Thousands of police officers crowded in and outside the funeral of slain New York Police Department officer Rafael Ramos Saturday morning, one of two cops shot in the head on broad daylight while sitting in their patrol car. For most attendees, the service was an opportunity to remember the 40-year-old father of two. Ramos was referred to by his Puerto Rican friends as Pote, which loosely translates to “can of goodness.” As a marriage counselor for his church, Ramos was remembered by Deacon John Cortes for telling young couples: “If you have an argument, just be kind. Don’t fight.”
But the funeral also became a site for escalating tensions between some law enforcement officials and protesters. As de Blasio remembered Ramos as an officer who “put his life on the line so other New Yorkers could live in peace,” hundreds, if not thousands, of police officers standing outside the funeral turned their backs away from the screens projecting de Blasio’s speech, mimicking the snub to de Blasio a few weeks earlier as he walked into Woodhull Hospital where Ramos and his partner Wenjan Liu were taken after they were fatally shot while sitting in their police car in Brooklyn. Many other officers did not turn their backs, and attendees inside the Queens church applauded.
A day earlier, a banner flew over the city that blared, DE BLASIO, OUR BACKS HAVE TURNED TO YOU. Retired officer John Cardillo claimed credit for the banner and released a statement purporting to speak on behalf of “a large and unified group of current and retired NYC Police Officers” who are “outraged by the mayor’s incendiary rhetoric.” He castigated de Blasio for sharing that he had to instruct own black son on how to avert dangerous confrontations with the police, and went so far as to suggest that de Blasio’s comment may have led to the deaths of Liu and Ramos. “Mayor de Blasio turned his back on his long before we turned his back on him,” he said.
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) December 26, 2014
Others including police union president Patrick Lynch had already blamed de Blasio and those protesting police brutality for the deaths of Liu and Ramos, saying, there were “blood on many hands.”
De Blasio had previously asked protesters to halt their demonstrations until after the two funerals, and on Friday called their continued protests “deeply divisive.” During the funeral, he reached out to the officers, calling the NYPD the “finest police force in the country” and saying, “I extend my condolences to another family, the family of the NYPD, which is hurting so deeply these days. …. All of the city is grieving and grieving for so many reasons, but the most personal is we’ve lost such a good man and a family is in such pain.”
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called Ramos a “hero” and designated him posthumously an honorary chaplain. “If we can learn to see each other, to see that our cops are people like officer Ramos and officer Liu, to see our communities filled with people like them too,” Bratton said. “If we can learn to see each other then, when we see each other we’ll heal.”