DNAinfo

June 17, 2016 1:36pm

Gay NYPD Officer Who Came Out at City Hearing Honored in Street Renaming

By Trevor Kapp

The intersection of Washington Place and Sixth Avenue will now be named "Sgt. Charles H. Cochrane Way." (DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp)

GREENWICH VILLAGE — Thirty-five years ago, NYPD Sgt. Charles Cochrane stood up at a contentious City Council hearing on a gay rights bill and announced he was gay.

On Friday, the city honored Cochrane by naming the intersection of Washington Place and Sixth Avenue after him.

“Charlie possessed the instincts, the composure and the eye for detail that helped him excel in every aspect of police work,” NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill said. “Charlie knew every law, every department procedure and treated everyone he encountered with the utmost respect.”

Cochrane worked in the 71st Precinct in Crown Heights during the 1970s and later served in the Midtown South Task Force. He died of cancer in 2008.

In 1981, then-Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association Vice President Pat Burns spoke out against the city’s gay rights bill at a City Council hearing and said he didn’t know of any openly gay policemen.

Cochrane stood up at that hearing and came out as a gay man. 

“He said, I’ve got to do this,” Cochrane’s sister Mary Anne Cochrane Sundresh said of her brother Friday. “To know the community not just here in New York but around the world has kept it going, it shows the spirit.”

PBA President Pat Lynch attended Friday’s street renaming ceremony.

Cochrane Sundresh said she was in awe of how the country’s attitude toward the gay community has changed over the past few decades — as evidenced by the support following Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando. 

“Do you really think that 35 years ago thousands of people would stand in line and donate blood for six or seven hours, would they do that when they think it’s for that community?” she asked.

“That’s how far we’ve come.”