Mayor Eulogizes Officer as Cops Outside Turn Backs

January 4, 2015 Updated: January 4, 2015

NEW YORK—Thousands of police turned their backs Sunday as Mayor Bill de Blasio eulogized an officer shot dead with his partner, repeating a stinging display of scorn for the mayor despite entreaties to put anger aside.

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

“Let us move forward by strengthening the bonds that unite us, and let us work together to attain peace,” de Blasio said at the funeral.

Let us work together to attain peace.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio

But some officers and police retirees said they still felt compelled to spurn the mayor. Police union leaders have said he contributed to an environment that allowed the officers’ slayings by supporting protests following the police killings of Eric Garner on Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

“The mayor has no respect for us. Why should we have respect for him?” said retired New York Police Department Detective Camille Sanfilippo, who was among those who turned their backs Sunday. Retired NYPD Sgt. Laurie Carson called the action “our only way to show our displeasure with the mayor.”

Officers spun back around when Bratton took the podium to speak. Later, de Blasio stood outside the funeral home, to no visible reaction from officers, observing an honor guard and other rituals.

The NYPD declined to comment, and de Blasio spokesman Phil Walzak said the mayor was focused on honoring the fallen officers.