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It took a cop’s widow to sum it up perfectly: ‘We are not safe anymore’

Dominique Luzuriaga Rivera, a widow at 22, stood at the ambo in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Jan. 28 and delivered, through lágrimas de pena, a piercing eulogy for her young husband, Jason, an NYPD officer killed while doing his job.  

She anxiously smoothed the papers from which she read, as if to wipe away her dread reality. Her city accent gave a punch to the blunt words she used to describe herself as “full of rage and anger, hurt and sad.” Her serrated grief filled the church and etched its way through the thousands who came to honor her husband. 

Dominique painfully earned her audience, which stretched beyond the massive expanse of blue uniforms gathered inside and outside the cathedral and spilled across the electronic devices of millions of Americans. It was an audience she didn’t seek but that assembled before her because she is suffering in a way none of us wants to. And we all listened with that special silence and rapt attention that only eulogies evoke.  

Other spouses of slain law enforcement officers have suffered similarly but without as much exposure. Maybe it was the poignant heartbreak of Dominique and Jason’s young age. Maybe it was the overwhelming reality of the current spasm of violence against America’s police, for which Jason, in his youthful willingness to serve, became an emblematic figure.  

Whatever the reason, Dominique, robbed of her husband, her grade school sweetheart, suddenly had millions watching her. She started with the familiar, endearing patterns of a eulogy offering intimate glimpses into her husband’s character and their shared life. Then, suddenly, she pivoted — and few saw it coming.

“The system continues to fail us,” she said, her tone now different, more determined. And then the uppercut: “We are not safe anymore.”

Dominique Rivera became, in a moment, every normal American and in 11 words she expressed the growing apprehension of a nation that has watched crime explode in frequency and seriousness — often captured on video and waved in front of us as if to reinforce a feeling of helplessness.

The straightforward words she spoke damned a “system” that has crept to power in recent years on the haunches of nonsensical politicians and prosecutors who sanctimoniously assert they are righting “old wrongs” with policies easily recognizable as absurdly dangerous.  They are championing shameful strategies that encourage more crime and victims. Old wrongs aren’t being remedied. New wrongs are being forged.

“We are not safe anymore.” Yes, that is precisely the essence of what more and more of us are feeling in America today. Part of the concern is driven by the rising crime that infects our neighborhoods and businesses, but part is driven as well by the disturbing indifference of some of those in power who are charged with protecting the citizenry. There is an unsettling sense that nothing will be done about it.

When bail is ridiculously reduced or eliminated, we are not safe anymore. When dangerous prisoners are prematurely released, we are not safe anymore. When shoplifting crimes are absolved, we are not safe anymore. When people minding their own business are punched on the street or shoved in front of a subway train, we are not safe anymore. When police budgets are foolishly stripped away, we are not safe anymore.

When all police officers are relentlessly demonized for the sins of a few, they become targets of feeble minds who interpret the anti-cop rhetoric as permission to assault. In just the past month, 46 officers across the country were shot or killed. Widows are being minted at a record pace. 

When Americans do not feel safe, when they lose faith that the government will protect them, they buy guns. In 2021, more than 5 million people bought a gun for the first time, and 8.4 million did so in 2020, according to annual surveys of retailers. This telling trend should shame our politicians — but it won’t.

Dominique Rivera made her brave comments to an audience that included many who promote the sickening policies that are juicing the current crime wave and inspiring a record amount of attacks on police officers. Finally, she addressed her late husband directly: “I know you were tired of these laws, especially the ones from the new DA,” a reference to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who will not prosecute certain offenses. The congregation erupted in long, sustained applause, rising to their feet.

It is likely that not even a grieving widow could shame a smug, crusading district attorney and other self-righteous idealists around the nation. But the truth is searing when stated simply by someone suffering so acutely from the results of treacherous policies: The system is continuing to fail us — we are not safe anymore.  

Kevin R. Brock, former assistant director of intelligence for the FBI, was an FBI special agent for 24 years and principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). He independently consults with private companies and public-safety agencies on strategic mission technologies. 

Tags crime wave liberal prosecutors NYPD shootings police deaths

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