Convicted murderer of NYC police officer is now a member of Ithaca’s Police Reform Board

Regional News

ITHACA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — As police departments and communities get ready to submit their police reform plans this week, some concerns are being raised in Ithaca about the selection of one member of its police advisory group.

It was 1981, Richard Rivera was 16-years-old when he shot and killed, execution-style, an off-duty New York City Police Department Officer, Robert Walsh, who was also 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.

In an interview with NewsChannel 9’s Adrienne Smith, Rivera says 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?’

Richard Rivera, Community Board Member, Ithaca Police Reform Plan

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.

So, how does the police union feel about Rivera on the advisory board? No comment when we reached out to them on Tuesday, but ahead of Wednesday night’s Common Council vote on the report, the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association released the following statement…

We value the lived experiences of the many who share in that sentiment and the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association could not agree more, change is needed now.

Ithaca Police Benevolent Association Public Statement, March 26, 2021

The family of Officer Walsh 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.”

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

NewsChannel 9 has reached out to 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 have not heard back.

The city’s police reform report will be voted on by the Ithaca Common Council on Wednesday night at 6 p.m.

Under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203, the deadline for all New York Police Departments to submit their police reform plans in Thursday, April 1.

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