If the purpose of a funeral is to achieve finality and a sense of closure, a police officer’s funeral can never quite succeed. We can never proclaim: This will never happen again.
As Police Commissioner William Bratton said Wednesday, hoping that this would be his last eulogy is a dear hope but sadly an idle one. This is the nature of police work.
So while we can perhaps look for closure for the family and friends, what for the city at large, the city which was within Randolph Holder’s beat?
We can say, as Bratton did, that Holder, an immigrant from Guyana who was killed trying to apprehend a career criminal, who came from a family steeped in law enforcement tradition, was a true police officer. One who served, and went toward danger. Who had such a good memory for the faces and lives of the people in the community he patrolled that his fellow cops knew him as the Doctor. Who was respectful and helpful. Who worked to keep the many safe from the few. This, Bratton said, is what cops do.
But arrayed against what cops do — and arrayed against our communities — are illegal guns. Holder is the fourth NYPD officer killed in less than a year, and the fourth killed by a gun bought outside NYC. And arrayed against both cops and civilians is the dangerous divide between them, sometimes a racial divide, which can result in both seeing the other as the enemy.
But there is another way. Can we say cops must be respected by communities and communities must be respected by cops, as Rev. Les Mullings asked during the service? Can we say our society must be both more just and more safe, as Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested? Can we say guns are a pestilence in our communities and must be stopped before they get to city limits? Can we say the pockets of crime in the city should be addressed intelligently and reasonably, for the safety of both cops and residents?
Yes, we can say all this at a funeral, and the day after, and the day after, and hope to delay another such funeral with its bagpipes and final salutes, but it doesn’t bring Randolph Holder back.