Hempstead Village police officers were honored for their service Saturday, as part of National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.
Local officials and community members gathered at Hempstead Village Hall to present a certificate of appreciation and thank you cards written by local schoolchildren to police.
The event, which included a prayer and a rendition of “God Bless America” by two Girl Scouts of Nassau County members, was organized by the Metro NY Chapter of the Concerns of Police Survivors, or COPS, a nonprofit composed of families and co-workers of officers killed in the line of duty.
Leslyn Stewart, president of Metro NY Chapter of COPS whose husband, NYPD Det. Dillon Stewart, was killed on the job a decade ago, said it was important to support police.
“We certainly feel in light of ongoing negativity directed toward law enforcement nationally, there’s a need to show law enforcement officers that citizens recognize the difficult and sometimes deadly career they’ve chosen as public servants,” Stewart said. “So on Jan. 9 of each year we will join the call to rally our nation’s citizens to action in support of law enforcement.”
Hempstead Deputy Mayor Luis Figueroa said village police are very active in the community.
“They risk their lives every day, and we must recognize them and commend them for the work that they do,” he said.
Lamont Johnson, Hempstead school board president and a former Hempstead Village police officer, said many officers are liked by the community.
“It wasn’t difficult to get students to say something good about police officers, despite what they see in the news and despite what they see in social media, because they are treated well by the Hempstead police department,” he said.
Hempstead Assistant Police Chief Joseph Sortino said the department has worked with local residents for years. “The community is not afraid to step up and be our eyes and ears,” he said.
Hempstead Sgt. James Murphy said the dozens of handwritten cards — like one that thanked police for keeping schools safe and “showing us how to be a hero like you” — warmed his heart. Sortino said the cards will be displayed in the police department lobby.
The national Concerns of Police Survivors launched the appreciation day last year, following the deaths of NYPD Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were fatally shot in December 2014 as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, said Dennis Jones, executive director of Metro NY COPS.