The Third Burial Should Be That of Hate

Dear NYPD PBA President Lynch:

Two burials of two New York City Police Officers are two too many. With Officer Ramos laid to rest this weekend, and the memorial service for Officer Liu just awaiting the arrival of family members from China, many of us are numbed by the unfathomable pain we feel for Officer Ramos’ two sons, and Officer Liu’s new wife.

Those of us born in Brooklyn, not far from where these two public servants were assassinated by hate and madness, understand intuitively how difficult it is for flesh-and-blood human beings to put on a uniform each day, and put their own lives, and the comfort of their families, at risk each moment, to protect and serve the rest of us.

When I worked for Mario Cuomo during his first term as Governor, I saw first hand how members of the NYPD, both in uniform and plainclothed, rushed to ensure his safety when a death threat against his life was made. They were prepared, as I was, to take a bullet for the man, as an act of ultimate service.

During and after the 9/11 attacks on our City, those of us living in New York hugged and high-fived police and firefighters for the sacrifices of their brothers and sisters in heroic attempts to rescue nearly 3,000 souls lost to all of us at the hands of hate and madness. For months and years after that, every time I spotted a cop-on-the-beat, I went out of my way to personally thank that specific officer, just for being there. Many New Yorkers did the same.

I felt especially proud and hopeful when a good friend, a person of color, was sworn in as a member of the NYPD, and later, promoted to being an undercover narcotics detective. He was like a son to me, and by extension, the NYPD became like family.

But, as in any family, sometimes things can get a bit excessive. When they do, it’s the duty of other family members and friends to point to some constructive changes in behavior, that benefit everyone. The “Stop & Frisk” program was one of those things that got excessive. I know because another friend of mine, a Harvard-educated person of color who heads a school for disadvantaged youth, was stopped and frisked for only one reason: the color of his bi-racial skin. If he could be suspected of doing something wrong simply by walking on a City street at a reasonable hour, clearly “stop and frisk” had gotten out of control. It was the equivalent of stopping Colin Powell because someone didn’t like his looks.

Any parent of any child with black or brown skin would have been negligent not to warn that child to act especially respectful around Police officers, sworn to protect them. Even as a parent of a white child, I counseled my son to always be respectful with Police officers; Bill deBlasio did the same for his mixed-race son, in the face of growing evidence of young men of color being stopped and questioned for no other reason than their skin tone. The duty to warn is one all parents have to our children—teaching them how to get by in an often confusing, conflicted world.

Recent police/citizen confrontations in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, NY, have inflamed tensions on all sides and complicated the fundamental issues at stake here: issues of human dignity, respect and civility. Yet neither of those events, while each disturbing in its own right, especially on the crucial matter of policing and race, has anything to do with the assassination of NYPD officers Ramos and Liu, which was a lone-wolf act of a madman, blinded by hate, especially toward himself.

After Officers Ramos and Liu are put to rest this week, there ought to be a third burial, of the kind of hatred and madness that killed them. To allow hate to continue to prowl the streets, whether in civilian clothes or in uniform, is to dishonor the lives, and deaths, of these two humane heroes.

Respectfully yours,

Steve Villano

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