NEW YORK (Reuters) - A majority of New York City residents are concerned by the unusually deep rift that has formed between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city's police department, according to a poll released on Thursday, with 77 percent saying the relationship is bad.
But New Yorkers are divided on the question of whom to blame. Forty-five percent say it is the mayor's fault, while 43 percent say it is the police's, according to the Quinnipiac University Poll.
The fraying relationship has become the most serious crisis of de Blasio's first year in office. Amid police anger over the mayor's qualified support for some of the police's fiercest critics, the number of arrests and court summonses plummeted for two weeks in late December as the nation's largest police department embarked on what city leaders called a slowdown.
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The poll suggested many New Yorkers have become impatient with some of the most prominent figures involved in the acrimony, including the mayor; the Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist who has been critical of the police; Patrick Lynch, the head of the city's largest police union; and the rank-and-file police officers who recently took to turning their back on the mayor.
Just over three-quarters of New Yorkers thought Lynch's recent remarks - that there was "blood on the hands" of the mayor after two officers were shot dead in an ambush attack - were too extreme. Only 18 percent said they viewed the union boss favorably.
Just over two-thirds of New Yorkers disapproved of the hundreds of police officers who turned their backs in disdain when the mayor spoke at the funerals of those officers last month, while 57 percent thought officers who deliberately avoided making arrests should be punished.
A little over half of New Yorkers think Sharpton is a mostly negative force in the city, and 37 percent thought he had too much influence with the mayor, whom he has often appeared alongside.
Feelings on de Blasio's handling of the tensions were mixed, with 41 percent saying they approved the way he was handling the police department compared to 52 percent who disapproved.
The poll was based on interviews with 1,182 New York City registered voters over the last week and had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points, Quinnipiac said.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Leslie Adler)