Fallen officer's priority: his daughters

New York City Police officer Peter Figoski was

New York City Police officer Peter Figoski was shot and killed while responding to a robbery in Cypress Hills Monday morning. This photo, taken from Corinne Figoski's Facebook page, shows Peter Figoski with his four daughters, from left, Caitlyn, Corinne, Caroline and Christine. (Credit: Facebook)

Joye Brown

Newsday columnist Joye Brown Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006.

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There came a point after Monday's services for Officer Peter Figoski when the churning, almost endless sea of blue fell eerily silent.

Slowly, slowly as the service inside St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church came to a close, the thousands of law enforcement officials scattered for blocks and across a portion of the Babylon high school athletic field pulled into a series of imperfect lines, undulating over the distance before standing almost perfectly still.

The only sounds, as officers bore the coffin containing Figoski's body from the church, were the smart snap of flags in the wind. Followed by "Taps" and, later, high-flying helicopters and the sorrowful beat of drums as the hearse made its way down the street.

That sea of blue was made up of police officers, highway patrol officers, firefighters, paramedics, federal marshals and others who flooded the bucolic Village of Babylon Monday.

To honor one officer.

One man.

One father.

And to support his family.

Because, while Figoski loved working as a police officer, he -- as mourners were reminded time after time Monday -- relished the job of father even more.

"Pete's devotion to his own family was legendary," Commissioner Ray Kelly said. "His locker at the 75th Precinct is covered with pictures of his four beloved daughters. They meant everything to him."

When there was a choice between a coveted overtime assignment and time with his daughters, Figoski chose wisely.

"To his supervisor's surprise, he turned it down," Kelly said. "When he was told later how much money he could have made, he beamed and said, "I got a chance to spend a beautiful day with my girls."

That was eight days ago, Kelly said.

It is telling that Figoski, the police officer other police officers turned to, didn't talk much about his hard, dangerous job at home. Like other officers, he didn't want his family to worry.

"If his children asked him what had happened at work the night before, he'd say, "Absolutely nothing. I just sat in the car,' " Kelly said of the 22-year veteran who was promoted posthumously to detective. "But the reality was very different."

In a letter read by family friend Juan Mendez, the officer's four daughters spoke lovingly of their father. And alluded to his enviable ability to separate his work as an officer from his work as a parent. They did not know the extent of Figoski's police family until he died.

"We now feel connected to a side of our dad we rarely saw at home," they wrote. "He always put us first."

As those words were read, a few officers standing outside, near a bank of loudspeakers, smiled and nodded their approval.

It was as if Figoski was passing along a lesson, reaching out to every officer in that crowd and maybe even to everyone else.

It was a reason to celebrate him, as an officer, a man, a father, even in that sea of sorrow.