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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY
Thousands Mourn Slain NYPD Officer
Aired January 4, 2015 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PEI XIA CHEN, WIFE OF WENJIAN LIU: Good morning.
My name is Pei Xia Chen. I'm Wenjian's wife.
I would to thank each and every one of you for attending Wenjian's service today to honor the memory and pay respect to the life of my husband, Wenjian Liu.
I know that many of you had to travel long distance from all parts of the country and beyond. I thank you. I thank you for sharing this moment with me, with us, with our family to reflect the goodness of his soul and the wonderful man that he is that many of you know as Joe, especially at work. But, to me, he is my soul mate.
Wenjian is an incredible husband, son, co-worker, and friend, my best friend. But he is much more. My husband had a passion for many things. His passion extended for his love of nature and outdoors. As the only son, the number one son, he was extremely close to and respected -- respected his parents, of course, besides me.
His parents is his everything. One of his many passions is being a police officer. He took pride in the fact that he is NYPD. Wenjian was a very hardworking cop, so much so he found not just a job to provide for myself and his parents, but a career that he enjoyed and more importantly to be passionate about it.
Even though he spent a lot of hours working, he was fearless in and out of work. He spoke about work (ph) often how much respect he has for the law, how he applied the law.
He was objective in his determination of the law with courtesy, with respect and with the highest professionalism. Although he worked often, he will always make sure to take time for me, his number one fan, his family and his friends. He was always there when anyone needed something.
When Wenjian was not working, Wenjian cared a lot for the Chinese community. He wanted to always do his best to help and support. The very community that he was part of, Wenjian is kind hearted and well loved by his friend, colleagues and our extended family that is here today.
The caring son, a loving husband and a loyal friend. You are an amazing man. Even though you left us early, but I believe that he is still with us. His spirit will continue to look after us. He will keep an eye over us (INAUDIBLE). Wenjian is my hero. We can always count on him.
Again, I thank you, my extended family, my family of blue, for attending today's services. Thank you. Wenjian will always live in our hearts, my heart. We love you. I love you forever (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: I'm Dana Bash and this is STATE OF THE UNION and we are following breaking news, the ongoing funeral service for New York police detective, Wenjian Liu. You just heard his widow. The two were married only for two month, gave what was really a remarkably brave eulogy about her slain husband. Talking about the fact that she was his number one fan, her soul mate and best friend. And the fact that he was the only son of his parents who are immigrants, and the fact that he was very, very dedicated to his parents not to mention the people of New York City whom he died risking - he risked his life and then died trying to protect them.
There are thousands of people crowding the streets outside the Brooklyn funeral home where this service is under way, and the police officers are standing shoulder-to-shoulder - shoulder notably some officers did turn their backs as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered a eulogy a short time ago.
In addition, to the mayor dignitaries inside the funeral home include the director of the FBI and the city's police commissioner as well as as I just mentioned, officer Liu's widow and his father. And his father I should say did not speak in English, but you did not have to understand the language to feel his pain. It was really a heartbreaking, heartbreaking event.
Liu and his partner Rafael Ramos were gunned down December 20th as they sat unsuspectingly in their squad car. And we are going to continue to watch the service but we are joined by Miguel Marquez who is outside of this funeral.
Miguel, tell us what the scene was like there among the thousands of men in blue who came from all around the country to attend this funeral.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) for the bulk of the entire ceremony there was a contingent of Asian officers just outside of the church here. We believe that the coffin of officer Liu will be coming out soon. An NYPD officer came up and did ask whether or not we will be broadcasting live or speaking during that time. That is something that they really want to keep very somber event here to honor this police officer as his casket moves towards its final resting place.
With regard to the police officers turning their back here in front of the funeral home, there were zero. No police officers who turned their back. Just down from here, on the processional route where the casket will go, there were some police officers who did turn their backs according to our Sara Ganim who is down there and other producers who saw some of them, but a much smaller number than last week.
The police commissioner, Bill Bratton, asking -- asking by memo to his police force that was not an appropriate thing to do. That it is a time for grieving, not grievance and that when they turned their back on the mayor during officer Ramos' funeral last week that they did do any service to the valor and the sacrifice (INAUDIBLE) his life and his - and his job in doing so. So he has asked them not to do it now.
You can see now the police officers lining up here. This is the ceremonial units of NYPD lining up in order to receive the body, the casket of Officer Liu. We expect to see that coming out of here shortly. It looks like they may be slightly ahead of schedule, although (ph) (INAUDIBLE) unclear that the family did arrive about an hour before the ceremony began.
You had several speakers to listen to his father speak, I don't speak Cantonese, but to listen to him speak difficultly, trying to get through the words and through the emotion, it was hard to watch that. This was meant to go for another hour but he may be coming out soon. The ceremony that they had in there was a lot of individuals bringing food to the location of the casket and also burning pieces of paper or cardboard to symbolize things from the physical word, the food and those symbols are things that Officer Liu in the Buddhist tradition would take on to the next life.
BASH: Miguel, I agree with you to watch his father, to lose any child is just defies the laws of nature, but to lose your only son as he did is just -- words just can't can express how much grief he must be feeling right now.
Thank you very much. Stand by for us, Miguel.
We want to go to CNN correspondent Sara Ganim who is outside this funeral home, keeping her eyes on the crowd.
Sara, what are you seeing there?
Do (ph) you (ph) see (ph) -- can you hear me?
Sara, it's Dana Bash. You're on the air. What are you seeing there?
OK. We're having -- obviously having some trouble getting Sara's IFP working.
We're going to go actually here in the studio to Tom Fuentes.
Tom, you are our law enforcement analyst, but you were also a cop on the beat, that's how you started outside Chicago for six years. For those of us who have never served, had the honor of serving, talk about what is it like, and what has drawn thousands of people around the country including towns like Chicago for this funeral?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think that's because to understand police officers, it really helps to be one, to have been in the life of being a police officer.
It's not a job. It's a way of life and not just for you, but your whole the family. I think that has been the message that's carried through here from both funerals (ph), the Ramos and Liu funerals that the family members are police officers too in a way. They have to put up with the life and the fear and the threat. I know my mother who had passed away now, but at the time had a husband and two sons who were police officers at the same time, and I know she had this worry every day.
BASH: I cannot even imagine. I cannot even imagine.
The controversy about what these police officers faced when it came to racial tensions and protests and some of the protests getting pretty personal. When it came to the police officers after the killings in Ferguson, Missouri, of black teenagers and (ph) New York City. As somebody who has, you know, been on the street, and been on the beat, what strikes you when you see all of this?
FUENTES: I think what strikes me is that the one message that people don't really realize and the one thing about being a police officer is you realize in the entire criminal justice system, and in the entire medical system, and the entire community -- community leaders, the police officer deals with the victim.
The victims die in your arms, and the victims die in the ambulance with you in the hospital or in the surgery at the hospital after they have been shot or stabbed or involved in a terrible traffic accident. And it is the police that - you know, I think there is an image that people may have that the police have no empathy, have no sympathy for members of the public, and in the reality, they have more. They have (INAUDIBLE) of what you see that hardened exterior to try to cope with that is the fact that the police see this stuff every day. If they have animosity, the guys carrying guns in the community, gang-bangers gunning down other members, it is because they are see the people who are shot by the gangs. They (ph) keep (ph) seeing (ph) people who are victimized by the crime.
I want to turn back to the scene so our viewers know what we are looking at. The funeral just concluded, and we are watching the sea of blue, police officers from all over there. You see the color guard getting ready. It looks like we are waiting probably waiting for the casket to come out so it could take Wenjian Liu to his final resting place. Miguel Marquez is again on the scene.
Miguel, just describe the scene for us.
MARQUEZ: It is -- these funerals are very, very hard to watch, to see this many of the same sort of brotherhood and sisterhood to come together. If you could just pan over here, Ricky (ph), you could see this is the ceremonial unit that was inside of the funeral home. They are now lining up outside the funeral home. The color guard with the U.S. flag, the New York City flag and the NYPD flag has just taken up his post just in front of the hearse that will carry officer -- Detective Liu's body to his final resting place.
The level of respect, of mourning and the sense of the solemn nature of what is happening here is unmistakable. The interesting thing about what we saw today it was - it was not a service that we are accustomed to, and to hear his father, Wei Tang Liu, speak in Cantonese about his son and even though none of us spoke Cantonese what he was saying was perfectly clear that - the love of his son was very clear. They did some translation after and he talked about how his son would come and help him work in the garment district after doing his own school work. He would call him constantly. This (ph) was (ph) very conscientious and good son.
The mayor spoke about Detective Liu's love for fishing. His cousin spoke about - and what we learn is we all called him Wenjian Liu, but his family calls him Joe. And I, you know, I guess to this sense of how they had acculturated it become a very American family in their own way.
And now with the ceremonial unit out of the funeral home, it seems we are now just waiting for the mayor of the other dignitaries, the FBI director to come out, and then we believe that we will see the casket of Wenjian Liu come out of this funeral home and make its final way. Dana?
BASH: Miguel -- and I want to turn again to Tom.
What Miguel was just talking about really is so true in that what you heard in the eulogies and speeches throughout the ceremony were people humanizing him. He wasn't just a number, wasn't just a cop on the beat who was killed. He was a human being with a family who loved him so much. But the other thing is what a truly American story this is. I mean, this is so classic New York and American in general specific New York you have the immigrant -- the son of immigrants coming in really wanting to be a good American as they said they called him Joe, and look at the line of work he chose.
FUENTES: You know, for many of the immigrant families especially, when a son or daughter says, I want to be a police officer, the families coming in from other countries are like, you know, you can't possibly be a police officer in the United States. This is the Wild West. The rest of world looks at America with our 300 million guns and (ph) a population of 320 million looks really is just being out of control with the violence on the streets, this Wild West type atmosphere. And so in some ways when they hear that the member of their family wants to be a police officer, they are terrified, and that is probably why he had to call his father every day getting off his shift to say, hey dad, I'm still alive. I made it through another day. You don't have that kind of fear in a lot of societies.
BASH: Tom, I would imagine and you know, as a mother I would want my son to call me every day at the end of his shift, too, so I completely understand that.
I think we have Sara Ganim back also outside of the funeral home in and among the sea of blue. All of the policemen who have come from all over the country to attend this funeral.
Sara, tell us what you are seeing.
SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Dana, this is the procession route, and I have stepped away from the camera just to be respectful so we don't disrupt the officers who have lined up here to watch the ceremony, to listen.
It just ended but they stood here and they listened to each and every speaker. And you can see tens of thousands of officers are here to pay their respects, standing in the streets. It is not the brightest or the warmest or the driest of days here in Brooklyn, but they did not come out in any less numbers as they did last week for Officer Ramos' funeral.
We heard as you guys mentioned from Wenjian Liu's father who spoke in Mandarin. His wife who said he was so proud of being part of the NYPD and that he was also proud to help the Chinese community here in New York when he wasn't working.
A couple of notable things here though during the ceremony. We heard from FBI Director James Comey and also from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Now, there was some question about whether officers would honor a request from their commissioner not to do what they did last week at Officer Ramos' funeral, not to turn their backs on Mayor de Blasio as he spoke. And we did see some officers turn around.
It wasn't a majority. It wasn't even half of where the officers in the area where we were standing, but there were some. And more than just the NYPD. I saw some officers who were from out of town who also turned around for the speech.
Now, this tension between the NYPD and the mayor have been growing since the protest here in New York, but many of the officers I have spoken to here both NYPD and from out of town say that they don't believe that this funeral - a funeral for a fallen officer is a place - is a place for that.
Now, just to give you an idea of how many officers are here, you're looking at the sea of blue. This goes on for nearly a mile. That's how long this route had to be for them to fit in all the officers that wanted to come and pay their respects.
JetBlue flew in more than 1,100 officers from all across the country. They flew them in for free. I have seen badges and departments vehicles from as far away as San Diego, Cincinnati, Virginia, Connecticut, many different towns and California. It's a long way to come.
I have talked to three officers who came in from just outside of New Orleans. They said it was incredibly important for them to be here for this, not just to show support for a fellow -- fallen officer, but also because they feel that they do still get the respect and earn the respect of the majority of the nation, and they wanted to show that to the world by coming here to this funeral.
And just another note, Dana, about security here, because it is not just police officers there's also a lot of members of the community who are here in the streets. And we are seeing patrols on the roofs. We're seeing canine units, helicopters. Many of the streets in this neighborhood are blocked off on this procession route where the casket will be driven down to the cemetery. It is not the only road that's blocked off here. They are making sure that this is a safe place for them to hold this ceremony and to hold a proper funeral for one of their fallen. Dana.
BASH: I'm sure. Thank you. That was a great information and color there. I should also mention as you were speaking, Sara, we saw some of the congressional delegation exiting the funeral home, some of the members of Congress. There's another one I believe, Peter King, Republican of New York coming out with some other well known Republicans, Charlie Rangel, Congressman Joe Crowley who we had on the show earlier today whose father and grandfather who were both New York City police officers.
So, we are watching the dignitaries begin to come out, and that probably means not too far behind will be the casket of the slain officer. And while we are watching that, I want to turn back to Tom Fuentes.
You hear Sara talking about the fact that despite the Commissioner Bill Bratton asking the rank and file not to turn their backs, some did. She reported, it's very important to note it was not the number that it was at Rafael Ramos' funeral, but it happened nonetheless despite in (ph) treatise (ph) from their leader not to do that because it detracts from paying respects to their fallen - the fallen comrade.
What do you make of it, Tom, for you as a former officer?
FUENTES: I think they should not have done that in my opinion. I think it's not the time or place as mentioned by Commissioner Bratton in particular. I really thought that Commissioner Bratton's request that they not do it, and even saying he would not discipline any officers, there will be no repercussions that way, but he requested as a fellow officer, and he has the bonafides (ph) to be able to say that. He was a street cop in the 70's when we were pigs (ph) and people spit on you, and all that. He went through that and I thought that maybe, you know, the police officers that are out there now might out of respect to him regardless of their feelings for the mayor which (INAUDIBLE) very, very negative and very deep. But I thought maybe out of respect to him that they would honor that request.
BASH: And let me just play the devil's advocate, you know, they defend the freedom of speech every day, why shouldn't they have their freedom of speech? Why shouldn't they display their anger if they are angry?
FUENTES: They actually should, but by doing it today we're talking about that instead of the great life of Officer Liu and Officer Ramos, and their families and their parents, and the rest of the polices in the world, and we're talking about this issue. That's reason enough not to do it.
BASH: That makes sense. I get that.
Big picture, you know you were - you were a cop in -
FUENTES: Homewood (ph), Illinois.
BASH: But in what year?
FUENTES: Seventy-three through '79 when I became an FBI agent.
BASH: So, presumably hopefully the training on racial relation has changed since then, since society has changed, but even back then, I mean, was this - was this something that the police force focus on?
That's - you know, the idea when people talk about, we need community policing. They had community policing. My father was a police officer. He was a juvenile officer and I was a little kid going with him to events, to school groups, to chaperoning field trips and dances and all of that. You know, when I was - you know, I was one years old when he became a police officer. So this idea the police need to get into the community and work -- you've heard people talk about what Officer Liu and what Officer Ramos did in their communities. They're a part of that as well as probably thousands of NYPD officers engaged everyday in their community, in those neighborhoods talking to the people, trying to help in the policing that they are doing.
And I the think that that's part of what the police are upset about with the public rhetoric that they haven't done community policing or they need training, because they don't know how to talk to people. Police officers have a PhD in street psychology. If they don't talk to somebody properly, it is just because they don't want to not because they don't know how. They know how better than anybody that's teaching as far as I'm concerned.
Or they need to take classes now on wrestling, because the modern police officer has to be an Olympic wrestler. Telling someone, you're under arrest, that doesn't cut (INAUDIBLE) the person's (INAUDIBLE) comply you have to learn takedown holds (ph) that won't hurt him. (INAUDIBLE) the whole - the rhetoric about policing leads (ph) to (ph) (INAUDBLE) needs to be - we really need to have a discussion and not accusations back and forth by sound bite.
BASH: And on that note, let's just return to the solemnity of this moment, and hopefully we can see another picture on our screen of the sea of blue, because it really is powerful and poignant. There you see it.
Before I go back to our reporters on the scene, who are actually in that sea (ph), Tom, as a former police officer, yourself, what goes through your mind when you see that remarkable scene? FUENTES: Just the brotherhood and sisterhood of law enforcement. Just how close it is, why it's close, why the remind minder of it.
And as Director Comey the 115 police officers have died this year in the line of duty. And it think that because of the recent amount of public discussion that has been so negative about policing I think that is actually contributed to police officers wanting to travel from California and from Canada and from New Orleans to come and be part of this, because they realize that they need to show the solidarity of being in this profession and calling together.
BASH: It certainly does look like solidarity and they're achieving that goal by looking at these pictures.
Miguel Marquez, I want to bring you back in. Listening to Tom Fuentes, being around these police officers not just the NYPD but from all over the country, I'm assuming that's the kind of sentiment you're hearing right there on the ground?
MARQUEZ: It is impressive to see. I'm looking down 65th street here and I can see maybe a half mile down. And you just see this fine line of blue all of the way down. They have created just enough space in this very wide street so that the funeral cortege can make its way down that way.
You know, the mayor is speaking at this funeral in a very personal way about Detective Liu. Also, that this attack on both Detective Liu and Ramos wasn't just an attack on two individuals, it was an attack on the City of New York. The police work, the police department being the bedrock of civil society, and the necessity to honor police officers and to have a good relationship between the political set and the police set.
So, my sense is that the rancor that we have seen in the recent weeks, and the anger that we've seen in recent weeks will find perhaps a newer and be better level. We have seen now for the last half hour so many -- not only police officers but dignitaries come out of the funeral home here. So, we expect to see the casket of Detective Liu emerge shortly for its final - its final ride to its final resting place, Dana.
BASH: And Miguel, you have sort of been experiencing the whiplash of emotions there in New York city, now for the past couple of weeks, because of the assassination of these two police officers, but then just prior to that, the anger at the justice system, in many ways, the cops as we have heard about, but also the justice system because Eric Garner who was now everybody knows was killed during an arrest after he was trying to illegally sell cigarettes. The uproar about the fact that there were no indictments about that.
MARQUEZ: That was -- that was the ancillary and I have logged a few miles in this city with protesters as they have, you know, very angrily taken to the streets here, taken over the streets here and this is where a lot of that rancor between the NYPD and the mayor comes from. It - you know, there were beat cops walking alongside those protesters, stopping traffic so that they could be safe. Making sure that as they were taking over the streets and they were taking over the city they were safe.
You know, Governor Cuomo said during his remarks last week probably best that there was no better sign of what a great police department we have that they were at the butt end of the - of the anger of these protesters and yet they were protecting their first amendment rights while they were taking their abuse at the same time. So, that's the sort of stuff that we saw for many, many miles through (ph) the streets of New York.
I am sure that those beat officers also told their buddies by text and by social media however else, you should hear what these guys are calling us. We should hear what they are saying. There was -- already upset with the mayor before these two officers' deaths. After this it took it to another level.
And I think now perhaps that we had a second funeral and it's great showing here it (ph) want to remind you as well that the Tunnel to Towers program that offered to pay off the home loans for both Officer Ramos and for Officer Liu. They needed $800,000. They have $700,000 now. They are almost to the point where they can pay off the home loans for these two officers. Hundreds of thousands of dollars from New Yorkers from around the city have been raised for these two individuals. For people who felt that they were being left out in the cold, were bereft that didn't have leadership, they didn't - they weren't loved by the city. I think last week's funeral and this funeral shows a very different picture, Dana.
BASH: That sure does, Miguel. Thank you for those insights and as you were speaking former mayor Rudy Giuliani exited the funeral home obviously there to pay his respects as well.
I want to go back to Sara Ganim who is also in the crowd there. And just by way of context and background, we have been talking about the New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the anger that he has apparently incited among these -- many of these cops, the reason most recently is comments that he made saying that he taught his biracial son how to handle whether -- when he is approached by a police officer, because he would be approached differently, because of the color of his skin. And Sara, that is what sparked the people turning their backs on him when he spoke last week, and to a much lesser extent just this morning.
GANIM: That is right, Dana, and some officers here in New York will say that it actually goes back further than that. That it goes back to his opposition of stop and frisk when he was running for mayor. But you know, I want to say that being here and not just being here for the wake yesterday, the funeral today, but also going back a few weeks to the very public memorial...
BASH: Sara, Sara -
GANIM: ...site in Brooklyn -- BASH: Sara, I am sorry to interrupt that. I just wanted to point out
that the family, that the widow and the father of Wenjian Liu just exited the funeral home.
Keep going, I apologize.
GANIM: No, that is OK, Dana.
I just wanted to point out that even going as far back as the days where the emotion was really - feel very raw the day - after their murders where people in the community -- members of the community who had marched in those protests had come to the memorial for these officers and said, this is not the time to criticize the mayor.
There was a scene from that memorial, I was there, I witnessed it. It was so incredibly powerful where a woman came with a sign for Officer Ramos' young son that said, your father did nothing wrong and she was having a really hard time taping it to a brick wall behind the memorial. And an officer came over with duck tape and helps her put it up. And they put it up together and I thought that was really representative of the mood at the memorial, which was interesting because at the same time some of the police union presidents were criticizing the mayor, and now we're a few weeks later. We're a few weeks removed from that. Here at the funeral, yesterday at the wake, and I heard many officers some of them former NYPD who now work in other departments in other states who had come back for this say, look, it is a political issue, and also a very personal issue for many of these officers, but this funeral is not the place for that.
And I think that that comes from this feeling that last week at Officer Ramos' funeral, the pictures, the photographs of the NYPD turning their backs on the mayor, those were incredibly powerful pictures.
And they really changed the narrative of that day away from the funeral, away from the celebration of his life, and towards a more political issue, and people did not want to see that happen again today -- Dana.
BASH: And Sara, I have been in those situations, I'm sure it is hard to physically move around, but have you had a chance to talk to any of the officers who defied Commissioner Bratton and turned their backs nonetheless?
GANIM: I haven't, but I have to say Dana, from where I am, it was not a whole lot of them. It certainly wasn't the numbers that we saw last week. In a crowd of about maybe 450 where I can see, just you know, where my eyes can see, and count from where I am standing, maybe 50 of them, or maybe even less.
And then some of them were not NYPD at all, they were officers from other jurisdictions, who wanted to make the point that they stand alongside the NYPD on this issue, but it wasn't a majority and it was not half. It was a few.
And you know, their commissioner, William Bratton, he said when he made this plea for them not to do this today, he said, look, this isn't a mandate. I'm not going to discipline anyone over it.
It was just asking that this day not become about this conversation that we are having right now, that it become, that the narrative stay with Officer Liu and his family and the NYPD.
And like I mentioned before when I talked to officers who came in from out of town, I did get the feeling that one of the reasons that they wanted to come was because they wanted to show that solidarity.
And they wanted to show that they do feel the support of the nation, and while this is a personal issue, a lot of them felt that it was an issue for today.
BASH: Absolutely. That certainly seemed to be the case just by looking at the pictures and speaking of pictures, for our viewers who were just tuning in. We are looking at a cold and rainy day in New York City.
But one that is not deterring the thousands is of police officers and dignitaries who have come from around the country to pay their respects to Officer Wenjian Liu who lost his life and killed on December 20th along with his partner, Rafael Ramos. There was an incredibly moving funeral service that included speeches
not just from the dignitaries such as the mayor as we have been discussing or the police commissioner, but his father who spoke Cantonese, didn't even speak English.
But you did not need to speak that language that to understand his sorrow and his pain of losing not just his son, but his only son, his only child.
And then from his widow who he was married to for two months who called him her best friend her soulmate and somebody who really gave his all for not just her and his family, but for the city of New York.
I want to bring back Tom Fuentes, and as we look, we are, as I mentioned, we heard the ceremony and seeing everybody leave. What we are waiting for right now is for the casket of Wenjian Liu to exit the funeral home.
And make its way down to what the reporters on the scene have been describing over a mile of people just lined up on the procession route. What are your thoughts as we looking at this now?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Just how moving and how solid and solemn and the emotions of the officers are of everyone who is attending this. And I think that, you know, if any good came from the last two weeks with the funerals, it would be that when you have got to know Officer Ramos and his family better, and Officer Liu and his family better.
You realize that they are not just people, they are great people. They are great human beings. The things that believed in and stood for, they are the best our society has, and they are police officers.
It just makes me proud to have been a police officer and FBI agent for a total of 36 years sworn in both positions, and makes me proud that I was one of them.
BASH: Tom, I have to say that I have seen you on our air talking about a lot of really, really horrible things unfortunately over the past couple of years, but this is personal for you, I can tell. This is so, thank you, for doing this. And you are bringing a sense of what it is like for those of us who again didn't have the honor to serve can understand. So thank you.
And I actually want to go back to New York to bring in CNN commentator, Errol Louis. He is the host of "Inside City Hall" on New York 1 and also with us, Tom Verni, another police officer, a retired NYPD detective.
Tom, let me start with you. These are your brethren, what are your thoughts as you watch this?
TOM VERNI, FORMER NYPD POLICE DETECTIVE: Well, I mean, watching the Detective Liu's father and his wife speak, you know, talk about him and like you had mentioned, you don't have to speak the language to understand the raw emotion that they are feeling and channeling.
It is just an unbelievable tragedy. I don't think a lot of us can still wrap our heads around what took place a couple of weeks ago. I know that as seen earlier on CNN, there were a number of NYPD officers that did turn their backs when the mayor was speaking.
And then when the police commissioner came up to speak they turned back around, so I think it is important to note that the officers out of respect for Commissioner Bratton did turn around and for the entire funeral actually were faced forward. The only time that some of them did turn around was when the mayor was speaking.
BASH: And what do you make of that?
VERNI: Well, you have to remember that the police are not allowed to strike here in New York. There is a law that prevents them from striking. They are working four or five years without a contract.
And aside from the political rhetoric that Mayor De Blasio has come out not only as mayor, but as a candidate when he was running for mayor, and also his comments after the no true bill in Staten Island for the Eric Garner incident, he has come out in a very anti-NYPD specifically set of rhetoric.
And the officers, you can't not take that lightly, because this is somebody that you are working for, and aside from the fact that they've been working for years without a contract, which in and upon itself is ridiculous.
This is the only way that they have a chance as a group to have a silent protest to show their discomfort with the mayor and disagree with him. They are basically giving him a no confidence vote is what it is coming down to.
They don't have any confidence in the mayor that he can truly represent them in a favorable light -- and it is not just based on perception, it's based on his -- on the mayor's actions over the last year or two.
BASH: And Errol, you have covered New York City politics for a very long time, it's certainly not the first time there has been tension within the city government and within the law enforcement community. Does this strike you as more raw and more intense than in the past?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, it is unusual and not more raw. Anybody who was around in 1992 when 10,000 cops essentially rioted on the steps of city hall sort of stormed the building and caricatures and that was a time of very high crime.
Now crime is at a historic lows, and as Tom correctly points out, there are some underlying workplace issues that really need to get resolved and not of Bill De Blasio's making, by the way. I mean, he has only been there for one year.
You know, the five years without a contract was essentially something that he inherited and has been trying to negotiate, but for this department to be as upset as they are, I think speaks to the difficulty of changing the culture of the very large, very respected and very proud organization.
And there is no question that the change is endorsed by the citizens of New York. They voted in Bill De Blasio for a reason. This wasn't some side plank or some fine print in his political agenda, this was central to what he ran on last year. And he won an overwhelming number of votes to make change.
BASH: And you know, speaking of Mayor De Blasio, he did speak at the funeral in the last hour. I want to play just a little bit of what he said. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL DE BLASIO, MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: Detective Wenjian Liu was a good man. He walked a path of courage, a path of sacrifice and a path of kindness. This is who he was and he was taken from us much too soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: I want to go back to you, Tom. As a former member of the NYPD and as a detective, when you hear the mayor say that, does that make you feel more -- does that make you better about the mayor and the tension that we have seen thus far that he is trying hard obviously to mend the fences?
VERNI: Well, it is something that I have not seen in quite a while. I honestly, you know, me, personally, and I think that I speak on behalf of a number of officers, and I can't speak on behalf of the entire department of course.
But I don't really put a lot of, you know, credibility into the words that he came out with. I mean, he is really trying to back pedal as best he can. I think that he knows that on a lot of levels that he, you know, spoke, I think, out of turn, and especially after the grand jury made their verdict out of Staten Island.
And you can't take back what you said and you can maybe offer the retraction and come back and say, listen, maybe I spoke out of turn, and maybe not saying that the entire NYPD is a bunch of racist storm troopers, because that is what he was saying.
What happened in Staten Island had nothing to do with the race, and it was an arrest of a career criminal who chose to resist arrest and the officers used physical force to arrest him, and unfortunately resulted in that man's death.
And that is in part of itself a tragedy. I'm sure you won't find any officers glad that person died, but it is certainly not the result of the officers looking for, and quite frankly, the officers that day were enforcing quality of life laws that the mayor and the city council are out there wanting them and enforcing them to enforce.
BASH: All right, let's turn away from the politics for a moment, and back to the solemnity of the moment. What we are seeing now, we are waiting for the casket of Wenjian Liu to come out, and while we do, I want to come back to remarkable, and the brave eulogy that his widow, and the two were married for two months gave during the funeral ceremony. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thank you for sharing this moment with me, with us, with our family to reflect the goodness of his soul and the wonderful man that he is. Many of you know as Joe especially at work. But to me, he is my soulmate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Tom, back to you in New York. You know, while you are on the beat, I'm guessing as Tom Fuentes here in the D.C. studio said to me a short while ago, your family is on pins and needles every day, even though things like this don't happen very often, you are always in the line of fire and it is your duty. It's what you do?
FUENTES: Yes, I had a full head of hair when I started the police department, and for those who have seen me, it has taken its toll, and I did 22 years in the NYPD. I was a street cop for a number of years. I actually was a community policing officer.
So I was a beat cop. So the concept of the community policing that some people have talked about and maybe trying to restore here in New York, I think it is a fantastic way of policing neighborhoods.
It absolutely is when it is done correctly. Now the NYPD unfortunately have lost 7,000 or 8,000 police officers since the time of 9/11, and so the physical bodies that you need to conduct a program like that, it is going to take some fancy footwork trying to reassign personnel to do that. But I think if done correctly, that would be a very good way to try to reconnect with a lot of communities within the city. But either way, whether you are doing the community policing or the narcotics tails or chasing after gang members, any time you are in uniform, you are a walking target.
So until you finish the stint that you are slated to do whether it is 20 or 25 or 30 years in the police department and until you get out and retire do the families breathe a sigh of relief that you are finished and did your duty.
BASH: I can only imagine. Miguel Marquez, back to you at the scene. We are looking at the two flags from the color guard, and the ceremonial, and now they are going up perhaps we are going to actually see the casket coming out soon. But Miguel, it is cold can and rainy and still packed with people there.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are not going anywhere. This is a solid blue mass that wants to show their support. The rain has been going on and off all day. It has stopped for now. We just saw the trumpeters come out so we expect "taps" will be played
There were things that we learned about Wenjian Lie in that service. The mayor gave two examples. Clearly he spent a lot of time with the Liu family in the last couple of weeks.
One is that this is a man who loved to fish and when he got a big fish, he loved to share it with the entire family. Two was a call that he went on where there an elderly man who had fallen, Weinjan Liu spoke Chinese and whenever they needed help in that department, he would be called in.
He went into the house. The man was on the floor and he didn't want to get up or move and Liu spent hours with this man and turned out that it was a guy who was elderly and just wanted some company, and Liu was more than happy to play along and help this guy up, and those little tiny things.
Remember, this is a guy who studied accounting, but he wanted to become a cop, and he did. Bill Bratton, the police commissioner spoke about being a cop. He came to the profession late, but the pool was just as strong as someone like Bill Bratton, who joined very, very young.
Perhaps the most telling sign of this family and the remarkable life was his cousin who said that we didn't call him, Wenjian, but we called him Joe.
This is a family that arrived here 20 years ago from China and has become fully American family, as we wait for the only son of this family, Wenjian Liu to make his way out of the funeral home here in Brooklyn -- Dana.
BASH: Absolutely heartbreaking to watch and to think about. While we are we are waiting, we want to go to another portion of the funeral ceremony itself, and hear from the New York City police Commissioner Bill Bratton and what he had to say.
COMMISSIONER WILLIAM BRATTON, NEW YORK POLICE: Officer Liu believed in the possibility of making a safer world. All cops do. It is why we do what we do. It is why we run towards danger when others run away. We believe in the possibility of keeping disorder controlled. We believe in the possibility of a city free from fear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Pretty emotional from him, and at times in watching his speech even somebody who has seen a lot in his many decades on the police forces across the country look like it was hard for him to sort of keep it together, understandably, given the gravity of the moment and the speech that he had to give for the loss of his rank and file.
We are looking at the color guard and the ceremonial moment when Wenjian Liu's casket comes out of the funeral home to begin a procession in what the r reporters on the scene there have described as remarkable a mile long the sea of people and not just police officers around the country, but the everyday average New York citizens out there.
And Sara is out there with all those people. Sara, as they get ready for the moment, for the processional, what are you hearing from the people on the street there?
GANIM: Dana, I am actually standing with a group of officers who are hear from Toronto and they have collected some of the badges from different departments who are here and they are handing them out to members of the community as, I wouldn't call them souvenirs, but just kind of a remembrance of this day and it was a really good moment.
It was a great moment to see the officers first of all from so far away and not even part of this country, not even part of the United States interacting with the members of the community who came here from faraway places who are here to just pay their respects.
And as they wait along the procession line, they are exchanging, and their worlds are kind of colliding. It was a very sweet moment. Mostly, you know, officers are standing out here. It's drizzling on and off, and they are waiting along a very packed processional line, waiting to pay their final respects.
Like I said earlier, there are officers here from all across the country. We do know that more than 1,100 came in on JetBlue for free, but I would venture to say that I would take the guess to say that there are more than 1,100 officers here from out of town.
I have seen so many with my own eyes from departments across the country, and not just the officers are here, Dana, and something that I have noticed is that I have seen patrol cars from as far away as Ohio.
I saw a group of sheriff's deputies on motorcycle who clearly came here from Cincinnati, out of state, and so that is showing that they drove all of this way on their motorcycles to be here today. I have seen the patrol cars from other states as well not as far away as Ohio, but there were a group of motorcycle officers from New Jersey earlier today traveling in a group. So we have seen a lot of little nuggets that show that this is really a community event.
And when I say "community," I mean not just New York, but community of support and community of within New York as well, but a lot of moments today that are indicative of why people want to be here.
I think the events in New York in the last couple of weeks that is part of it. There is a feeling that they need to come here to show the support for NYPD, to show support for New York because of some of the recent events here. That is very clear to me.
A couple of the officers who I talked to, who are from out of state, who had been members of NYPD prior to leaving the state also told me that they wanted to make it clear that NYPD is very diverse.
It's a very diverse and very large department, and they didn't buy into this idea that there is, you know, widespread racism. They wanted to come to show and stand alongside their fellow officers, and show their support because of that reason, and I have to say it is something that is very clear as we stand outside here today.
Dana, finally, I want to say that it does appear that things are going to be moving along here very shortly. As you look down the sea of blue, I want to make it clear that this is a very, very long procession line, because there is nearly a mile worth of police officers standing here.
Filling up more than half of the street so that they can be here and witness Officer Wenjian Liu's final drive to his final resting place, they are waiting here to pay their final respects -- Dana.
BASH: And Sara, I talked to a lot about the solidarity as they say, they all bleed blue. That is very clear in watching these pictures and these images. Solidarity is not just about the local police from New York and around the country, but the federal law enforcement.
James Comey who is the FBI director also spoke at the funeral earlier this morning. Let's listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: I was not fortunate enough to know Detective Liu, but I've heard many people speak of him since his lost and I know from those words that he was a person of great thoughtfulness and tremendous caring, someone who cared deeply about other people, which is why he became a police officer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: And Tom Fuentes is here in the studio, former police officer and former FBI officer. Why was it so important for the director to go and speak? FUENTES: So let it be known that this is a national issue -- of international issue. He represents the FBI obviously, but the federal law enforcement, and that it is more than just the police in uniform that are part of this thin blue line.
That the federal government, the federal agencies, our international partners all stand together as well, and you know, the FBI is a conduit to the rest of the world through its legal at attache program, and through Interpol.
So that police officers wherever they are, anywhere in the world can communicate with each other, get assistance from each other, and it is a worldwide fraternity and sisterhood not just within New York or within the United States.
BASH: And Errol Louis, as you look at these pictures, it just strikes me as somebody who spend a lot of time in New York City, the perception from the outside of New York City is a rough and tumble kind place.
But when push comes to shove, the New Yorkers get together and the hold hands and really are there for each other. I know a lot of the people we are seeing in these pictures are cops from out of the city.
But Errol, as somebody who has covered New York City, and been a resident of New York City for a long time, I'm guessing that is probably not a surprise to you?
LOUIS: No, not at all. The thin blue line is actually pretty thick and pretty long as you can see. I mean, I should mention that my dad is a retired NYPD inspector, and my older sister is a retired detective.
There are lots and lots of people who have lots and lots of close relationships to the cops. New Yorkers are extremely proud of the NYPD and it is an important institution in the town.
One thing that is worth mentioning, though, Dana, is that, you know, the protesters who were doing a lot of the "Black Lives Matter" one of the slogans, and they were organizing all over the country, well, they inspired sort of a not quite backlash, but a parallel movement, you know.
And there were lots of people who have been out there doing their own marches in surprising number of jurisdictions all over to the country and from Massachusetts to Utah, to Seattle and everywhere in between.
These sorts of spontaneous citizen rallies in support of the police saying that, you know, blue lives matter, that people are proud of their local police department. So we've got a national conversation going on here.
It's maybe a little bit more rambunctious here in New York City, a little bit more dramatic and a little bit angrier, that's kind of a local style, but this is an important national conversation that has been kicked off about what is the right role for policing, one of the central democratic institutions in our country.
BASH: Errol, it's interesting. I did not know that about your family. You certainly have a unique perspective. You are an African- American New Yorker whose parents as you said your father was or is on the police force, so what is your perspective on this whole national debate as you just mentioned it with regard to the racial tensions?
LOUIS: Well, you know, it's funny. I called up my dad all the time anyway, but I called him up after some of the events of the last few weeks and I asked him what he thought, and he said that he was a little surprised that the cops had turned their backs and so forth.
And he read that as them being sort of manipulated by the union relationship in a way that would not have happened in his day. That it is fine to be angry with the political leadership. It's fine to do something about it.
But you don't do that when you are in uniform. You don't do that just because it is the thing to do. These things tend to work themselves out, and his perspective which is valuable is that it ebbs and flows.
You know, the cops get upset about one thing or another, and whether it is creation of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which is a big hot button issue a generation ago or whether it's the appointment of a new inspector general, which has been a more recent fight as well as a court fight over stop and frisk.
Now we are talking about body cameras and other sort of procedural questions, it is something that plays out in the public, but it is not supposed to divide the city. As I mentioned here in New York, and you have it right up there on the screen, there is not so fundamental of a breach that the whole town is going to fall apart.
It is the kind of dispute that comes up every so often do we need to tweak it a little bit. My friend Tom mentioned, Eric Garner as a career criminal. There a lot of people who would say, he is a guy selling loose cigarettes, and trying to scratch out a living on the wrong side of the law.
But you give that guy a ticket, a warning. You don't swarm him with six cops and end up killing him, and these are the kinds of sort of fine-tuning questions that need to go on at the community level. That is where this gets solved, not so much the politicians.
BASH: No question, Errol, and as we again await the officer's casket to come out of the funeral home and as we get to the top of the hour, I want to get back to the human element here as we are seeing and that is a young man slain in the line of duty.
And I want to go to what his cousin, Officer Liu's cousin said about him speaking at his funeral earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was the most caring and thoughtful cousin that anyone could have. He would go out of his way to make sure that we were always happy and taken care of. He brought pride and honor to our family. He was a role model for many, myself included, and will continue to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: That is just incredibly poignant and tough. Miguel Marquez is standing outside of the funeral home, and he watched the whole funeral. You are looking at the scene right now, describe it.
MARQUEZ: It is always tough to take, the drum corps has just come up from a side street. They have specialized vehicle that they have filled with the flowers from inside of the funeral home with a badge of the city of -- New York Police Department, and the drum corps may be the most chilling of everything that will happen today as they march down the street, and the steady beat and the steady dirge as they pass the line of blue.
Several members from inside of the funeral home have come out, and we expect that things have expected to get going here fairly soon. It is very, very difficult to watch. Impressive in the mile or so that I can see, all blue.
BASH: Thank you, Miguel, for your very poignant insight and keeping us up to speed on what's happening and being our eyes and ears of things that what we can't see, but what we can see has been pretty remarkable.
Thank you for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash in Washington. I'm going to turn it over to Deborah Feyerick who picks up our continuing coverage of Officer Weinjan Liu's funeral.