New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton posthumously appointed slain New York Police Officer Rafael Ramos an honorary chaplain of the NYPD’s 84th Precinct during the officer’s wake on Saturday. Ramos was gunned down along with his partner, Wenjian Liu, in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood just about an hour before his graduation from a volunteer chaplain program, NBC News reported.
In dress uniforms and white gloves, thousands of New York City police officers filled the room, lined streets outside, and stood on nearby rooftops in solidarity with the fallen officer. Commissioner Bratton told those in attendance that every time he attends a police officer’s funeral, he says a small prayer that it will be the last – but he knows that will not be the case.Bratton was preceded on the dais by Vice President Joe Biden, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
During the vice president’s remarks at Christ Tabernacle Church in Glendale, Queens, Biden commended both the slain officers for their bravery. Noting the city’s combination of cultures from all over the world, Biden said, “When you patrol the streets of New York, you circle the Earth.”
Calling New York City’s mix of people and cultures a “chaotic miracle,” Biden said the metropolis “stands as a beacon to the world in no small part because of the sacrifices that the New York Police Department makes every day.”
Biden said the untimely and tragic deaths of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu “touched the soul of the entire nation.” He continued by saying, “I believe that this great police force and this incredibly diverse city can and will show the nation how to bridge any divide – you’ve done it before, and you’ll do it again.”
Addressing Officer Ramos’ family, Biden said Ramos became a policeman for all the right reasons and that “he didn’t just have a Bible in his locker, he lived it in his heart.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio began his remarks by telling Biden, ”It was so important to the people of New York and to the Ramos family that you’re here, today.” De Blasio has been on the receiving end of harsh criticism from police in recent days after he made remarks many officers viewed as critical of police and racially-charged in the wake of protests over grand jury decisions in the deaths of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
On December 20, NYPD officers turned their backs on the mayor as he spoke just hours after Officers Ramos and Liu were killed, and on Saturday – again – hundreds of officers watching the funeral on giant television screens outside the church turned their backs while the mayor spoke. They applauded, however, during Vice President Biden’s remarks.
When asked about officers again turning their back on the mayor Saturday evening, de Blasio’s deputy spokesman told WNBC, ”The Ramos and Liu families, our police department and our city are dealing with an unconscionable tragedy. Our sole focus is unifying this city and honoring the lives of our two police officers.”
The mayor’s office has stood steadfastly with police since the shootings, calling for a halt to demonstrations until the officers are laid to rest.
Despite the frayed relations between the mayor and the police force, de Blasio commended both the slain officers and the entire New York City police force Saturday saying, “All of this city is grieving.” While speaking of Ramos’ desire to become an officer, the mayor also stressed that the city has “the finest police force in this country.”
Citing biblical verse – “Blessed are the peacemakers” – the mayor said those words also applied to Officer Ramos. “Police officers are called peace officers,” de Blasio said. “Because that’s what they do – they keep the peace.”
The mayor concluded his remarks by speaking briefly in Spanish.
New York Governor Cuomo told the officers in attendance on Saturday that their city stands with them. “When you put on that badge as a police officer, you are no longer just a man and a woman and a citizen of New York,” the governor said. “You represent public safety and law and order.”
“An attack on the NYPD is an attack on all of us,” Cuomo added.
Officers Ramos and Liu were gunned down in their patrol vehicle in broad daylight on December 20. Officials say they were targeted and “assassinated” solely because they were police officers by a troubled gunman who also killed himself.
Ramos and Liu were the first NYPD officers to die in the line of duty since 2011. Both men have been posthumously promoted to first-grade detective, according to police officials.
Arrangements for officer Liu’s funeral have not yet been announced as government officials work to help some of his family travel to New York from China to attend those services.