As a boy, Bryan Garland watched his mother, Nassau police Det. Sgt. Jo-Ann Distler, head off to work in her blue uniform. Some afternoons, when his mom worked at the First District Court in Hempstead as a liaison officer, he visited her after school.
Garland, previously a seventh-grade math teacher in Bushwick, Brooklyn, has now followed his mother into a career of police work. He’s one of 175 new Nassau police officers who graduated from the police academy Tuesday night — the exact date 31 years ago that Distler joined the force.
“I saw how much she loved going to work every day and how proud she was representing the county,” said Garland, 25, who’s been assigned to the First Precinct and grew misty-eyed when his mother presented him with her shield to wear on his uniform. “It feels great. I’m really proud of my mom and the work she’s done.”
Nassau Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, Chief of Department Steven Skrynecki and County Executive Edward Mangano presented diplomas to the 175 Nassau recruits at the academy graduation at Hofstra University. An additional 10 officers — six for the Nassau sheriffs, two Malverne officers and one each from Old Brookville and Port Washington — also graduated.
Krumpter implored the newly minted officers to keep at the forefront the department’s philosophy of service-oriented policing.
“When you’re sitting with grieving parents who have just lost a child, make sure that they’re OK before you leave them,” Krumpter advised. “When you stop for your meal or a cup of coffee, spend a few extra minutes chatting with people you come into contact with. . . . And most importantly, never ever forget, that when it’s time for you to enforce the law, be tough, be firm, but most important of all, be fair.”
The class, one of the largest in recent history, includes 37 officers with law enforcement experience and 12 former military members. The class has 19 women, two of whom are Hispanic, 10 Hispanic men, seven black men and one Asian man, according to department officials.
And the department plans to keep hiring: On Thursday, another 150 Nassau police recruits are set to be sworn in to begin another academy class. The recent hiring blitz, including 183 rookies who graduated in October 2015, comes as the department has sought to fill spots amid record retirements.
So far this year, about 40 officers have retired and that number is expected to grow to more than 100 by year’s end, Krumpter said.
Among Tuesday’s graduates was Jason Williams, the first Nassau officer to have gone through the police explorer program as a boy and another young officer hoping to emulate the work of family: Taylor Nardo, the daughter of Homicide Det. Robert Nardo and his wife, Det. Jeanette Nardo.
Following a family member into law enforcement is a long tradition. And Distler said she knew her son would do her proud.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he will be an awesome police officer, he’ll make Nassau County very proud and he’ll serve the community extremely well,” she said. “The best advice I gave him is to let his integrity be his moral compass, just be true to who he is, just remember his integrity, and he’ll succeed.”