With the country still reeling from a horrific shooting in California this week, local politicians and community leaders paid tribute to police heroism at the Be Proud Foundation’s annual police appreciation luncheon held Friday at the Galaxy Restaurant on Avenue U.
“Anytime something happens and we are running out, you are the one’s running in,” said Be Proud Foundation president and founder Raisa Chernina. “I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for us.”
This is the the 10th annual appreciation luncheon held by the foundation. This year’s event drew half a dozen elected officials. Many of them noted the heightened peril faced by local law enforcement from terrorist threats and mass shootings, like the ones seen this Fall in San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, Paris, and the campus of a community College in rural Oregon.
“These conflicts that we’re fighting, we’re not just fighting them in battlefields across the world and at military bases, we’re fighting now in civilian centers,” said City Councilman Mark Treyger. “And who is at the frontlines protecting our civilian centers? It is the men and women of the police department.”
Treyger criticized those who “bash the police” for being misguided and urged those seeking criminal justice reform to focus on electing politicians who will pass laws to change the system.
“Police officers don’t make policy, they enforce policy,” he said. “We should never bash the police.”
The ceremony was also attended by State Senator Simcha Felder and Assemblymembers William Colton, Helene Weinstein, Pamela Harris, And Steven Cymbrowitz, as well as Democratic district leader Nancy Tong.
Tong an Colton passed out blue ribbons for people to show their support for the NYPD. Colton said some of the ribbons were made at a local senior center attended by the mother of Officer Wenjian Liu, who was gunned down along with his partner while sitting in their squad car last year.
“These are not the easiest of times. And when there is a problem, our police officers run into the face of it to protect us all,” Colton said.
The ceremony also recognized officers for their work improving the lives of local residents. Three local officers were given awards for helpling the Be Proud Foundation and the Tovushi Kavkazi Jewish Youth Center steer young people away from drugs.
Eighteen-year-old Jessica Gorbenko, who is a high school senior, surprised Sergeant Anthony Caggiano with a special plaque to show her appreciation for when the officer helped guide her during a difficult time. She said Caggiano encouraged her to seek counseling when she was in danger of dropping out of school and frequently clashed with her family.
“I was so appreciative of his help and I felt better about myself knowing that I had help from a person like him,” said Gorbenko. “It felt good to be able to say thank you.”
Captain Winston Faison, commanding officer of the 61st Precinct, said that the police were very appreciative to be recognized by the community for their hard work.
“It’s definitely a moral booster. We often get negative feedback for things we do and a lot of times it feels good to have some positive feedback,” he said. “It’s not just about putting handcuffs on people. We do things like helping kids, searching for missing kids and reuniting them with their parents. We do more than just arrest people.”