While standing in formation during the funerals for fallen NYPD heroes Det. Rafael Ramos and Det. Wenjian Liu, a lot of thoughts ricocheted through my mind, as well as emotions through my heart.
The strongest thoughts and emotions were those in unwavering support for the families. Seeing the grief and sorrow of these survivors, I along with every active and retired law enforcement officer in formation would have done anything to try to ease their immense pain. The evil man who assassinated our heroes is dead, so there is nothing we could do about him. However, a less conspicuous evil lingered, and we did confront it.
Standing in formation at either funeral, I couldn't escape the lingering sting of Mayor Bill de Blasio's comments about his city's police officers and support for anti-police protesters that littered the air like the stench from raw sewage. I suffer no irrational delusion that de Blasio was personally responsible for the deaths of Liu and Ramos, but neither my heart nor my mind could reconcile the anti-cop gibberish he had spewed prior to the murders of Liu and Ramos with his presence and participation in the memorials for these fallen heroes. I wondered why he would come to the funerals of these brave New York City officers whom weeks before he had cautioned his bi-racial son to fear. His insincere remarks at both funerals failed the smell test.
In response to de Blasio walking into the funeral homes and to his image that was projected on the large screens outside, I joined thousands of officers and civilians in doing what my tactical training taught me not to do: I turned my back on my adversary. As the image of the mayor appeared on the screen, a voice inside my head hollered, "About-face!"
It was not the police and police supporters turning our backs on the mayor but the very presence of de Blasio, a self-righteous hypocrite, who dishonored the heroism and ultimate sacrifice of Liu and Ramos with his presence. I might have been able to manufacture a modicum of respect for de Blasio if he was at least honest enough to go protest the NYPD somewhere during the funerals rather than stain the integrity of the ceremonies honoring the city's fallen heroes. Instead, while pretending to take the higher ground with his presence, he merely took the stage like a pathetic C-level actor, delivering his lines with the veracity of a used-car salesman.
But despite the myriad negative thoughts and feelings I experienced because of the divisive mayor's presence, I was honored to be standing among the more than 20,000 officers in the Solid Blue formation. Seeing law enforcement officers from different departments and different states was truly inspiring. This was the epitome of the honor captured in the concept of a "Band of Brothers/Sisters." Active and retired law enforcement officers from across the nation stood at attention to pay tribute to the fallen. Even firefighters showed up en masse to pay their respects and honor their fellow public safety officers. United in formation, our presence was a resounding declaration that Blue Lives Matter.
As I witnessed each funeral procession go by, the thin but powerful blue line stood strong at attention. After the caskets passed by, I bowed my head and prayed for our heroes and their families, as well as for all in the public safety profession. I thought about how reassuring it is to know that the respective commands and NYPD union officials will be there to support our heroes' families long after they're laid to final rest. I also felt intense pride for the NYPD officers who set aside any concerns for career reprisal and followed their hearts and their honor by condemning de Blasio with their turned backs.
Then suddenly, I heard an authoritative voice on the PA system command, "Stay in formation." With pride and honor, and unwavering respect for Liu and Ramos, we all did as we were ordered. Well, not all of us.
Apparently, De Blasio broke formation within minutes after Liu's casket left the funeral home, and he fled the area. Alternatively, FBI Director James Comey remained in formation until the detail was formally released. Comey is a true leader of law enforcement officers; de Blasio is just a transparent pretender.
After being dismissed from Det. Liu's procession, I thought about him and his partner, Det. Ramos, and all our fallen heroes who will be honored during the annual candlelight vigil in Washington, D.C., during National Police Week this May. I thought about their names being permanently inscribed on our sacred National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall, and how thousands of visitors will be able to pay tribute to their memory and their sacrifice. Then I thought about how de Blasio left the ceremony to scurry along to the next appointment on his calendar, not giving a thought or feeling to any of our fallen heroes or their families. His part has ended, and he will move on to his next act.
However, for all the dedicated men and women in law enforcement, our blue hearts will continue to beat in memory of our heroes and in support of their families. God bless the NYPD and the unbreakable, enduring thin blue line.
Jon Adler is president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA). He writes a monthly column, "The Federal Voice," for POLICE.