Police Commissioner Bratton today presented the NYPD’s Theodore Roosevelt Award to five members of the service who overcame severe illness and extensive treatment to return to their duties in the New York City Police Department.
The Police Commissioner’s Theodore Roosevelt Award has been given annually since 2005 to exceptional members of the NYPD who have overcome significant medical hardship, in the name of President Theodore Roosevelt, who suffered from debilitating heart condition and childhood asthma. Throughout his life he overcame the physical challenges associated with these illnesses to become the President of the New York City Police Commission from 1895 to 1897, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York, and President of the United States.
Sergeant Newell Laird
79 Detective Squad
Sergeant Laird was diagnosed with tonsil/throat cancer on December 24, 2013, when a doctor discovered a cancerous mass in his throat. After consulting various specialists, Sergeant Laird underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment in March 2014. The treatment left him in a weakened state, making it difficult for him to eat and drink. After losing more than 60 pounds, he was fitted with a feeding tube. After weeks of treatment and rehabilitation, Sergeant Laird’s subsequent scans came back negative for cancer and the feeding tube was removed. He returned to full duty on August 14, 2014, as
the Commanding Officer of the 79 Precinct Detective Squad BRAM (Burglary Robbery Apprehension Module).
Sergeant Paul Montana
Sergeant Paul Montana, the 121 Precinct Traffic and Training Sergeant, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in July 2014. After a 12-hour surgery, doctors discovered that the cancer had spread to his vocal cords, causing damage and paralysis to his right vocal cord, carotid artery, and chest. For three months, Sergeant Montana underwent extensive radio-active iodine therapy. Even during this difficult time, he continued to check in with his supervisors and staff to ensure his unit was running effectively. And although his prognosis is good, he will need to undergo medical exams and monitoring for any relapses. Sergeant Montana returned to full duty in October 2014, continuing his role as Traffic and Training Sergeant.
Police Officer Ryan Finlay
Midtown South Precinct
In 2006, Officer Finlay began suffering from undiagnosed stomach ailments that left him in excruciating pain. For the next three years, medical experts from across the country could not provide an accurate diagnosis. Finally in October 2009, doctors from Columbia Presbyterian diagnosed him with chronic pancreatitis, an illness that alters the pancreas’ normal structure and function. Officer Finlay was in and out of the hospital for years, undergoing nearly 60 surgeries, and suffered a host of complications, including liver failure and kidney failure. Finally, after further treatment in February 2014, he fell into a coma and was put on life support. Upon awaking, Officer Finlay was hospitalized for four months. His long rehabilitation began in June 2014, and after another 14 months of surgery and treatment, Finlay was restored to full duty without further complications.
Police Officer Jillian Snider 41 Precinct
In 2011, Officer Snider was diagnosed with severe ileocolic Crohn’s Disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract. A large segment of her intestines was inflamed and ulcerated beyond repair, so in November 2012, she underwent surgery and spent eight days recovering in
the hospital. Forty-eight hours after her release, she was rushed back to the ER with fever, chills, and leakage from the surgical area. Doctors determined her bowel contents were leaking into her abdominal cavity, causing septic shock. After emergency surgery, doctors were unsure if she would fully recover. However, she was discharged several weeks later. Medications prevented further erosion of her bowls, but caused extensive side effects, including acute pancreatitis, drug-induced lupus, a fungal infection of the esophagus, and drug-induced aseptic meningitis. Despite all this, Officer Snider recovered and returned to full duty as a member of the 41 Precinct Conditions Team
Police Officer Carmine Taverna
Transit Bureau IRT
On November 25, 2011, Officer Taverna was working at the Rockaway Parkway L line station. While giving chase to a wanted perpetrator, he struck his head on steel beam, and the impact severed his long thoracic nerve. He was diagnosed with serratus anterior palsy, which caused severe damage to his arm and shoulder. Despite many months of intense physical therapy, Officer Taverna was faced with an early disability retirement. Yet, he was determined to return to full duty. So in June 2013, he underwent surgery that relocated his right pectorlis and attached it to his scapula. Less than a year later he had a second surgery to repair tears to his shoulder. With ongoing physical therapy and rehabilitation, Officer Taverna was restored to full duty in September 2014 as a member of Transit Bureau Impact Response Team.
History of The Police Commissioner’s Roosevelt Award
President Theodore Roosevelt, former Police Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, was a passionate advocate of what he called “the strenuous life.” He believed that hardship was necessary to cultivate personal virtue, and preached of the genuine reward that resulted from a “life of toil and effort; of labor and strife.” Roosevelt’s philosophy was rooted in his own experience. In contrast to his rugged, “Rough Rider” public image, the young Teddy Roosevelt was a frail and sickly boy. He suffered from headaches, abdominal pains, poor eyesight and chronic asthma. But he would not allow his poor health to define him. Roosevelt’s father built him a home gym, and encouraged his son to commit himself to a strict training regimen. Every day, he lifted weights, boxed, wrestled and studied judo. He took every opportunity to swim, hike and ride horseback. And by the time he was twenty-two, Roosevelt had transformed from a frail youth into a hearty outdoorsman—able to summit Switzerland’s Matterhorn, one of the highest mountains in Europe. Even an assassination attempt during his 1912 “Bull Moose” presidential campaign tour could not stop Roosevelt. He was shot in the chest at close range with a .38 caliber pistol during a public speaking event in Milwaukee. Not only did he live, he went on to deliver a 90-minute speech. The same virtues that enabled Roosevelt to overcome enormous physical challenges and make enduring contributions to society are evident in the recipients of the Police Commissioner’s Theodore Roosevelt Award. Each of them has exhibited extraordinary courage and a deep commitment to public service by confronting a devastating illness or injury and returning to full duty. They embody the fighting spirit of Teddy Roosevelt and the best of the New York City Police Department