NYPD Officer Ross Dichter, who works from his Lynbrook home while he battles 9/11-related cancer, got the surprise of his life Wednesday when Police Commissioner Dermot Shea promoted him to the rank of detective during the annual Police Foundation breakfast.
Dichter watched Shea by a special video link as the commissioner gave the annual State of the NYPD address at The Pierre Hotel before an audience of law enforcement, government and business officials. Dichter later said he was only expecting to be acknowledged for his ongoing crime analysis work for the department. He has kept working even during chemotherapy sessions to battle an aggressive form of cancer, officials said.
Wednesday morning, Shea asked Dichter over a video link if he knew the meaning of the numbers 70 and 46. The question stumped the 45-year-old cop who thought maybe Shea was referring to a couple of police precincts. It turned out to be a joke, and Shea then told Dichter those were the numbers — 7046 — of his new detective shield.
"I was shocked, it threw me a curveball," Dichter said afterward in a phone interview.
Dichter, who has never taken an official sick day in 20 years, was featured in a recent Newsday article that chronicled his continued NYPD work during cancer treatment. Using special secure technology, Dichter is able to review and analyze crime reports of a Manhattan precinct. He was diagnosed with a form of tongue cancer in early 2019 and along with chemotherapy treatment, Dichter has had several related surgeries.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Dichter had been a police officer for about two years when he rushed to help at Ground Zero. While it took years for his cancer to manifest itself, Dichter is now part of the 9/11 health registry, an NYPD spokesman said.
Dichter works as an analyst with the NYPD office of crime strategies where he focuses on incidents in Manhattan’s 20th Precinct on the Upper West Side. He spots crime patterns, informs specialized police units about problems in the area and makes sure crime incidents are properly classified.
He does the work even though with two decades of police service, Dichter could retire tomorrow and spend time with his wife, Karen, and their three children: Michael, 15, Emma, 13, and Benjamin, 9.
The cancer diagnosis came after Dichter noticed a bothersome spot on his tongue that turned out to be a cancerous lesion.
“It was a very painful, big, open sore,” Dichter said in an interview at his home earlier this month.
A series of surgeries showed the malignancy had spread to his neck, jugular vein and then his lungs. Rounds of chemotherapy followed. Surgeons removed one jugular vein but stressed that the procedure wouldn’t impact his life. Tongue cancers, like Dichter’s, have been considered covered under the World Trade Center Health Program.
With the help of a secure laptop containing a special link to the NYPD, Dichter is able to work from home. He even takes the laptop with him to the hospital when he is enduring eight-hour chemotherapy sessions.
On Wednesday, Karen Dichter, kept the children home from school to watch Shea's speech, not knowing that a promotion was coming for their father.
"I am so exited for him," she said. "I think it was well deserved."