NEW YORK CITY — Sitting at a table by himself in front of the media less than 24 hours after police shot and killed 66-year-old schizophrenic woman Deborah Danner in The Bronx, Mayor Bill de Blasio repeatedly emphasized that the officer who fired the shot made a poor "individual" decision.
"I think this is about a very individual situation," the mayor said when asked how the shooting could affect police and community relations.
"It never shocks me that people make individual decisions and, you know, some make the wrong decisions," said the mayor — who ran on a platform of improving the relationship between members of the police and communities of color — when asked about the role of training in the shooting.
Police Commissioner James O'Neill, meanwhile, has blamed the entire department, saying "we have failed" regarding Danner's death.
While a mayoral spokesman said the discrepancy in language between O'Neill and de Blasio was "semantics" and not indicative of a split, police reform groups say the frank rhetoric from the mayor and police commissioner are not enough to heal police and community relations in the wake of the Danner shooting.
"O'Neill conveyed a more systemic failure," said one police reform advocate who asked for anonymity so as not to damage working relationships. "The mayor kept saying this is one officer who made a bad decision, but that's not borne out by history and facts over last few years."
At least six emotionally disturbed people before Danner have been killed by police or have died after interactions with the NYPD since de Blasio took office, according to a tally by advocates.
"To say this is a singular problem, and not a larger problem, is problematic," said the advocate.
Both de Blasio and O'Neill agree that Sgt. Hugh Barry violated protocol by not waiting for Emergency Service officers to arrive and not deploying his Taser or calling in hostage negotiators after responding to Danner's Castle Hill apartment Tuesday night following a call from a neighbor that she was behaving erratically.
"They both have pointed to this being a breach of protocol but for us, that's really not the problem here," said Yul-san Liem, co-director of the Justice Committee.
"When someone gets killed there is outrage and the commissioner or the mayor says we will look at our protocols," Liem said. "What doesn't happen is accountability for officers who kill people. The officer who killed Deborah Danner should not be collecting a paycheck right now."
After the chokehold death of Staten Island man Eric Garner, de Blasio and then-Police Commissioner William Bratton ordered that the entire department undergo training in de-escalation techniques. De Blasio said that Barry, who has been sued twice previously for brutality, did participate in that training.
Liem said the city should also examine whether Emergency Services Unit officers or police should be first responders to situations involving an emotionally disturbed person, since ESU officers have been involved in fatalities involving the mentally ill.
"It's the criminalization of people with psychological disabilities," Liem said. "Police escalate the situation."
Rev. Al Sharpton also called for the mayor and police commissioner to take action by making additional reforms to police training and hiring practices, saying that their "statements were good and responsible but should be the beginning of the overhaul and systemic change, not the conclusion of this case.”
Sharpton has also called for the mayor and commissioner to host a community summit on policing.
On the other side of the equation are police unions and civil rights advocate Norman Siegel, who have criticized de Blasio and O'Neill for assigning blame in the Danner shooting before a full investigation is finished.
"I'm very disappointed in the new commissioner. As a person who has come up through the ranks he is rushing to judgment without knowing the answers," said Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins.
"What the mayor did was destroy an individual's career and sent a message to the public by creating an atmosphere that there is possible wrongdoing," Mullins said. "We are lying to the public at a time when we should be healing."
De Blasio has shown no signs of letting up with his approach of blaming Barry but denying a larger system-wide issue.
Speaking Friday on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC, the mayor pointed out that of 128,000 calls received police received for emotionally disturbed persons in 2016, none turned out as Danner's did. It's unclear how many of those calls involved the threat of violence.
"Our police overwhelmingly handle these situations the right way. They’re tough situations," said de Blasio. "I have a lot of respect for our police officers dealing with challenges of mental illness out on the streets."