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NYPD Officer's Funeral Binds Diversity In Culture And Opinion

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. For the second time in two weeks, one of New York City's finest will be laid to rest. Funeral services for NYPD Officer Wenjian Liu are drawing to a close at a funeral home in Brooklyn. Liu and his partner, Rafael Ramos, were shot to death last month in their patrol car. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered a eulogy for the fallen officer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: All of our city is heartbroken today. We've seen it over these last two weeks. We've seen the pain that people feel from all walks of life, the sense of appreciation for the sacrifices of this family and of the Ramos family.

MARTIN: Reporter Stephen Nessen from member station WNYC is outside the memorial service. He joins us now on the line. Stephen, you've had a chance to be in the crowd talking with people. What have you been hearing from mourners there?

STEPHEN NESSEN, BYLINE: Well, among the police officers who came, there were several hundred from around the country - Utah, Indiana, Texas. They said they're here to support a fellow officer. In fact many of the officers are Asian-American, part of various Asian-American law enforcement organizations. And they say they certainly felt this death very acutely and wanted to come to show their support.

In the crowd this is a mixed sort of Chinese, old-Italian, American neighborhood. Some of them are here to support Liu because he was Asian-American. Others say they're just here because they'd be out for any fallen NYPD officer. I even ran into a group from New Jersey, about 60 of them organized together, mostly all Chinese-Americans, somewhat recent immigrants. And they came out because they said they wanted to support the family who lost their only son. They understand the importance of familial piety and how losing an only son will affect an elderly Chinese couple.

MARTIN: At the funeral of Officer Ramos last week, scores of police officers turned their back on Mayor Bill de Blasio. That prompted the police commissioner to then urge officers not to do something like that again at this service. From what you've seen, did officers comply?

NESSEN: They did not comply. There we're several dozen police officers, from what I saw, of the thousands who are here who turned their back on the mayor as he was speaking. There's a big-screen TV outside, and so the officers are packed very tightly down the street, several city blocks long. And they turned their backs to the mayor somewhat awkwardly for the officers who didn't turn their backs because they were then standing nose-to-nose with fellow officers. But many officers did turn their back. And many officers just looked around to see who else was doing it.

MARTIN: This service is a Buddhist ceremony, but I understand there are also Irish bag pipers there representing NYPD - a tradition within the department. Even though this funeral is - marks such a tragic event, is it reflective of a new level of diversity within the department?

NESSEN: Well, certainly in his remarks, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton acknowledged that the police officer has gone through many changes over the years. And it's much more inclusive and is a broader family now. At this funeral, you did see a lot of the traditional Chinese calligraphy over the casket around where Officer Liu was laying. And all of the speakers - Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Bratton, even the monsieur who delivered the opening remarks - peppered their speeches with Buddhist phrases, which would be familiar to many of the Asian-Americans out here today.

MARTIN: Reporter Stephen Nessen speaking to us from Brooklyn. Thank you so much, Stephen.

NESSEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.