NYPD Officers Wilbert Mora, left, and Jason Rivera.

NYPD Officers Wilbert Mora, left, and Jason Rivera. Credit: AP

Twenty-two-year-old Jason Rivera was exactly the kind of police officer New York City sought and needed — young, idealistic, mission-driven. He was rooted in the community, having been brought up in the Inwood neighborhood of upper Manhattan.

While still a probationary officer in November 2020, Rivera wrote to his commanding officer about how a stop-and-frisk incident years before involving himself and his older brother influenced his life's decisions.

"My perspective on police and the way they police really bothered me," he wrote. "As time went on, I saw the NYPD pushing hard on changing the relationship between the police and the community." Rivera wrote that he joined up to "better the relationship between the community and the police."

Rivera responded Friday to the kind of domestic call his colleagues have long had cause to dread. Rivera was shot dead by Lashawn McNeil, 47, with a stolen automatic pistol, a Glock, equipped with a high-capacity magazine holding up to 40 rounds. The attack on Rivera and his partner, Wilbert Mora, 27, still in critical condition, made them the fourth and fifth NYPD officers hit by wanton gunfire in the first three weeks of the year.

City and state elected officials, including new Mayor Eric Adams, are right to call for a new strategy to stem the long plague of illegal guns. His decision to revive police anti-crime units is a rational step in that direction.

Other kinds of horrid incidents, also coming in clusters, spread a scent of disorder. On Sunday, another person was shoved onto the subway tracks at Fulton St. in the financial district. Days earlier, Michelle Go, 40, died after being pushed in front of a train at Times Square.

Adams said "mental health and public safety go hand in hand." State and city resources along with a focused effort on this particular security threat are urgently needed. Perception and fear mold reality; if people feel unsafe, corrective steps are necessary.

Politicians who understandably began dismantling the over-incarceration of recent decades also need to probe honestly and factually whether the laws broadly described as "bail reform" have safeguards to ensure that dangerous people are not released to commit new crimes. Lawmakers should not be afraid to determine whether recent actions to better protect the rights of the accused are causing hazardous side effects. Unfortunately, political trends in enforcement swing wildly back and forth between more aggressive and less aggressive, and never seem to find a stable middle ground. Once again, the troubles of the moment must be met.

Local, state and federal decision-makers seeking to tamp down the spreading sense of insecurity should summon a small share of the courage that will always be young Officer Jason Rivera's legacy.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.