Bratton Had Asked Police Not To Repeat Action Taken During Ramos' Funeral


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hundreds of NYPD officers turned their backs Sunday as they watched Mayor Bill de Blasio eulogize an officer shot dead with his partner, repeating a stinging display of scorn for the mayor despite entreaties from the police commissioner not to do so.

The show of disrespect came outside the funeral home where Officer Wenjian Liu was remembered as an incarnation of the American dream: a man who had emigrated from China at age 12 and devoted himself to helping others in his adopted country.

PHOTOS: Funeral For NYPD Officer Wenjian Liu

The gesture among officers watching the mayor’s speech on a screen in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, added to tensions between the mayor and rank-and-file police even as he sought to quiet them.

“As we start a new year, a year we’re entering with hearts that are doubly heavy” from the loss of Officer Liu and his partner, Officer Rafael Ramos, de Blasio said. “Let us move forward by strengthening the bonds that unite us and let us work together to attain peace.”

As CBS2’s Steve Langford reported, some police officers from the NYPD and other departments didn’t turn their backs, but at a location about a block away from the funeral home, most officers made it clear their hostility toward the mayor, though few were willing to comment.

“Just no respect for the mayor. Nothing else to say,” said one man.

“If I was still working, I would have turned my back,” said former officer Ellen Bjorkstrom.

Bjorkstrom, a street cop in the 84th Precinct in the 1970s, said she doesn’t care that the police commissioner urged the department late this week to refrain from such acts at Liu’s funeral.

“Well that’s his opinion. He has to say what he’s told to say,” Bjorkstrom said.

The moment the mayor finished speaking, police officers turned once again to face the funeral as Commissioner Bratton spoke.

“I think New Yorkers agree, we need a very strong police department to continue to keep crime down and we need good community police relations,” said Sen. Charles Schumer.

The mayor’s office released a statement Sunday night, but did not directly address the officers’ actions.

“Today we honor the legacies of Detectives Liu and Ramos, and remember their dedication to serving the people of New York City. Our city and this Administration are focused on doing everything possible to support the grieving families of our fallen heroes,” the statement said.

Liu, 32, had served as a policeman for seven years and was married just two months when he and Ramos were killed on Dec. 20. Liu had long wanted to be a police officer, a desire that deepened after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, his father, Wei Tang Liu, said through tears.

“All of our city is heartbroken today,” de Blasio said. “We’ve seen it over these last two weeks. We’ve seen the pain that people feel from all walks of life.”

And as he finished his patrol every day, the only child would call his father to say: “I’m coming home today. You can stop worrying now,” the father recalled during a service that blended police tradition with references to Buddha’s teachings.

Dignitaries including FBI Director James Comey and members of Congress joined police officers from around the country to mourn Liu. Officer Lucas Grant of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office in Augusta, Georgia, said he came to Liu’s funeral with officers from neighboring departments “to support our family.”

“When one of us loses our lives, we have to come together,” Grant said.

“We have to band together and show support to one another to continue, you know,” said Officer Mandy Gray, with Hopewell Township Police Department in New Jersey.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Liu’s and Ramos’ deaths a tragic story of “pure and random hatred” on Saturday at Liu’s wake. Cuomo didn’t attend the funeral, which came as he prepared to bury his own father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

The officers’ killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, committed suicide shortly after the brazen daytime ambush on a street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Investigators say Brinsley was an emotionally disturbed loner who had made references online to the killings this summer of unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers, vowing to put “wings on pigs.”

The deaths of Ramos and Liu strained an already tense relationship between city police unions and de Blasio, who union leaders have said contributed to an environment that allowed the killings by supporting protests following the deaths of Eric Garner on Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The head of the rank-and-file police union turned his back on the mayor at a hospital the day of the killings. The act was imitated by hundreds of officers standing last week outside Ramos’ funeral, where they turned their backs toward a giant TV screen as de Blasio’s remarks were being broadcast.

Many people, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, have since pressed all parties to tone down the rhetoric.

On Saturday, officers standing outside the funeral home where Liu was displayed, dressed in full uniform in an open casket, saluted as the mayor and commissioner entered. On Sunday, the mayor got a respectful reception among police officials inside the funeral home.

Pei Xia Chen, widow of NYPD officer Wenjian Liu, cries while holding a picture of her husband during his funeral in  Brooklyn on Jan. 4, 2015. (credit: Jewel Samad/Getty Images)

Pei Xia Chen, widow of NYPD officer Wenjian Liu, cries while holding a picture of her husband during his funeral in Brooklyn on Jan. 4, 2015. (credit: Jewel Samad/Getty Images)

But some ill will was visible ahead of de Blasio’s scheduled remarks at Liu’s funeral. Retired NYPD officer John Mangan stood across the street from the funeral home with a sign that read: “God Bless the NYPD. Dump de Blasio.” And Patrick Yoes, a national secretary with the 328,000-member Fraternal Order of Police, said he applauded New York police union leader Patrick Lynch’s stance toward the mayor, including Lynch’s declaration that de Blasio had “blood on his hands” after the shootings.

“Across this country, we seem to be under attack in the law enforcement profession, and the message to take away from this is: We are public servants. We are not public enemies,” Yoes said.

George Breedy, a lieutenant with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Department in Louisiana, said he had no plans to protest de Blasio, calling the rift between officers and the mayor a “local issue.”

“We’re here to pay respect to the officers,” Breedy said.

Liu’s funeral arrangements were delayed so relatives from China could travel to New York, where he married Pei Xia Chen this fall.

“He is my soul mate,” she said. “My hero.

“His spirit will continue to look after us. He’s my hero. We can all count on him.”

On Saturday, a small vigil was established in Chinatown and community members gathered, burning pieces of paper in honor of Liu in keeping with Chinese tradition.

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