Richard Rivera shot an NYPD officer in a Queens bar decades ago, and now he’s working to help make changes to police in upstate New York as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state-mandated programme.
Following the death of George Floyd, Cuomo required municipalities to send police-reform proposals to the state by April 1. The advisory committee was then formed.
Rivera shot and killed off-duty police officer and father of four Robert Walsh decades ago, and when asked about the potential reaction by community members to his participation on the committee, the killer-turned-homeless advocate said, “I know people are going to be critical.”
“I’m not sure if [Walsh’s] family will think this appropriate,” he said. “I have no say over that. What I can influence is how I’ve been living my life up to this point.”
Robert Walsh Jr., one of the slain officer’s son, told the Post that he’s disgusted by the news.
“We’re absolutely surprised that the man who killed my father is being trusted to create police improvements,” he said. “My father dedicated his life to serving and protecting New Yorkers. He should be the one serving on a panel to help reimagine policing, but he’ll never get that chance.”
Officer Walsh was killed at the age of 36 when Rivera, 15, and four fellow teenagers carrying guns entered the BVD Bar and Grill in Maspeth on Jan. 12, 1981, with the intention of robbing. A police official at the time described what happened next as nothing short of a coldblooded “execution.”
Rivera served 39 years in prison. He told the outlet that he has been working to help homeless since he was released in 2019. He said that his work for the upstate prison-reform commission focuses on finding how homeless people could be criminalized merely for being on the streets or for having mental health problems.
Rivera, who talked to Ithaca Week last month about his post-prison outreach job, said, “I feel like I’m living my life in a manner that I feel is for the betterment of the people around me.”
However, Pat Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said Rivera is the last one who should be giving recommendations on police reform, no matter what kind of feel-good work he does now.
“It’s outrageous and despicable,’’ Lynch told The Post. “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,” he added.