September 17, 2004

He wanted to help

Thousands come to wake in Brooklyn for veteran detective known for his love for the job and for life


More than 5,000 mourners, police officers, firefighters, emergency workers and neighborhood friends gathered at a Brooklyn funeral home yesterday to pay tribute to Det. Robert Parker, a man described by many as a gentle bear who loved life.

At a wake in Grace Funeral Chapel in Cypress Hills, friends recalled Parker's love for his job; his passion for cooking and eating; his concern for the community he served; and his belief in having a good time.

Parker, 43, and Patrick Rafferty, 39, detectives in Brooklyn's 67th Precinct, were shot to death Friday while responding to a domestic disturbance complaint in East Flatbush. Mayor Michael Bloomberg posthumously promoted them to first-grade detectives.

Floyd Smith, executive director of Concerned Citizens for the Rockaways, said he had known Parker for 30 years and remembered when he began his studies at John Jay College in preparation for becoming a police officer. He said while Parker was in school, he worked as a Neighborhood Watch guard at the Riverdale Towers in Brownsville, where Smith also worked.

"It was a tough neighborhood and he was a good guard," Smith said. "A woman couldn't walk from the subway to the complex without getting mugged. We stopped that. He was determined from the beginning to help his community. We need more cops like him."

Smith described Parker, who lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant, as a onetime street kid who struggled to earn his driver's license to become a patrol officer.

"He loved to eat," recalled Det. Robert Reedy, 43, a colleague. "He was a big 'Star Trek' fanatic. He had James Bond pictures and a James Bond calendar on his desk."

Among those at the wake were Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Gov. George Pataki and a man wearing a Star Trek costume who met Parker at a Star Trek convention several years ago.

Like Rafferty, who was known as "The Cook," Parker often cooked meals at the station house. "We had lots of nice meals in the station house because of him," Reedy said.

He also remembered how Parker, who loved taking vacations, once gave him some good advice. "'Let me tell you something about this job,'" he quoted Parker as saying. "'This job will kill you if you are not careful. When you get a chance, enjoy yourself. And when you come back, you're ready to deal with this nonsense, with the dead bodies and people crying.'"

Parker's girlfriend, Tawanna Jackson, said Parker acted as a stepfather to her daughter, Tashisha, 20. "He was a great person," she tearfully said. "All he ever wanted to do was help people."

She said Parker often went out of his way to help crime victims, especially those who had suffered domestic abuse.

"If they had little, small problems, he gave to them," she said. "He called them up. He was always willing to help."

His funeral will be today at the Christian Cultural Center on Flatlands Avenue in East New York.