Reporter’s Notebook | Murder of Harlem police officer brings City Hall and city’s cops together in grief and action

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Officers mourned the loss of one of their brothers and prayed for the other who was left in critical condition.
Photo by Dean Moses

Hours after the murder of Harlem Police Officer Jason Rivera on Friday night, the city and the NYPD offered an incredible demonstration of unity not seen in quite some time.

Hundreds of officers stood in the atrium of Harlem Hospital — where Rivera had died and a fellow officer, Police Officer Wilbert Mora, was still clinging to life after a madman shot them both — as Mayor Eric Adams, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell and the department’s top brass addressed the heinous crime. There, too, was Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, an outspoken critic of the de Blasio administration for its handling of the NYPD and approach to police reform. 

No divisions existed Friday night, however, as Sewell, Adams and Lynch made clear that the time had come for New York City to come together and stop the gun violence targeting not just police officers, but also ordinary residents of every age and background. Their remarks conveyed the shock, sadness, anger and resolve not just of an administration and a police department, but also a city that’s had enough of the senseless bloodshed.

“Our department is hurting. Our city is hurting. It is beyond comprehension. I am not sure what words if any will carry the weight of this moment and what we are feeling,” Sewell said. “We have four times this month rushed to the scene of NYPD officers shot by violent criminals in possession of deadly, illegal guns. Four officers — five officers — shot.”

Mayor Adams once walked the beat as a police officer himself; he recalled losing a close colleague, Robin Venable, who was killed in the line of duty, and the stress his late mother, Dorothy, felt after hearing the news. But the mayor made clear that the city had to stand united now against gun violence, after years of strained relations between the police and communities. 

“It is our city against the killers,” Adams said. “The unification of fighting this battle goes beyond the debate and rhetoric. It is time for us to save our city, and we are going to need everyone on the same page to accomplish this task.”

Police Benevolent Association Patrick Lynch emotionally appealed for the public’s help Friday night in stopping gun violence.Photo by Dean Moses

Lynch made a similar appeal in his remarks, calling on New Yorkers to come to the aid of police officers in their time of trial. He also invited all sides, after this time of grief, to come together for “a real conversation” on the problems facing the city.

“We’re humbly asking you to come out and help us. Then, when this is over, yes, a real conversation, not like our heads are on backwards and we don’t know what’s going on. We need help,” Lynch said. “Give us that help so we can help stop babies from being shot, stop the violence, the guns that are coming in, well, help us take them out of their belts so they never do it again. We all know what we need, it’s right in front of us.” 

After Friday’s horrific events, it seems clear that the mayor, the NYPD and the PBA (representing more than 50,000 active and retired NYPD officers) are again on the same page. The de Blasio years saw strained relations between City Hall, One Police Plaza and the PBA, punctuated early in the former mayor’s tenure in December 2014 — when, while de Blasio spoke at the funeral of slain Police Officer Rafael Ramos in Glendale, Queens, hundreds of officers turned their backs on him.

No one can afford to turn their backs on the situation now before New York City.

Twenty-two days into this new year, five officers have been shot and the city continues to be rocked by senseless gun violence. The Adams administration, the NYPD and the PBA made clear Friday night that they’re going to work together to reverse the horrific trend — and they need the entire city’s help to do it.