This is why we exist. To be in service to those who are in need. It was our honor to play a small part in the Unit Honors Funeral of Officer John Rivera. Below is a letter written by Commander Bill Bradley of the 006th district. Please take a few minutes and give it a read.
A letter from Cmdr. Bill Bradley
Crucibles are defined as situations of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new. As we enter the crucibles of life, we are exposed to what we are made of at our core. These past couple of years, we as a police department have been put through one of the most difficult crucibles to date. We have been called to look internally at who/what we are beneath the surface. We have been portrayed in a very negative light in the media and on the political spectrum, and as we are submerged in this crucible, we have been hit with the tragedy of losing one of our own here in the 006th District.
When we as a people are under stress, we may sometimes look to stop, or to put forth just enough to get through, but this past week we have encountered a police department, a family, a community, schools, clergy, an entire city come together and give their all. In all our years of policing and in life, we rarely see tragedies bring together so many people who willingly gave their all to help alleviate the pain of the loss of an innocent life. This is one of those rare times.
Maybe the tragedy of losing John exposed us to the light at the end of this crucible, where we come together as a city and look out for each other and offer our best.
This past week has been a terribly emotional week for the Auburn-Gresham and Hegewisch Communities. We mourned the loss of one of our own (the city’s own) in a senseless act. In a few moments, an individual who invested so much in others, had his life cut short. In John’s loss, we all fell back on what he taught us. Support one another and inspire others to do the same, regardless of race, gender, or creed. In John’s death, he is still helping us grow.
The core values of the Chicago Police Department are Professionalism, Obligation, Leadership, Integrity, Courage, and Excellence. Hearing stories from John’s family leading up to the services, it was clear that these values were instilled in John long before he was a member of the Chicago Police Department. For those of us present for the wake and funeral, we had an opportunity to hear powerful stories about John that highlighted each of these characteristics. These were not stories shared by politicians or those with agendas. These were stories from officers and neighbors alike, eager to share their personal experiences with John. For those of us who did not have the opportunity to share a community or squad car with John, we sat in awe of how he was capable of so much in such a short period of time.
Meeting his family would give you the answer to that last question. John’s mom stressed the importance of community and staying true to your calling. She spoke with passion about John and his willingness to accept others without passing judgement. His drive was contagious and only outweighed by his humor, which meant anyone around John at work was sure to be better for having known him. John’s mom’s strength has no measure and we are all better knowing the young man she raised.
Those working in 006, after the tragic event, were asked if they wanted a role in the services. Sixteen members volunteered for the honor of being a part of the in-unit honor guard. Eight more were honored to volunteer as pallbearers. Even more stepped up to call commands, carry the folded flag, and be a part of the procession. These volunteers were not just fellow officers, but probationary officers up through exempt members. John showed us family is about a commitment to one another no matter what. He inspired all of the members of the 006th District to support one another, regardless of rank or role, regardless of gender, race, or creed. We are one strong family that cannot be broken. This is a testament to our commitment to growth.
Administrators from surrounding schools brought students out in a show of support. The Chicago Fire Department hung a flag over the procession route as a sign of unity and respect. The Pipes and Drums performed flawlessly and inspired hope in all of us. Outside agencies traveled from other states to be a part of John’s services. Funeral home staff said they were blown away by the professionalism and turnout for John. In their years of serving the Southeast Chicago community, they have not seen that level of support for an in-unit honors funeral. One mentioned specifically that he has “been in the business for over 20 years” and has not ever been so “emotionally touched” by a service.
Fr. Brandt was brought to tears reading the words of one of John’s peers. “Damn you Sergeant!”
To the Hegewisch and Southeast Chicago communities, thank you for all of your support. It made this challenging time more manageable. We are forever grateful.
To the leaders in Gresham, officers and supervisors alike, thank you for being pillars for those who needed it the most this week. We are forever grateful.
To Elmwood Chapel, thank you for your hospitality and being patient with us all as we filled your chapel to capacity. We are forever grateful.
To Annunciata Church, thank you for allowing us a place to say goodbye to John and share his stories. We’ve never seen Fr. Brandt overcome with emotion like that before. We are forever grateful.
To John’s classmates from 17-5, thank you for coming out as a sign of support to the family and friends, showing that even time cannot separate the bond of this brotherhood. We are forever grateful.
To John’s fellow officers in 006, thank you for the mourning bands, the portraits, the pins, the wrist bands, the snacks, the drinks, the shoulders, the stories and the support. Collectively you are everything John could have hoped you’d be. John may no longer be here with us, but he made the most of his short time on earth. He has shown all of us how important it is to wake up each day with the intentions of bettering the lives of all you encounter. For that, we are forever grateful.
To John’s fellow officers within the Chicago Police Department, thank you for all the support in assisting with covering the 006th District so we could mourn, and the assistance with the wake and funeral services. Thank you for all the food that was brought to the 006th District and the funeral home, all the equipment, and all of your presence at the wake and funeral services.
To John, you may no longer be here with us, but you made the most of your short time on earth. You have shown all of us how important it is to wake up each day with the intentions of bettering the lives of all you encounter. We look forward to carrying on your legacy.
For that, we are forever grateful.
Commander William Bradley
Photo credit: Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune