Police commissioner praises Officer Peter Figoski

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly join police as they assemble outside St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Babylon for the funeral of NYPD Officer Peter Figoski. (Dec.19, 2011) (Credit: James Carbone)

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Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's words of remembrance for Det. Peter Figoski, provided by the New York Police Department:

Monsignor Heller. Monsignor Romano. Mayor Bloomberg. To Pete's parents, Frank and Mary Anne. To Paulette and the children. And to all of the members of Pete's family. On behalf of the New York City Police Department I extend our deepest condolences to you.

Today, as we honor the memory of Peter Figoski, we recall the words engraved on the national law enforcement memorial in Washington, D.C.: "It was not how these officers died that made them heroes; it is how they lived."

Today, we remember how Pete Figoski lived, full of enthusiasm for his family, for his friends, and for his fellow officers. Pete could always be counted to defend the weak against the strong and to fight for what was right. He believed good should prevail over evil, and he worked to make it so. Other officers just felt safer knowing Pete was around.

To quote one of them, "This was the guy you wanted to show up if one of your family members ever needed help."

Of course, Pete's devotion to his own family was legendary. His locker at the 75th Precinct is covered with pictures of his four beloved daughters. They meant everything to him. Eight days ago, Pete was offered the chance to work a coveted overtime assignment in Manhattan.

To his supervisor's surprise, he turned it down. 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."

Like most officers, Pete didn't want his family to worry about him. If his children asked him what had happened at work the night before, he'd say, "Absolutely nothing. I just sat in the car."

But the reality was very different. Pete was an extremely active patrol officer. Well into his 22nd year of service, he showed no signs of slowing down. This year alone, he and his partner, Officer Glenn Estrada, made 50 arrests including, as the mayor mentioned, one last August for a gunpoint robbery at a Laundromat.

The two suspects never stood a chance. They were up against Officer Estrada, a marathoner, and Pete, who could outrun suspects half his age. Together, they chased down both perpetrators, arrested them, and recovered the weapon. It was one of more than 200 arrests Pete made throughout his career. He joined the police department in 1988, when the crack epidemic was on the rise and violent crime was at its peak.

Pete was on the front lines and he handled everything that came his way. In 1996, he was among a group of officers who responded to a call of domestic violence. A man had shot his sister and barricaded himself inside his apartment. When police arrived, the man began firing wildly.

He had positioned guns at every window. Pete and his fellow officers held him at bay until reinforcements could arrive. Eventually, he surrendered and handed over an arsenal of weapons. Further investigation revealed him to be New York City's infamous Zodiac Killer who had already shot four people.

For his bravery that day, Pete was awarded one of the department's highest honors: the Medal for Exceptional Merit. It was one of a dozen medals he earned and one more example of why he was such a tremendous asset to his command. Fellow officers have spoken admiringly of Pete's stamina. Of his calm under pressure. Of his patience. Of his easy way with people. And of his hair. He had a full head of it. I've heard it was never out of place, not even after a grueling foot pursuit.

Throughout the command, Pete was looked upon as a model for how to do things right, whether it was searching a prisoner or helping someone who was homeless to find shelter.

Peter Figoski sacrificed his life in East New York, where he spent his entire career assisting the residents of one of the poorest places in New York City. He did it with a dedication that showed in his record of arrests and medals. And more broadly, the data shows how crime plummeted by 90 percent in the 75th Precinct during his 22 years of service there.

Pete wasn't one to seek recognition. He didn't feel the need for praise. But let there be no mistake about this: Peter Figoski was at the forefront of a crime-fighting revolution that changed New York City forever. He was a hero for the way he lived and for what he helped to accomplish.

Where do we get police officers like Pete? We should thank God for them every day. Surely, the same God who tests our faith is also responsible for putting men like Pete among us. The police department and the entire city were blessed every day he was with us. His example of compassion, bravery, and devotion will never be forgotten. May God bless Police Officer, now Detective Peter Figoski. May God bless his family. And may God bless and protect his fellow officers.

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