A man imprisoned 39 years for “executing” a New York City Police Department officer during a robbery was given a seat on a police reform advisory panel in New York as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Reimagining Public Safety Collaborative.”
Richard Rivera was released in 2019 after serving 39 years in prison for his role in the murder of NYPD officer Robert Walsh, a highly decorated 12-year veteran of the department. He was given a seat on the Ithaca and Tomkins County police reform advisory group at an unspecified date after Cuomo’s June 2020 order directing local governments create police reform panels and recommend reform plans by April 1, 2021 or lose state funding.
In 1981, then-16-year-old Rivera and four others attempted to rob the BVD Bar and Grill in Maspeth when Walsh – who was off-duty at the time – notified the suspects that he was an officer and began to draw his gun.
Rivera responded by shooting Walsh in the shoulder, knocking him to the ground. The gunman then stood over the wounded Walsh, put the gun to his head and fired again. An official with the police department told the New York Post that the murder was an “execution.”
“I know people are going to be critical,’’ Rivera told the Post this week when asked how people would react to his participation in the panel. “I don’t know if [Walsh’s] family would find this acceptable.”
“I can’t control that. What I can control is the way I’ve been living my life,” the convicted cop-killer added.
Since he was let out of prison, Rivera has been working for a non-profit that helps homeless people find food and shelter.
“I’m holding the memory of Officer Walsh to the highest standard of policing in terms of a protector to the community, somebody who cares for the community,” Rivera told the New York Post.
Rivera’s involvement shocked the Walsh’s family and NYPD Police Benevolent Association (PBA).
“We’re completely shocked that the man who murdered my father is being trusted to create police reforms,” one of late Officer Robert Walsh’s sons told the New York Post through a representative on Monday.
“My father dedicated his life to serving and protecting New Yorkers,” he continued. “He should be the one serving on a panel to help reimagine policing, but he’ll never get that chance.”
“It’s outrageous and despicable,” NYPD PBA President Pat Lynch said. “Not only did this cop-killer get paroled, but now he gets a seat at the table to help dismantle a police department. Did anybody expect him to be fair and open-minded in his review?”
“The entire process has trampled on the ideals that police officers like Robert Walsh upheld. It’s the ultimate disrespect to his service and sacrifice,” she added.
A source from the New York Police Department told The Police Tribune that allowing a convicted cop killer to sit on the panel was like “the fox guarding the hen house.”
“How does this panel and in turn, all panels have any legitimacy when you have someone who murdered a police officer in cold blood sitting on it?” he asked. “Is the next step having convicted rapists sitting on panels to better handle sexual assaults?”