graduating police cadets. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A new New York City Police officer takes a photo after her graduating class ceremony in New York Dec 29, 2014. Hundreds of officers took part in the ceremony at Madison Square Gardens. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A new New York City Police officer takes a photo after her graduating class ceremony in New York Dec 29, 2014. Hundreds of officers took part in the ceremony at Madison Square Gardens. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Two fallen police officers are honoured at a New York Police Department graduation ceremony at Madison Square Garden on Dec 29, 2014 in New York City. The Mayor's relationship with the city's police force has been strained recently after the deaths o
Two fallen police officers are honoured at a New York Police Department graduation ceremony at Madison Square Garden on Dec 29, 2014 in New York City. The Mayor's relationship with the city's police force has been strained recently after the deaths of two police officers. -- PHOTO: AFP
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the New York Police Department graduation ceremony at Madison Square Garden on Dec 29, 2014 in New York City. The mayor's relationship with the city's police force has been strained recently after the deat
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the New York Police Department graduation ceremony at Madison Square Garden on Dec 29, 2014 in New York City. The mayor's relationship with the city's police force has been strained recently after the deaths of two police officers. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday drew heckles and boos as well as cheers when he addressed graduating police cadets on Monday, two days after thousands of uniformed officers turned their backs on him at a slain policeman's funeral.

The mayor's appearance at the New York Police Department graduation ceremony at Madison Square Garden came as he struggles to mend the most toxic rift between police and City Hall in decades.

The rift was triggered by the mayor's support for protests against the deaths of black men at the hands of white officers in New York, Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere.

The rift sharpened after the weekend before Christmas when two policemen were ambushed and shot to death as they sat in their squad car in Brooklyn.

Mr de Blasio, addressing nearly 900 graduating cadets, said, "You will confront all manner of problems. Problems that you didn't create."

A heckler cried out: "You created them!"

Some in the audience applauded the outburst.

Mr de Blasio, briefly flustered, continued with his speech.

A dozen or so people turned their backs on the mayor as he spoke, repeating a gesture by thousands of officers at Saturday's funeral for policeman Rafael Ramos.

Before he had even finished speaking, the mayor's press office circulated a long, evidently prepared e-mail to journalists.

"Want to remind folks that today was not the first time a NYC mayor has been booed at a police graduation," Ms Marti Adams, a spokesman for the mayor, wrote before pointing reporters to old news reports about Mr de Blasio's three predecessors getting similar treatment.

The wake for the second slain officer, Mr Wenjian Liu, is due to be held on Saturday in Brooklyn and the funeral on Sunday.

The man who shot the officers, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, said he was seeking to avenge the deaths of two unarmed black men who died in confrontations with white officers last summer in Ferguson and New York.

Brinsley shot himself after the two officers were killed.

The black men's deaths triggered a wave of demonstrations against police violence in New York and other cities this fall.

The killing of Ramos and Liu has become a rallying point for police forces beleaguered by months of criticism.

The head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association police union, Mr Patrick Lynch, has said the mayor had the officers' blood on his hands.

Police Commissioner William Bratton has said some of the tension is due to labour negotiations between the city and police unions.