For those of you who may not know, I did 38 years with the NYPD. I retired in January 2018. For the last seven years of my career I was the Chief of Transit Bureau. Before that, I served for 11 1/2 years as the Chief of Brooklyn South, which followed a year and a half as the Chief of Queens South. In the prior years of my career I served in other parts of our city, including Commanding Officer, 71 Precinct, Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Captain, Internal Affairs Bureau, lieutenant, Quality Assurance Division and Anti-Crime Sergeant, and Police Officer, working in both the 61 Precinct, Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn, and Police Officer, in the command I started in, 70 Precinct, Midwood/Kensington/Flatbush, Brooklyn. It was a career – life – filled with joy, inspiration and significance, but laced with great pain. I have shared those conflicting feelings with the people I have worked with, and with sister and brother police officers all over the world.
Witnessing what we are all seeing – and you, the cops who are out there every day experiencing this – has been the most painful days of my life. The other night I was driving in Brooklyn and I saw three police officers (Ray DiMaria, Eric Castagliola and Frank Bulzoni). I saw them ordering their food at a restaurant, curbside. I immediately pulled over to get out and say hello to them. As soon as I started chatting with them, I actually felt like I was going to cry. I’m not sure exactly why I felt such emotion, but I did. I posted it on social media. I wrote that while I am at a loss for hope, seeing them gave me hope and confidence that better days are ahead of us. Seeing them was something I absolutely needed.
So many police officers are telling me that they feel that elected officials are not supporting them. But sadly, it’s even worse than that; too many elected officials are actually fanning the flames of anger and violence with reckless statements and assertions. To all of my brother and sister cops, people may take their appreciation away from us, their respect, and they may even attack us, both verbally and physically, but remember this – no one can take our mission away. No one can take why we do what we do away from us. The only way we lose that, is if we give it away.
How do we give it away? Quite simply, we forget it. We focus on the negative. We read the articles in the media, and social media posts that attack us, from people who could not even begin to comprehend or understand the complexities and challenges we face every day. Turn away from that. Focus on the good that you do every day. Remember the mission. I know it is often very difficult, especially these days when you are out there fighting for your lives. But it’s worth the effort.
And here are tips on how to remember why we do what we do. Take a moment to think back on the faces of the parents of the lost child who you brought home, the joy and the relief. Go back to the car accident, which was certainly routine for you, but you reassured and calmed down the 21-year-old driver who was so upset. Go find the letter that you saved, written by the family who will never forget your calming and loving presence when you were the first one into their home when their mother died. Take a look at the medal you proudly wear on your uniform, the one that was given to you because you arrested a man with a loaded 9mm handgun. Take a moment to think of how many lives you may have saved, because you put yourself in harms way.
And if those practices don’t make you feel good about who you are, what you do and the contributions you make to humanity, take your uniform cap off and look at the prayer cards that you carry, from the funerals that you lined up at, along with 15,000 other brother and sister cops, to honor one of our too many heroes who were taken from their families, their children, and us, killed in the line of duty. Remember, that we wear our uniforms in part, for them.
While I am sometimes finding difficulty to be hopeful these days, I know that things will get better and we will get through this. We have to believe that.
God bless you, God bless our country and God bless our humanity. I love you all.