SALT LAKE CITY – Several police officers from Utah will be attending the funeral for Wenjian Liu, a member of the New York Police Department who was killed in attack some referred to as an “assassination.”
Rafael Ramos was also killed; the pair was sitting inside their car on their lunch break when a gunman approached and fired at them and then later took his own life.
At least two officers from Davis County are on their way to New York for the funeral, and they will be joining other officers from the Unified Police Department and Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder issued a statement Saturday about the decision to send officers to New York, and he thanked Jet Blue Airlines for offering free flights to some officers so they could attend the funeral.
"We couldn't have gone to New York, that would have been prohibitive without Jet Blue," Winder said.
Captain Jennifer Daley, Davis County Sheriff's Office, is one of those attending the funeral, and she said she is grateful to Jet Blue as well.
"To have a major corporation support us like this is very humbling to officers," she said.
Winder went on to say that even without sponsors, he believes the value of having Utah officers at the funeral justifies the cost. He said being there shows respect to other departments and the communities they serve. Winder also said attending such services reminds his officers that the next funeral could be closer to home.
“The expense is well worth it,” he said. “When one attends one of these funerals in the community, the emotion and the intensity that accompanies it--not just for the officers’ family, but really for the entire community where the officer was killed--is amazing.”
Daley said part of the reason it's worth attending such an event is because officers are like family, even if they are far apart.
"It is no different to me than my own brother or my own sister, cousin, niece or nephew," she said.
Winder spoke about what he called one of his most memorable days during his career, the funeral for officer Jared Francom, who died in January of 2012.
"When you drive by and see thousands of children holding flags with tears coming down their eyes, or tow truck drivers with their trucks parked and saluting, I mean, it just really affects you," he said. "And you realize just how much the community does appreciate and support their public safety, and how much we really owe the community."
Daley added: "It probably is one of the most humbling things you would ever attend in your life, if you've ever been to a law enforcement funeral."
Aside from airfare, which was covered by Jet Blue for most of the officers who flew to New York, there were other expenses.
Winder said the members of the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Department who are in New York are getting a per diem for meals, and their hotels are paid for by his department. Winder said the money is well spent. He said other people might question that decision, but he stands by it. He also pointed out the trip is short, only two days.
He said the total bill for the four officers from the sheriff’s office and UPD will likely amount to less than $2,000. Centerville PD has also sent a couple of officers to the funeral.
"I'll bet we're a $1,000 to $1,200," Winder said.
The departures for the trip happen to coincide with a rally that was held downtown Saturday in support of police.