GLENDALE — Thousands of police officers from across the country, Vice President Joseph Biden, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio joined family and loved ones of slain NYPD Officer Rafael Ramos to honor and memorialize him Saturday at his funeral.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton promoted Ramos and his partner Wenjian Liu — who were gunned down Dec. 20 — to the rank of detective first grade. Bratton also bestowed Ramos with the title of 84th Precinct chaplain.
As early as 7 a.m., the blue uniforms of NYPD members and law enforcement officers from Massachusetts, Oregon, Montreal, New Jersey, Florida, Texas and other states lined Myrtle Avenue, Cypress Hills Street, 64th Place and 74th Avenue to see their fellow officer laid to rest at Christ Tabernacle Church in Glendale.
"Being a cop was not just what they did, but who they were, like every man and woman in uniform here today," Biden said during his address, which was broadcast on the Internet and on outdoor screens for the overflow crowd that packed the streets.
Biden spoke directly to Ramos' two sons Jaden, 13, and Justin, 19.
"You have shown tremendous courage and character," he said. "You are your father's sons."
Ramos became an officer three years ago, after working as a school safety officer. He was born and raised in Sunset Park, according to the funeral's program, then moved to Cypress Hills, not far from the church.
He and his wife, Maritza, met in high school, which is also when he decided to become a police officer, according to the memorial booklet. The devoutly religious Ramos was studying to become a pastor, and was involved with his church, his family and friends said.
"There will be a time when Rafael's memory will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye," Biden said.
Politicians tried to strike a tone of reconciliation and unity in the city that had seen anger and protests over the treatment of minorities by the NYPD.
"This is the united city of New York," Biden said.
But as de Blasio stepped to the microphone to address the family and the officers of the 84th Precinct, where the fallen officers were assigned, some police officers in the crowd outside the church turned their backs. They remained that way until the mayor finished.
"Our hearts are aching today," de Blasio said. "All the city is grieving."
The city's police unions had asked the mayor and the City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was also at the service, not to attend the funeral because of statements the politicians have made that were perceived to undermine the police.
Cuomo spoke directly to the unrest over the last year that has set protesters at odds with police.
"This is a difficult time for the nation as we deal with racial and ethnic tension coast to coast," said Cuomo, who promised to "restore the trust in our justice system."
Bratton, who was the last official to speak, likened today's climate to the politically tumultuous time when he joined the police force in the 1970s.
"We're a city struggling to define itself," he said. He urged those protesting police violence and law enforcement officers and their supporters to come together and resolve their differences, seeing one another as human.
"If we can learn to see each other, then when we see each other, we'll heal," the commissioner said.
Law enforcement officers came from around the country only to stand outside the church to show their solidarity with the NYPD.
Boston Police Department Sgt. Thomas Rose Jr., whose police officer father was killed in 1993 in the line of duty, said it was important to support the department. He estimated that 1,000 officers from Massachusetts had traveled to Glendale for the funeral.
"It's not complicated," he said. "It's all you can do."
Deputy Sheriff William Hendricks, who traveled from Bexar County, Texas, to be at the service, said the current climate in the country makes policing more perilous.
"It's become more and more dangerous," he said. "You just have to be more cautious — keep your head on a swivel."