For the second time in a week, police will gather this weekend to mourn one of their own, Officer Wenjian Liu, whose wake and funeral could show how much, if any, progress has been made toward mending relations between Mayor Bill de Blasio and police officers.
Liu, 32, was shot dead on Dec. 20 along with his partner, Rafael Ramos, 40, as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn. The slayings prompted accusations from police union leaders that De Blasio’s tolerance of protesters alleging police brutality had encouraged the gunman.
Police Commissioner William J. Bratton last week criticized officers who used Ramos’ funeral to display their anger toward De Blasio. At the Dec. 27 funeral, many police officers turned their backs when the mayor delivered a eulogy. Some did the same thing a week earlier when De Blasio arrived at the hospital where the slain officers were taken.
De Blasio on Tuesday met with police union leaders in an attempt to alleviate tensions, but both sides issued tepid statements afterward indicating that they remained far apart.
“There were a number of discussions, especially about the safety issues that our members face,” said Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Assn. Lynch spoke on behalf of the five police union leaders after the two-hour session with De Blasio. “There was no resolve,” Lynch said.
But the union leaders have not expressed support for the silent protest at Ramos’ funeral, and the criticism it drew leaves doubts as to whether it will be repeated at Liu's services.
Bratton called it “very inappropriate,” but added, “It is reflective, unfortunately, of the feelings of some of our officers.”
The president of the Sergeant’s Benevolent Assn., Ed Mullins, speaking to reporters at Ramos’ funeral before the officers had turned their backs on the mayor, suggested that he did not want politics brought into the services.
“We should all work together for the purposes of getting the Ramos family through and supporting the Liu family and moving the city forward,” Mullins said. “The nation is watching the city. The world is watching the city.”
Liu’s wake Saturday and funeral Sunday will combine the Buddhist traditions of the officer’s Chinese heritage with the ceremony of a New York Police Department service, including monks, bagpipers, the carrying of a casket draped in an NYPD flag up the aisle of the funeral home, and eulogies from clergy, police and political leaders.
Liu came to the United States in 1994 from China with his parents. He graduated from the Police Academy in 2007 and had married two months before his death. According to his parents, their only child had wanted to be a police officer since he was a teenager, driven in part by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Liu’s funeral was scheduled later than Ramos’ because several of his relatives traveled from China to be there. Like Ramos’ service, it was expected to draw many more people than the funeral home can hold, so large screens were to be erected in the street outside to allow the spillover crowd to watch.
Since the two officers’ slayings, protests that had taken place almost daily since summer have subsided. City leaders, including De Blasio, had appealed for a halt to political rhetoric and to demonstrations until after the officers’ funerals.
On Thursday, the police announced the arrest of a man suspected of taking part in an assault on officers during one of the last demonstrations, on Dec. 13 on the Brooklyn Bridge. In a statement, police said a man was charged with assaulting officers, resisting arrest and rioting. He was the fifth person arrested in connection with an altercation captured on video and posted to YouTube, which showed several people intervening as two policemen detained a man accused of trying to throw a large garbage can over a railing onto people and traffic below.
One of the officers sustained a broken nose in the melee, and both suffered cuts and bruises, police said.