It was on March 30, just before Easter, that newly widowed Stephanie Diller, clutching her one-year-old son Ryan, emerged from the funeral service at a church in Massapequa Park for her husband, New York City police officer Jonathan Diller. Five days earlier, the 31-year-old officer had been shot below his protective vest while investigating an illegally parked car in Far Rockway, Queens. The car’s occupants, two career criminals, appeared to be waiting to commit a robbery. 

Diller was surrounded by family and by Sergeants Benevolent Association president Vincent Vallelong, who warned anti-cop politicians to stay away from the funeral, specifically naming City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. “They should . . . not pretend they are grieving. They have caused enough heartbreak and destruction.”

The Diller shooting produced feelings of deja vu. In January 2022, Dominique Luzuriaga, the young widow of NYPD officer Jason Rivera, begged Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg to change the direction of New York’s criminal-justice system. Speaking to the thousands attending her husband’s funeral, she continued: “The system continues to fail us. We are not safe anymore, not even members of the service. I know you were tired of these laws, especially the ones from the new DA. I hope he is watching you speak through me right now.”

Days later, Karina Mora eulogized her brother, NYPD officer Wilbert Mora, in Spanish, describing him and Rivera as “two young men who wanted to make a difference and a change in their city with their service and their sacrifice. . . . Now, I only ask myself how many more Wilberts? How many more Jasons? How many officers must lose their lives so that the system changes?” Rivera, 22, a rookie officer, and Mora, 27, a cop for four years, died responding to a domestic violence call on January 21, 2022. Both were shot in the head during an ambush by a career criminal.

New York City isn’t the only place where politicians need to be reminded of the sacrifices that police make. Earlier this month, councilmembers in Wethersfield, Connecticut, a suburb of Hartford, denied the request of Dominique Pelletier to fly the Thin Blue Line flag to honor her husband, 34-year-old state trooper Aaron Pelletier, a father of two young boys, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver during a traffic stop. Upon arrest, the driver, Alex Oyola-Sanchez, who did not stop until his tires blew out, admitted to having taken several types of drugs that day. He pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter and several motor-vehicle and drug-related charges.

Holding one of her two sons, Pelletier spoke to the funeral gathering, which included Governor Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong. She described her late husband as “a man of integrity and honor” and defiantly flew the police flag at her home afterward. 

Wethersfield is certainly not New York City. The town’s 27,000 residents are mostly homeowners with a median household income well above the state average of $78,500. Last year, they flipped the town council from Republican to Democratic control. In a party-line, 5–3 vote (with one Democrat abstaining), the now Democratic-majority council rejected Pellietier’s request to fly the blue-line flag in front of Town Hall. In a town more than 82 percent white and only 4.3 percent black, Democratic councilwoman Emily Zambrello alleged that the flag “represents racism and antagonism to many, many people,” and that flying it would violate the town’s policy that prohibits it from doing anything associated with hate. Flying at half-mast for the funeral instead were the American flag and the untouchable LGBT Pride flag.

Democratic councilman Miki Duric—who claims that he has been notified by police of threats against him since the negative vote—cited a different reason for the denial of the Thin Blue Line flag: council policy requires anyone who wants to fly a special flag at Town Hall to make the request 30 days in advance. That clarifies things. Apparently, neither Trooper Pellietier nor his wife had planned far enough ahead.

Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images


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