SGT. STEPHEN Liczbinski was a simple man who didn't ask for much, his son recalled yesterday. All he really wanted was the same thing that he gave to everyone else: respect.

That, and perhaps to see Mike Richards and his beloved Philadelphia Flyers hoist the Stanley Cup over their heads this year.

Speaking yesterday at his father's funeral mass at Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul, Matt Liczbinski managed to squeeze a brief smile out of a mourning city - by asking the church to join him in a Flyers chant aimed at the heavens.

"Try and make it loud enough, everybody inside and outside, that he'll be able to hear us up there," the 24-year-old Liczbinski said.

"Ready? Let's go Fly-ers! Let's Go!" he shouted. Hundreds of police officers finished the chant by clapping in unison.

The rest of the day was not so cheerful - not for Liczbinski's wife, Michele, not for the two sons and a daughter he leaves behind, and not for the 6,600-member Philadelphia Police Department that has now lost three officers in two years.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, only four months into the job, found himself eulogizing a 12-year veteran of the force after Liczbinski was gunned down last weekend while responding to an armed bank robbery in Port Richmond. He would have turned 40 on Tuesday.

The shooter, Howard Cain, was holding a Chinese-made SKS carbine when police killed him. His alleged accomplices, Eric DeShawn Floyd and Levon Warner, are both in custody and facing murder, robbery and related charges.

"It was a typical Saturday morning," Ramsey said, when Liczbin-ski responded to the robbery-in-progress call on Aramingo Avenue. "He answered a flash message, got behind a car. That car couldn't lose him - he grew up in that neighborhood, he knew those streets. He did what came naturally to him as a police officer."

Liczbinski, who has been stationed in the 24th District since November but spent most of his career in South Philly's 4th District, "isn't a hero in my mind because of how he died," the commissioner said, "he's a hero because many years ago he made the decision, he answered a call. He knew that he wanted to help others."

Thousands of police officers and law-enforcement officials - many from out of state - attended yesterday's ceremonies in a show of solidarity, waiting to pay their respects in a line that stretched along 18th Street and down Vine. Those that couldn't fit in the cathedral stood outside in formation in a steady, wind-driven rain as a Jumbotron carried live footage from inside.

"Steve, may God bless you for all eternity," the Rev. Joseph McFadden said. "And please, Steve, keep loving us. We need your love."

The day began with Liczbinski's casket being transported from police headquarters on 8th and Race streets to the cathedral in a black caisson drawn by two white horses. It ended with weeping cops embracing each other as they left Resurrection Cemetery in Bensalem.

At the graveside, Liczbinski's call numbers were retired - "486 off the board for the final time" – and two police helicopters flew overhead, followed by a gun salute and rendition of "Amazing Grace" played by the pipe-and-drum corps.

"On this day even the heavens are weeping," McFadden said, "for truly we have lost a loved one."

Bensalem residents lined Hulmeville Road as the procession made its way to the cemetery. A young girl held a sign that read "Thanks for keeping us safe."

In the wake of Liczbinski's slaying, Mayor Nutter, Gov. Rendell and other officials have called upon Congress to pass assault-weapons legislation that would ban the type of gun used by Cain. But there was a divide yesterday on whether such a ban would make much of a difference.

"You can put a million laws in place, but it's still just a piece of paper, that's all it is," said Upper Darby Sgt. Jim Reif. "They shouldn't have been on the street, that's the bottom line," he said of the men charged in Liczbinski's killing.

Donna Giddings, of the Philadelphia chapter of Mothers in Charge, whose mother, son and neighbor were killed in 2005 by an 18-year-old gunman, strongly disagrees.

"If we had those gun laws intact, maybe he wouldn't be able to get his hands on an assault weapon. It's like something out of Iraq," she said of the SKS rifle. "They have no fear because they can get their hands on something that's more powerful than what the cops have." *