New York Daily News


Letter from Joseph John Harmon Jr., NYPD

To whom it may concern;

My name is Joseph John Harmon Jr. and I am a proud member of the New York City Police Department. My Shield # is 18134. I currently patrol the streets and hallways of the Housing Bureau in Queens. I am a graduate of Manhattan College. Father of three beautiful children: Blu-Diamond, Joseph III, and my youngest Kailynn. My lovely wife Kena is also pregnant with our fourth blessing. This all sounds like a beautiful existence does it not? Father, Husband, New York City Police Officer. As of June 1, 2007, I will also be homeless.

Let me say that again in case it caught your eye. My three children, my pregnant wife and I will be homeless in less than a week. In the greatest city in the world, working for the greatest police force in the world, this is a disgrace. I would like to take some time out of your busy day to tell you my story and why I am writing this letter.

Jan. 10, 2005 is where my journey begins. That is the day I was sworn in as a member of the NYPD. I left behind a good job working for Bloomberg Financial Media. Good salary, great benefits. I thought I could do more with my life. That is why I joined the NYPD. I wanted to become part of something greater, to make a difference. I graduated in July 2005 and began my career in PSA 7 in the South Bronx. What I saw opened my mind to a whole new world I had never known. Every night I washed up and returned home to the new house we were renting in the Bronx. It was a good life. It became even better when my daughter was born on Dec. 20, 2005. Soon after that I was transferred to PSA 9 in Long Island City.

Now, my wife has very hard pregnancies. Due to this she was unable to go back to work for almost 6 to 7 months after the birth of our daughter. It was at this point that life, financially, became very hard. I now paid a toll everyday. $9 each day plus gas was hitting us hard. Overtime was scarce ...

Bills piles up slowly, most went unpaid for months. Tax returns helped, so did mid-year holiday pay. But every month was the same. Do I pay the rent or do I pay my daughter's tuition and put some food on the table? On top of all this stress, I had to suit up every night and solve every one else's problems. It is funny because I couldn't even solve my own.

Months went by and things got a little better. My wife was able to secure a good part time job in lower Manhattan. Bills got paid, but not all of them. We lived check to check and barely made it. We were a happy family, just getting by. Soon after that in the middle of 2006 my wife was let go by her job. Her boss needed someone full time and my wife just couldn't be there at 8 a.m. and work until 6 p.m. in the evening. Child care was a priority and I now worked the midnight shift. I didn't get home until 9 a.m. or later if I made a collar. I was able to obtain a loan from the Municipal Credit Union to help fight off some bill collectors and pay some rent. It felt good for about a week or so. This is not what I imagined life as a New York City Police Officer would be. I would never have placed myself or my family in such a position.

Fast forward now to 2007. I had been giving my landlord bits and pieces of the rent each month to hold her off. I live in a beautiful three bedroom duplex in a great neighborhood. My rent is $1,600 plus utilities. Starting June 1, it will be $1,800. I don't have to worry about that because I won't be here. Matter of fact, I don't know where we will be. I only bring home $1,247 bi-weekly. There wasn't enough money to go around. Each month that went by just made the debt even worse. Give $800 one month, then the first of the month comes around and now we owe $2,400 and so on and so on. It kept getting worse.

The car payment was not made, then my daughter's tuition. My wife and I don't answer our phone anymore. We screen our phone calls and look at the caller ID to see if it is a bill collector. I have not been able to pay my daughter's tuition three months. I have not paid my rent in full in over three months as well. Last week my wife and children woke up to no lights, television, or phone. We had to make an emergency payment just to turn everything back on and live.

Three weeks ago I had to sell my television for $800 to try and pay some bills and buy my children some summer clothes. This is what it has come to? This is what a family is supposed to live like? As a man I am ashamed of myself. I come home everyday and find my pregnant wife crying in bed, worried about where we are going to be come June 1. My landlord is unable to pay her own bills because of me and needs new tenants who can pay their rent on time, and in full. Do you think this is stressful? You're damn right it is and I have had enough.

I will no longer put up with this struggle. I have attempted in the past few months to get a second job working off duty to help out. I put in an application for off-duty employment in February 2007! I approached one of my ranking officers three weeks ago about the status of my application and if the captain had signed off on it so I can begin working. Do you know what I was told? That the application just couldn't be found! I personally put that application in a sealed envelope, dropped in the mailbox inside my base and made photocopies for myself. I was told to just fill out another one. It has been three weeks since then and still no word. This is a joke ...

My wife and children are most likely going to leave New York and move down to Florida come the middle of June. They will stay in Fort Lauderdale with her parents for three to four months while I stay here and try to make and save some money so we can get back on our feet. On top of all the stress I deal with every night, now I wont be able to come home to my children's laughter and my beautiful wife's face. Everyday my in-laws say move on down to Florida and become an officer here. It is a better life for you and the kids, they say. I have friends who are NY State Troopers in Columbia County making $75,000 to guard the trees. I deal with harsh conditions every night and bust my behind to bring home around $43,000 without overtime. I can only laugh because it is the only thing that keeps me sane.

Should I leave now and give my family a better life? Will a new contract be signed since the city has such an overflow of cash right now? Do I keep the faith in my city? Will I ever be able to buy my wife and children the home they truly deserve?

I was born and raised in the Bronx. I now patrol the city every night. I am beginning to feel that my city, the home I love, has betrayed me and my fellow officers. We all deserve better ...

I have a degree in Business Management from Manhattan College and I can't even provide for my family. I can't get out of this grave I am digging without the help of my city.

Something needs to be done.

I am swallowing my pride as a man, a father, an officer. I need to know if there are any programs to help me out, whether it is with housing or financially. I can no longer survive in the city that I love.

As of this moment as I type this letter, I have $42.70 in my checking account and negative $4.74 in my savings account. I need help. My fellow officers need help.

The letters C-P-R are emblazoned on the side of each and every patrol car in the NYPD. It stands for Courtesy, Professionalism, and Respect.

What it should stand for is CANT PAY RENT.

Respectfully Yours, Officer Joseph J. Harmon Jr., Shield # 18134