For a brief moment Friday, it seemed like NYPD Lt. Jack Cambria, a man who made a living by keeping emotional situations in check as the department's chief hostage negotiator, might himself get choked up.
But as he talked with reporters at police headquarters on his final day before retiring, Cambria, 60, of Glen Cove, was able to gather his thoughts as he remembered his 33 years in the NYPD.
"My career has taken me from precinct patrol to the emergency services unit, which I have done for 16 years, . . . now to the hostage negotiating unit, which I have done for the last 14 years. Talk about a flash in the pan, where did it all go?" said Cambria, who began his NYPD career at a precinct in Brooklyn.
Cambria, a soft-spoken man originally from Brooklyn, was in the public eye two weeks ago when he tried to negotiate with Garland Tyree, the man who barricaded himself in a house on Staten Island after shooting a firefighter. Tyree, an ex-con, unexpectedly ran from the house firing his weapon and was shot dead by emergency service police.
"We tried very hard to get that man out of that situation," Cambria said. "He made a decision. Unfortunately it was the wrong decision."
It takes a special officer to be hostage negotiator, Cambria said. He looked for cops who had at least 12 years on the force and were about age 35, old enough to have experienced life and love so they could relate better to people in distress, he said.
"Two things the police academy cannot teach a police officer is compassion and common sense," he said.
Cambria's unit of about 100 averages 40 assignments a month, ranging from emotionally disturbed and suicidal people to hostage situations.
"We have a very high success rate getting an individual out of that crisis situation, a very high success rate, so those are always the positive ones, any time we save a life," he said.
Cambria plans to keep busy, teaching hostage negotiation to private companies and law enforcement. He also will continue his work as a consultant for television docudramas.