2000-12-20 / Editorials


Holiday Wishes To All

It's that time of year, when the world falls in love, as the song says--with the idea of hibernating from mid-October through Arbor Day. There's too much to do and not enough hours in the day to do it. That one special gift that was everywhere last July before it zoomed to the top of everyone's "must-have" list can't be found for love nor money, and without it we'll disappoint both whoever wanted it and ourselves. Deadlines--at work, at home, everywhere--loom closer and closer.

In the midst of it all there are still moments that make us pause and reflect on the wonder underlying it all. It's noteworthy that nearly every major religion has some sort of celebration at about this time of year. Christmas, Chanukah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Tet--all have different meanings for the faiths and belief systems they represent, and yet they're all fundamentally the same. They call for an anticipation of the renewal of life from the barren depths of winter, the promise of the coming of spring, the return of hope.

As is the case every year, this holiday season gives us a reason for hope and belief in brighter, better days to come. Whatever your faith, whatever the reason you're celebrating, may you have all the joy this time of year can bring. We wish all of you, our readers, the very best of holiday seasons and a healthy and prosperous new year.

Thank Cops For Gift Of Safe City

This holiday season, three Queens families are giving thanks for a very special gift--the lives of two toddlers and a livery cab driver. The gift of life came in the form of the heroic work of eight police officers from two Queens precincts and an Emergency Services Unit.

Officers Wesley Flippen, John Cuttrone, Robert McDonald and Christopher Twomey, all assigned to the 114th Precinct, were on duty in a police van May 15th when they were dispatched to the Jackson Heights home of two-year-old Anthony Dellavecchia. Young Anthony had climbed over a fence and fallen into the swimming pool in his back yard. When the officers came to the Dellavecchia home they found the child in his frantic mother's arms, blue from lack of oxygen. The officers called on other precincts to clear local streets and sped to Elmhurst Hospital Center while Flippen and Cuttrone administered CPR. Anthony recovered.

On Sept. 22nd another two-year-old boy wandered away from a parent and somehow trapped himself between a garage wall and a giant shipping container on 32nd Avenue, also in Jackson Heights. The house owner allegedly refused to unlock the garage door for them, so Officers Stephen Blihar and Paul Talty of Queens Emergency Service Unit 10 climbed down an opening near the back of the container and came within five inches of the child. They then used the Jaws of Life tool to move the container one inch, grabbed the boy's hand and pulled him to freedom. This child also recovered.

The livery cab drivers's life, along with those of many of his colleagues, was saved at about 5 a.m. on June 24th in the midst of a rash of robberies and murders of car service drivers. Officers Mark Winkler and Matthew McGuire of the 103rd Precinct in Jamaica were on patrol and noticed a livery cab at Jamaica Avenue and 193rd Street. As they approached the car, which had stopped in the middle of the street, they could see four men inside, one of whom in the back seat was holding a gun. Without using their own weapons, the officers after a violent struggle disarmed the man and arrested three suspects. The livery driver was unhurt and scores of other drivers were spared being robbery and possibly murder victims because of the arrest.

The eight Queens officers were among 60 of New York's finest honored by the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association recently. At the same time stories appeared in daily papers about cases lost or improperly closed by the Civilian Complaint Review Board and developments in the case of Abner Louima's civil suit against the city, which names the P.B.A. as among those persons and organizations responsible for the attack on Louima in the 70th Precinct station house in Brooklyn August 9, 1997. Louima's lawyers are seeking not only monetary damages, but also are calling for the P.B.A. to change its policies for advising and counseling officers who are being investigated for alleged acts of police brutality, which attorney Johnnie Cochran termed an "endemic societal problem."

Accusations of misconduct and police brutality have hovered over police officers almost from the moment the first police force was formed. It should be obvious, however, from the officers honored by the P.B.A.--and by the people whose lives they saved--that society is better off with police than without them. It should also be obvious that while there are some bad apples in every barrel, most officers join the force to make a positive difference in the lives of those whom they swear to protect and serve and this is how they spend their careers.

The P.B.A. honorees are not the only outstanding members of the New York City police force. Most police officers have never failed to maintain the utmost courtesy, professionalism and respect, even before those three qualities were made a Police Department slogan. We also stand in awe of their ability to cope with the examples of the worst aspects of humankind which they see every day.

The families of the toddlers and the cab driver rescued by police will tell you that the eight men who came to their aid not only gave their loved ones the gift of their lives, they are themselves a gift to all the New Yorkers they serve and protect. It wouldn't hurt for us to say "thank you"--if not in word, than in deed by conducting ourselves in such a way that we make their jobs easier, not harder.

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