Updated Dec 30, 2016

Hymn to Jim: NYPD Graduates Urged To Follow in Commissioner’s Path

555 Newest Officers Ready for Streets

UPHOLDING A FAMILY TRADITION: Joseph Vigiano Jr., whose father, a Detective with the Emergency Services Unit, died during the 9/11 terrorist attack, receives the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association Award for Outstanding Company Sergeant at NYPD graduation ceremonies Dec. 28. From left, PBA President Patrick J. Lynch, Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, Officer Vigiano and Mayor de Blasio.

Both Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill himself held up Mr. O’Neill as a role model to 555 new NYPD officers at their graduation ceremony Dec. 28.

“I want you to think about him because he sat exactly where you are sitting today 33-34 years ago,” Mr. de Blasio said. “Jimmy O’Neill came up through the ranks starting as a patrol officer, rising up to the highest uniformed rank of this department, and now to Commissioner. Let that be an example to all of you that through hard work and commitment and focus, any member of this class could one day end up running this extraordinary agency.”

‘Show Respect’

“Make good decisions,” Mr. O’Neill said in his first address to Police Academy graduates since he replaced the retiring William J. Bratton as Commissioner in September. “I want to see you do your best. I want to you 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 have to 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.”

About half the last few Commissioners have been outsiders; the last member of the NYPD to rise from Police Officer to Commissioner was Raymond W. Kelly, who ran the department for 16 months under Mayor David Dinkins and then for 12 years under Michael Bloomberg.

His predecessor, Bernard Kerik, started out in the NYPD but advanced only to Detective Third Grade before Mayor Rudy Giuliani made him Correction Commissioner and then Police Commissioner. (He later served 3½ years in Federal prison after pleading guilty to tax fraud and making false statements to investigators.)

The Out-of-Towners

Other Commissioners since 1990 have come up in agencies in Boston (Mr. Bratton), Washington D.C. (Howard Safir), and California, Atlanta and Houston (Lee Brown).

Mr. de Blasio highlighted another distinguishing feature of the graduating class.

“We now with this class are completing the process of adding 2,000 more officers on the beat in this city than what we had just a few years ago,” he said. “The biggest increase this department has seen in patrol strength since 2001.”

Total uniformed strength, which had hovered around 34,500 for several years, was 36,133 as of Nov. 30, the department said.

The two officials also discussed the neighborhood policing program developed largely by Mr. O’Neill when he was Chief of Department. The program, which is now in about half the city’s precincts and all the housing commands, assigns officers to patrol the same sector regularly so they get to know the residents they police.

“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,” the Commissioner said.

Tribute to Hero’s Son

“There are amazing stories in this class, amazing stories of commitment and sacrifice and single-minded devotion to getting to this day,” Mr. de Blasio said. “But I want to single out just one because his family’s story is so pow­er­ful—Officer Joseph Vigi­ano Jr. His father, Det. Joseph Vigiano Sr., died on 9/11 serving in our Emergency Services Unit. And that same day, Joseph lost his uncle, John Vigiano Jr., a firefighter with Ladder 132 from Brooklyn.

“Well, Joseph, I want to say to you, there are many people, today, following great family traditions. But, I tell you, you are honoring the memory of your father and your uncle by making this choice to serve in the NYPD.”

Mr. O’Neill joined in the praise of Officer Vigiano, who later received the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association Award for Outstanding Company Sergeant from PBA President Patrick J. Lynch.

But the Commissioner highlighted another newly-sworn-in officer as well.

Passed Test Under Duress

“There’s also Police Officer Elwin Martinez—an exceptional young man who show­ed incredible courage under fire in the 4-3. When 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 likely saved other officers who were directly in harm’s way. Thank you, Elwin. Let’s give him a round of applause.”

The NYPD commanders who crowded the dais stood for the ovation.

Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo was fatally shot in November as he approached, on foot, a vehicle driven by Manuel Rosales, who had invaded his ex-wife’s Bronx home. Officer Martinez, on his third day in the field, fired back.

And Mr. O’Neill mentioned Terry-Ann Ferguson, who grew up in Trinidad and St. Lucia before her family moved to Brooklyn, worked as a Traffic Enforcement Agent while waiting for an NYPD appointment and in 2008 joined the Charleston, S.C., Police Department.

Earned Spurs in Charleston

“A year later, she was deem­ed their Cop of the Year,” he said. “Officer Ferguson was commended in a resolution by the South Carolina House of Representatives for using CPR to save the life of a one-year-girl who nearly drowned in a bathtub over Easter weekend last year.”

She was hired by the NYPD and returned to the city to graduate with this Police Academy class.

“I can’t wait to see what great things she will accomplish here, on behalf of all New Yorkers,” the Police Commissioner said. “These are the kinds of amazing men and women the NYPD is hiring.”

Mr. O’Neill expressed some envy for the graduates, saying, “I’ve got a great position, here, as Police Commissioner…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.”