NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under fire from union leaders, law enforcement officials and relatives of slain officers for being a no-show at the state's solemn police memorial services during his entire first term, DNAinfo New York has learned.
According to officials, the governor has skipped the Police Officers’ Memorial Remembrance Ceremony for the past four years and is once again not expected to attend the annual 40-minute ceremony on Tuesday.
The memorial was created by Cuomo's father, Mario, in 1989 to honor the nearly 1,400 lawmen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice protecting New Yorkers around the state.
“The governor’s absence over the years has been puzzling and disappointing to the families of the fallen officers,” said Michael Palladino, president of both the NYPD’s Detectives Endowment Association, which has 6,000 members, and the New York State Association of Patrolmen Benevolent Associations, which represents another 35,000 officers.
This year's ceremony, which takes place on the Empire State Plaza, across the street from the state Capitol, marks the addition to the polished black-granite monument honoring 27 officers —19 of them from the NYPD, including detectives Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were executed in their squad car in Brooklyn in December.
“It may be understandable that there are some years that the governor might not be able to attend the memorial, but to not attend even one of the ceremonies during his first term sends a negative message to law enforcement officers throughout the state," James Carver, president of the Nassau Country PBA, told "On The Inside."
Cuomo’s office did not immediately comment.
Former Lt. Governor Robert Duffy, a former Rochester chief of police, represented Cuomo at the last four ceremonies, while Cuomo showed his support by posting laudatory statements for the fallen offices on the state's website.
"As the governor of the state of New York, Andrew Cuomo should have made every effort to attend the police memorials to recognize and honor the ultimate sacrifices made by the men and women in law enforcement,” Carver observed.
Palladino added that “the men and women of law enforcement, who risk their lives every day, hope he can attend this year’s event."
Cuomo's father created the memorial as a permanent symbol “honoring and properly reflecting the duty, dignity and devotion of" slain officers.
It was designed partly on concepts submitted by Colleen Dillon Bergman, daughter of veteran state Trooper Emerson J. Dillon Jr., who was killed in the line of duty in 1974.
In recent years, about 400 people have gathered at the curved granite wall, which signifies the eternal unity of the fallen officers and their loved ones.
Cuomo skipped this event for a fourth straight time last May, but he attended the high-profile funerals for officers Liu and Ramos several months ago.
Over the years, his relationship with law enforcement has been mixed at best, law enforcement and political insiders say.
In the wake of the controversial "chokehold" death of Eric Garner and the Liu and Ramos killings, Cuomo said he wanted to replace bulletproof vests, deploy body cameras and pay for bulletproof glass for patrol cars in high crime areas.
But he also announced he supported increased scrutiny of police, and would appoint an independent monitor to review police cases in which a civilian dies when a grand jury doesn't come back with an indictment.
In addition to adding Liu's and Ramos' names to the memorial, the list of fallen officers will include two state Environmental Conservation police "game protectors," William Cramer and John Woodruff, who were killed in separate incidents while tracking down poachers nearly a century ago,
Cramer was ambushed Sept. 22, 1929, when he was hit with a shotgun blast in a wooded area near present-day JFK Airport while trying to arrest a thief who was in possession of illegal songbirds. Cramer had had survived a nearly fatal shooting seven years earlier.
Woodruff, meanwhile, disappeared in November 1919 in upstate Schenectady woodlands while chasing a suspect wanted for “game law” violations. His remains were found years later, but not his weapon.
No one was ever charged with his murder.