Current and former members of the police department are threatening to boycott a fraternal organization's annual dinner dance in Queens because the honoree is the city's public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum.
The backlash from members of the NYPD Honor Legion, a fraternal organization made up of police officers who have received medals for performing heroic deeds, comes in the wake of a lawsuit filed by Ms. Gotbaum's family against the city of Phoenix that reportedly holds police responsible for the death of Ms. Gotbaum's daughter-in-law, Carol.
"Guys are e-mailing from all over the place saying they're not going," a retired sergeant and Honor Legion member who edits a widely read daily newsletter that chronicles police-related news stories, Michael Bosak, said. "She's suing the police in Phoenix for basically doing their job."
Carol Gotbaum died in handcuffs at the Phoenix airport after police arrested her for disorderly conduct. An autopsy report deemed Gotbaum's death accidental and disclosed that she was under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs. Gotbaum's husband, Noah Gotbaum, reportedly is suing the city of Phoenix, seeking $8 million in damages.
While Betsy Gotbaum was generally muted in her public comments after the death of her daughter-in-law, she said she has more worries about police behavior after the incident, according to a report in the Daily News. Ms. Gotbaum declined to comment for this article.
A former second vice president of the Honor Legion and retired lieutenant, Phillip Panzarella, defended the organization's decision to honor Ms. Gotbaum, pointing out that she was the first politician to fight to get all police officers bulletproof vests.
"I'm telling you this lady deserves the award. You have to take into consideration that her statements were spur of the moment. We're behind her and we're not going to abandon her," he said.
Ms. Gotbaum will be the first woman to receive the organization's Person of the Year award, Mr. Panzarella said.
Correction from April 25, 2008:
A claim moving to sue the city of Phoenix is what Noah Gotbaum has filed. An article on page 2 of yesterday's New York Sun misstated the status of the lawsuit.