Among the “sea of blue” in attendance of New York City Police Officer Rafael Ramos’ memorial on Dec. 27 in Queens was a cadre of Temple Police showing their support.
Ramos and his partner, Officer Wenjian Liu, were killed Dec. 20 while sitting in their patrol car. According to the New York Times, the NYPD believe the gunman, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, was motivated by the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
“When something like that happens it’s not about whether you are going to go, you’ve got to be there,” said Corporal Francisco Gonzalez of Temple Police.
Gonzalez and a team of four other Temple Police officers left from 30th Street station around 5:30 a.m. They met with Amtrak Police’s New York Division when they arrived and were escorted throughout the city and to the memorial service.
According to the New York Times, more than 20,000 police officers from as far as England attended the funeral.
“They were talking to us, shaking our hands, and giving us patches from their department. It was definitely a support thing,” Temple Police Officer Melissa Tracton said.
Despite the shared sense of unity, the officers described the memorial service as emotional.
“When you get there, there is one moment where it affects you,” Gonzalez said. “For me, it’s when you see on the big screen that their kids are standing outside while his body is being placed in the ground.”
“It’s tough when you see that,” Gonzalez added. “It’s an emotional day being there and you’re there with 30,000 other people, seeing the family of Ramos and how they’re reacting and you know that they have kids and for me, I have kids.”
Officer Anthony Patterson, one of Temple’s attendees, said his main reason for attending was simply to show support.
“With all the publicity against police I wanted to be a part of it and show unity that we’re all going to stand by each other no matter what,” Patterson said.
Gonzalez said the Temple officers joined in when many turned their backs to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who that area’s police union president had criticized in the wake of the officers’ deaths.
A similar act took place at the Jan. 4 funeral for Ramos’ partner Wenjian Liu. Mayor de Blasio later called the displays “disrespectful” to the families of the officers.
“That show of unity was needed and that’s what was done out of support for all those NYPD Officers that morning,” Gonzalez said. “We had no intentions on disrespecting Officers Ramos and Liu. We just stood on that line with our fellow NYPD Officers in blue.”
Tension between civilians and police swelled in August after the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Since, there have been protests in most major cities including Philadelphia, which also incorporated the non-indictment of NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo after the death of Eric Garner in July.
Temple students have held their own peaceful protests against police brutality and race-tension in light of Garner’s case and recent officer-involved shootings.
“France, New York City, Ferguson, all of that affects us indirectly but it still affects us,” Gonzalez said.
“With everything going on it seems like it’s almost a war against police right now,” Officer Tracton added. “I mean people say things, if you stop somebody or pull them over, they’re going to start talking about Ferguson.”
In an attempt to ease tension here on Main Campus, Temple Police have begun sensitivity and diversity training to improve interactions with students and community members, the officers said.
“It’s tough. We see a lot of different cultures every day especially here at Temple, it’s a diverse campus, you’re going to see a diverse mix of people,” Gonzalez said. “Knowing how to deal with different people on a daily basis is key. We’ve been lucky that we haven’t had too many clashes with civilians and police here.”
Jenny Kerrigan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org