As hundreds of police officers and family members stood outside a Long Island funeral home, former President Donald J. Trump attended on Thursday the wake of a New York City police officer who was killed in the line of duty days earlier.

Then, Mr. Trump, who is facing four criminal cases, including one in Manhattan that is going to trial in less than three weeks, stood in front of more than a dozen police officers and proclaimed the need for the country to “get back to law and order.”

Mr. Trump’s visit with the family of Police Officer Jonathan Diller, who was fatally shot during a traffic stop on Monday, was not a campaign event, though he did take the opportunity to emphasize his message on crime. He was greeted by New York City’s police commissioner, and then spent about 30 minutes inside the funeral home with Officer Diller’s family, including his widow and 1-year-old son.

Afterward, as rain poured down outside, Mr. Trump said the officer’s death was a horrible tragedy and, as he often does on the campaign trail, broadly called for a crackdown on violent crime without mentioning specific policies. “The only thing we can say is maybe something is going to be learned,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ve got to toughen it up. We’ve got to strengthen it up.”

But the former president’s attendance at the wake was reflective of a balancing act that has come to define his campaign. Even as Mr. Trump faces 88 felony charges, he has continued to court police officers and style himself as a tough-on-crime candidate in stark contrast to Democrats whose policies he says encourage violence.

While a somber Mr. Trump did not engage in the finger-pointing typical of his appearances on the trail, his top campaign aides and allies emphasized a contrast between his visit to New York with another being made on Thursday by President Biden for a campaign fund-raising event with former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

“President Trump will be honoring the legacy of Officer Diller,” Steven Cheung, a campaign spokesman, said on social media. He added, “Meanwhile, the Three Stooges — Biden, Obama, and Clinton — will be at a glitzy fundraiser in the city with their elitist, out-of-touch celebrity benefactors.”

Mayor Eric Adams of New York, who attended the wake after Mr. Trump, told reporters earlier on Thursday that Mr. Biden had called him to offer condolences that Mr. Adams said he would relay to the family. The White House told reporters that Mr. Biden had also offered the city and its police department his support.

Since his first presidential campaign, Mr. Trump has portrayed himself as a “law and order” candidate, stoking fears about violent crime and then promoting his unwavering support for the police and their efforts to tackle it.

Even as he contends with his criminal cases, he has made unqualified support of rank-and-file officers a central part of his bid to reclaim the White House.

Before Mr. Trump spoke to reporters, a line of police officers, some uniformed and some in tactical gear, were deliberately posed behind him. The former president often takes pictures with the police who accompany his motorcade on the campaign trail, and his aides regularly share videos of the interactions on social media to highlight the officer’s support.

At the same time, Mr. Trump routinely blasts liberal prosecutors and Democratic mayors for being ineffective at addressing violent crime, depicting their cities as lawless and dangerous. Such attacks have been politically successful on Long Island, where they helped Republicans make gains in the 2022 midterms.

Mr. Trump has focused particular ire on New York’s district attorney, who is prosecuting the former president on charges that he falsified business records to cover up hush-money payments to a porn star during the 2016 presidential campaign. Jury selection in the case is set to begin on April 15.

Across the street from the funeral home, many onlookers straining for a glimpse of Mr. Trump voiced anger at progressive policies that they said they believed had led to an increase in crime in the country, even as data has shown crime declining across the United States.

They pointed to the man accused in Officer Diller’s killing, Guy Rivera, 34, who was arrested on a gun charge last year and had at least 21 prior arrests. Mr. Rivera was charged on Thursday with first-degree murder in the shooting.

Deborah Geis, a retired police officer from Massapequa, N.Y., said Officer Diller was “senselessly killed by a man who should’ve been in jail.”

Mr. Trump did not elaborate on specific policies he would enact to prevent deaths like Officer Diller’s. He has previously swatted down calls for police reform, arguing that it would keep officers from properly fighting crime. On the campaign trail last year, he said shoplifters should be shot.

As part of his stump speech, Mr. Trump also vows to help police officers act more freely by indemnifying them from the financial consequences of lawsuits accusing them of misconduct, legal protections that they largely already possess.

Yet even as Mr. Trump proclaims his allegiance to police officers, he has recently voiced support for those imprisoned in connection with their roles during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, when a mob of his supporters, motivated by his lies about the 2020 election, stormed past police barricades.

Some of those supporters were convicted of brutally attacking local and Capitol Police officers.

Corey Kilgannon and Dana Rubinstein contributed reporting.


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Credit: NYTimes.com

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