Patrick Ryder, nominated Wednesday to be Nassau’s new police commissioner, wanted to be a baseball player before he wanted to be a cop. So after high school graduation, he went west, to Arizona, to try his luck.
Ryder, in an interview Wednesday, remembered quickly coming to the realization that “I’m not making this. I can’t hit a curveball. I’ve got to come home.”
And so Ryder grabbed a Greyhound from Tucson right back to Lynbrook, where he found a job — as a local garbage collector.
At the suggestion of a friend, he took the New York City Police exam and joined that department in 1984. Ultimately, he worked his way back home once more — joining the Nassau County Police Department in 1994.
He’s been there ever since.
Last year, Ryder was appointed acting police commissioner by former County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican. On Wednesday he was appointed by the new county executive, Laura Curran, a Democrat, to take the permanent commissioner’s job.
Once approved by the Nassau County Legislature, Ryder will lose the “acting” part of the title, completing his rise from officer to the department’s top spot.
In an interview, Curran declined several times to say how many candidates she considered for the commissioner’s position. Instead, she noted — several times — that she viewed Ryder as the most qualified candidate.
Ryder is popular within the department. And it’s no secret that police, up and down the ranks, were gratified that Curran opted to keep him rather than bring in an outsider — a move that, over the years, has proved unpopular within the department.
Ryder said his priority is to make the department more responsive to the communities it serves.
“My job is to get out there,” Ryder said. He noted that since being appointed by Mangano he’s been on the move — going to, among other gatherings, Ramadan services with a family in Valley Stream, and a Sukkot celebration.
“I am learning all of these different cultures, getting to really deeply understand them so we can serve them,” he said. “I’ve had 50 meetings with community leaders.”
Ryder said he intended to continue the department’s longtime policy of maintaining good relationships with immigrants, no matter their legal status.
Also Wednesday, Curran and Ryder announced a new neighborhood policing initiative, which will create 19 Commissioner’s Community Councils. Each council — which will be made up of four to six members — is supposed to be a conduit for ideas, concerns and challenges to flow up to the commissioner for response.
The catalyst for the idea?
“It was mine,” Ryder said.
“Look, when I talk to communities, I give the standard ‘This is not the face of the community,’ ” Ryder said, gesturing toward himself. “This is the Irish white guy . . . I can’t walk into your community and say I understand, I know I need to bring in more people who related to the community, and that is why these councils are so important.”