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Commissioner Murphy Defends NYPD from Critics

Feb. 20, 1964 - NYPD Commissioner Michael Murphy (pictured), exhibiting the knife-slashed coat worn by an off-duty rookie patrolman who shot to death a former Boy of the Year, lashed out today at the “false sympathy” and “crocodile tears” shown for criminals. He also denounced the branding of police officers as aggressors in such situations. Fingering the 4-inch slash near the breast pocket in the coat worn by Probationary Patrolman Ronald Meszaros, 23, when the shooting occurred Tuesday night, Murphy asked reporters at Police Headquarters: “Who was the victim? The man who was assaulted was the victim. This policeman is a badly shaken man. It’s not pleasant to kill anyone.”

Murphy, appearing irate, took some segments of the press and public to task for failure to support the police in their war on crime. “I say, you cannot have your security and reject those who bring it,” he roared. “There must be a return to realism. There must be a stop to the flow of crocodile tears for ‘the poor boys — with knife in hand — who did not know what they were doing. You have placed the policeman on the street. You have made the laws he enforces. You have armed him with a gun and the authority to use it for your protection. You must stand behind him when he is right.”

Murphy cited three violent crimes which had occurred in the 24 hours before the news conference, including the street fight in which Francisco Rodriguez, 18, was shot by Meszaros after Rodriguez stabbed another man in the thumb and cut the gash in Meszaros’s coat near the heart.

According to the police, Rodriguez was shot in the head when he ignored a warning shot and a command to halt after Meszaros had identified himself as a police officer. The dead youth, father of an 11-month-old son, whose wife is expecting another child, was named Boy of the Year for the New York region by the Boys Club of America in 1962.

As for the other recent instances, Murphy asked: “Shall a busload of citizens be forced to cringe before an unruly mob of exuberant, knife-wielding youngsters? Shall a man be stabbed in the subway by a hoodlum while the other passengers shrink in fear? Shall the police take action or call instead for a psychiatrist?”


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