Hundreds of officers outside the church where a funeral was held for a policeman killed along with his partner in an ambush shooting turned their backs on the mayor as he spoke during Saturday's service.
The reaction from officers watching Officer Rafael Ramos' funeral on giant TV screens followed comments from police union officials who had said Mayor Bill de Blasio contributed to a climate of mistrust that contributed to the killings of the two NYPD officers.
Inside Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens, however, mourners gave de Blasio polite applause before and after his speech.
In response to the back-turning incident, de Blasio deputy press secretary Wiley Norvell said in a statement: "The Ramos and Liu families, our police department and our city are dealing with an unconscionable tragedy. Our sole focus is unifying this city and honoring the lives of our two police officers."
Police union officials have blamed de Blasio for fostering anti-police sentiment for his support of protesters angry that no charges will be filed in the police deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner on Staten Island. At a hospital after the officers' slayings, the police union's president, Patrick Lynch, and others turned their backs on de Blasio in a sign of disrespect. Lynch said the mayor had "blood on his hands."
Weeks before the shooting, Lynch had suggested that officers sign a petition requesting that the mayor not attend their funerals were they to die in the line of duty.
De Blasio has stood firmly by the police since the shooting, calling on the demonstrators to temporarily halt their protests and praising officers after the police department announced the arrest of a seventh person since the shooting for making threats against police.
De Blasio and Lynch nodded at each other as they exited the church Saturday and lined up to wait for the casket.
A block from the church, retired NYPD Officer John Mangan held a sign that read: "God Bless the NYPD. Dump de Blasio."
"If the mayor really wanted to do the right thing, he would have gotten into an NYPD car and rode around Bed Stuy and see the difficult jobs these cops do every day," Mangan said. "The bottom line is there should be more signs out here in support of these cops."