ITHACA, N.Y. (WSYR) — As police departments and communities in New York get ready to submit their police reform plans this week, concerns are being raised in Ithaca about the selection of one member of its police advisory group.
Richard Rivera was 16 years old when he shot and killed, execution-style, an off-duty New York City Police Department officer in 1981. The officer, Robert Walsh, was a father of four.
After spending 39 years in prison, the now 57-year-old Rivera is helping to shape Ithaca’s police reform plan as a community board member.
The move was slammed by the Detectives’ Endowment Association and by Rep. Lee Zeldin.
“This is shameful disrespect to the family of Officer Robert Walsh — and all who he served,” the DEA tweeted.
Zeldin called the decision to have Rivera help with police reform was “incredibly backwards.”
“This NYPD cop killer is the last person who should have this kind of influence ‘reimagining’ law enforcement departments,” Zeldin tweeted.
In an interview with WSYR, Rivera said he believes his past can help make systematic change when it comes to police reform.
“I sit in a cell, agonizing over this deed of mine. I killed somebody, and I’m saying to myself, ‘How can I move forward?’ I cannot change the past. I have to arrive at a decision, and I have to say to myself, ‘What am I going to do with my future. How am I going to move forward from here?'” said Rivera.
The Walsh’s family is quoted in the New York Post as saying, “We’re completely shocked that the man who murdered my father is being trusted to create police reforms.”
Rivera was appointed to the position based on his community involvement and job as an outreach coordinator helping the homeless through Opportunities, Alternatives and Resources of Tompkins County.
It’s the reality of me and it’s jarring when you first read that ‘okay, a guy who was convicted of murdering a NYC police officer, is now involved in our efforts to reimagine police and public safety.
I act every day and I behave in a way, every day, that I hope honors and respects the memory of my victim. And that memory for me is that of the highest human standards of servitude, compassion, and of caring.Richard Rivera, Community Board Member, Ithaca Police Reform Plan
WSYR has asked the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association, Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, and the Ithaca Police Department Chief for comment on Rivera’s involvement with the reform plan and has not heard back.
The city’s police reform report will be voted on by the Ithaca Common Council on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203, the deadline for all New York Police Departments to submit their police reform plans is Thursday.
PIX11 contributed to this report.