When Michael LiPetri played lacrosse at Nassau Community College he liked the sport’s aggressiveness and relished being a point man on offense.
“I like to lead from the front,” LiPetri said recently about his playing days.
As a newly minted three-star chief in the NYPD, LiPetri, whose promotion ceremony is Thursday, has the chance to be out front as a leader of a different sort, this time as the department's chief of crime control strategies. It is a post requiring him to supervise all department crime strategies and be as innovative as possible at a crucial time in policing.
LiPetri, 47, was born and raised in East Meadow and still lives in Nassau County with his wife, Melissa, a teacher, and their two children. He was sworn in last week to take a job that many in law enforcement consider one of the most important in the NYPD. The post is seen as both vital in the quest to to keep crime down, and a main component of the department's highly touted Neighborhood Policing strategy.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea has said the Neighborhood Policing program is a big part of the NYPD’s future and critical to the department's ongoing efforts to repair its relationship with communities of color. In a statement to Newsday, Shea, 50, said he chose LiPetri for the job he held just two years ago because of the new chief's proven ability to meld data with action.
"He knows the importance of real-time response," Shea said in a statement to Newsday, "and will transform crime data into actionable strategies to continue driving crime down across the City."
While LiPetri is one of several three-star chiefs in the department, he reports directly to the police commissioner.
Shea said LiPetri brings plenty of experience to the job but also "a true concern for all New Yorkers. His solutions-oriented approach has for years brought justice for victims."
LiPetri said in an interview that he doesn't plan on being just a number-cruncher. The new chief said he also wants to find out when and why crimes occur and whether the NYPD could have helped the victims beforehand to prevent it.
“Maybe we could have handled situations, before it escalated, better,” LiPetri said. “I am going to be drilling down on a lot of the calls for service to see if we are providing service.”
Aside from one uncle in law enforcement, policing was not a dominant career path in LiPetri’s family. His parents, Robert and Mary, were both educators. After earning an associates degree at NCC, LiPetri transferred to SUNY Cortland, where he played lacrosse as well.
LiPetri was about three months shy of graduating from Cortland when he learned his number on the NYPD hiring list was about to expire. He had taken the police test along with three friends from East Meadow High School and he had to either join the NYPD or lose his spot.
“I had to make a tough decision,” he said.
In 1994 LiPetri decided to make policing his life's work. He joined the NYPD and began a career that has taken him from precinct commands in Queens and Brooklyn to the office of the Chief of Department Terence Monahan.
“This was a lifelong dream of mine. I always wanted to be a police officer,” said LiPetri, adding that of his three East Meadow High classmates, two joined the NYPD and the other signed up with the FDNY.
He went back to school while on the job and ultimately got master's degrees from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan.
In his most recent assignment, LiPetri supervised the “Ceasefire” program, which is aimed at deterring gang members from reverting back to violence when they are paroled or on probation.
LiPetri had little warning that Shea intended to make him a three-star chief and in charge of the crime control strategies office.
“I was extremely humbled,” LiPetri said when told of Shea's decision, “and extremely excited."
He is now part of an NYPD legacy extending back to the days of the legendary Jack Maple, who formulated the Compstat strategy that advanced policing in the 1990s. LiPetri's predecessor, Chief Lori Pollock, now runs the NYPD office of collaborative policing.
LiPetri said he still believes in the interests of cops and expects to be out on the street with them when necessary.
“I am a hands-on executive who would never, ever ask anybody to do anything I wouldn’t do," he said. “It is extremely important to me, and I have always, always led that way — I have always led from the front.”