Remarks of Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, as delivered
NYPD Recruit Graduation, the Theater at Madison Square Garden
December 28, 2016
Good morning, everyone. We’re going to practice here. The guys in blue, the girls in blue: Good morning, how are you?
All right. A little lighter when you get out on patrol, a little friendlier. All right.
This is the key to being a good cop – just saying hello to people, letting them know that you’re a human being also, and you care about what they care about. So, don’t ever forget that.
Good morning, welcome. Let me offer my congratulations to each and every one of our graduates. This is one of the most exciting days of your lives. You deserve all the praise and recognition for the hard work that you’ve put in over the last six months. It seems like just yesterday that we swore you in over at the Academy. But I’m sure, to you, it seems a lot longer than six months.
Today, you’ve been sworn in as a New York City Police Officer. Let that sink in. You took the oath this morning. Let that sink in. You are now New York City cops. You are now members of the largest and most-respected police department in our nation, arguably the most diverse, and certainly the best-trained.
It’s my honor to welcome you into the NYPD. The men and women sitting beside you today, along with 36,000 others across all of our commands and bureaus, will be working hand-in-hand with you as you begin your new careers.
You’ve worked hard to get here. All right, I’m just talking to the police officers in front of me, so, families, if you can just close your ears for a second.
If you have any friends that don’t make good decisions – lose them. I know it’s tough to do that with relatives, but if you have any relatives that don’t make good decisions, lose them.
You’ve worked very hard over the last six months, and you’ve worked very hard over the last couple of years, to get these jobs. Make good decisions. I want to see you do your best. I want to see you standing up where I’m standing – maybe a little shorter than 34 years from now, but at one point, some of you, somebody in this audience, might be doing this job. And you can do that by making good decisions and respecting the people that you work with, and respecting the people that you’re sworn to protect and serve.
Right now, I feel this is the best and most exciting time to be a police officer. The NYPD’s Neighborhood Policing program has redefined what it means to patrol our great city. It has revolutionized how we interact with the public that we serve. And we have given back to police officers the ability to make real decisions, to be independent thinkers who are truly getting to know the individuals who live and work in all our neighborhoods.
When you leave this building today, you’ll be tasked with coming up with certain – with creative ways to help people in all of our communities. All this is with an eye toward keeping people safe and continuing our downward crime trend.
Never forget: You are the police. Our job is to keep people safe. Our job is to fight crime.
I’ve got a great position here as Police Commissioner, thanks to you, Mr. Mayor – perhaps the best in all of law enforcement. But I’m still a little jealous of all of you – maybe a little bit more than a little jealous of you. You’re well-trained, well-motivated young police officers who are about to go out there and make a difference in people’s lives. That’s why you took this job after all. That’s why we all take this job, to make a difference. And you will. And you’ll help the NYPD and this great city move forward.
Over the past three years, we’ve worked hard to get you the best safety equipment, have placed the most up-to-date technology in the palms of your hands. Now, while you’re meeting and forming lasting relationships with those who make up our communities – residents, business owners, and school kids, just to name a few – you’ll still be making arrests and writing summonses when enforcement action needs to be taken. Always remember that you’re the police.
Ultimately, how you’re perceived and evaluated by the department, and by all New Yorkers, is up to you. Your character and your professionalism and how you’ll handle the challenges you face on the streets, in housing developments, and down in the subway system are what count.
Will you think on your feet? Will you be a problem-solver? Will you gather information that helps us close serious crime cases?
And there’s something else. As a result of your efforts, some crimes will never even occur in the first place. These things are hard to track. But you’ll know when you’re doing good work. You’ll feel it.
After a while, if you work hard, you might be assigned to a steady sector and it’ll be just you and your partner who are responsible for a small segment of this great city. You’ll work closely with our Neighborhood Coordination Officers and our community partners but, ultimately, the people who live, work, and travel there will rely on you for answers. And your success as a cop, and people’s safety, as members of the public, will be deeply intertwined. This is an awesome responsibility. I know that. We all know that. We’ve all been there. We’re asking a lot of you, but we know you’re up to the task.
And if you thought your training was done as of today, understand that today is just the beginning. You’ll spend the next six months, the same amount of time you’re in the Academy, in field training applying what you’ve just learned. And there’ll be much more training throughout your career to keep your skills honed – new things and refresher courses, and exciting new technology and techniques. The key is to never stop learning.
While being an independent thinker, also make sure you learn from the more experienced cops around you. Learn from you bosses, and learn from your mistakes. Become the best cops you can be. Help us continue to be known as the greatest police department in this country, with the finest police officers anywhere.
Remember the way you feel right now, right this very second – the feeling of excitement and optimism and the sense of duty. And make sure you carry that with you every single day.
Don’t worry, you won’t be doing this alone. You’ll have this family – your NYPD family – every step of the way.
For an example of how the NYPD is like a family, don’t look any further than one of your fellow graduates that the Mayor spoke about – Police Officer Joe Vigiano. I know you’re already serving your father’s memory well, Joe, and I know you’ll continue to do great things throughout your career.
There’s also Police Officer Elwin Martinez – an exceptional young man who showed incredible courage-under-fire in the 4-3. When Sergeant Paul Tuozzolo was murdered by an armed suspect in the Bronx, Officer Martinez, who was in the midst of his field training, immediately fired back at the suspect, killing him. And in doing so, he likely saved other officers who were directly in harm’s way. Thank you, Elwin. Let’s give him a round of applause.
You know, this graduating class has people from all walks of life – sharp minds who speak more than 40 languages and who hail from as many different countries. We have former school teachers, service workers, a park ranger, emergency dispatchers, a Marine Corps vet who earned a Purple Heart, and cops from other jurisdictions and states.
Police Officer Terryann Ferguson is one.
Born in Trinidad, she and her five brothers and sisters were raised there and in St. Lucia, where her father was a police officer, until the family moved to Brooklyn. She said she always wanted to be an NYPD cop and longed for the day she could sit in this very building wearing her uniform.
Terryann first served as an NYPD Traffic Enforcement Agent and, while waiting for the call to be hired as a police officer here, she joined the Charleston Police Department in South Carolina in 2008. A year later, she was deemed their Cop of the Year. Officer Ferguson was commended in a resolution by the South Carolina House of Representatives for using CPR to save the life of a 1-year-old girl who nearly drowned in a bathtub over Easter weekend last year. Terryann also found time to join, and perform admirably, in the South Carolina National Guard.
Fortunately for us, the lure of New York City – yes, there is a lure to New York City – has brought Terryann back to us. And she is among your ranks today. I can’t wait to see what great things she will accomplish here on behalf of all New Yorkers.
These are the kinds of amazing men and women the NYPD is hiring.
To all of today’s graduates – you now have the opportunity, starting today, to be integral parts of our future. You can be the ones to make the difference. You already have the unique ability to make New York City better for everyone. I know you’ll make us proud.
I want to thank the members of our Candidate Assessment Division, and I want to thank the dedicated staff of the Police Academy. And finally, I’d like to thank the family and friends of our graduates who have joined us here today.
I’m going to speak to the police officers one more time. Make no mistake about it, you’re here today for one reason. And that’s the people that are sitting up in the stands there. So, when you get home tonight, make sure that you love them. Make sure that you respect them and spend as much time with them as possible, because they’re the reason that you’re here.
So, let’s give them a round of applause.
You are the ones who supported these officers as they embarked on this new journey, and you’re the ones who will continue to be by their sides for years to come. Thank you for everything you’ll continue to do for New York City’s newest cops.
Today is a day of celebration for everyone here. Enjoy it, because we have a lot of work to do.
Three days from now, most of you will be assigned in some way to our New Year’s Eve detail. Enjoy that, too. Don’t worry, I’m working too, so, don’t get all excited. We’re all working, actually.
But remember that with the New Year comes a new chapter in your lives. Let’s make the most of it, together. Congratulations, again, to each of you, and welcome to the NYPD.