||Officer Ralph Morales
Sharlene Wilson vividly remembers the day she was struggling out of the front door of the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Neighborhood Family Health Center after a doctor's appointment at the South Bronx clinic. She was trying to hang on to five of her seven kids, manage strollers, not drop anything and not lose anybody, when HHC Peace Officer Ralph Morales, better knows as Officer Mo, appeared.
"Let me help you," Morales said. Then he got her a taxi, folded up the strollers, helped her load her lively family into the car, and waved a friendly goodbye as they drove off.
"I've been coming to Belvis since I was 16 years old," Wilson recalls. "It's a good place. And every time I come, Officer Mo gives a smile and a ‘Hi, how ya doin'?' He's a very kind man."
Officer Mo is one of two HHC Peace Officers at the Belvis clinic and one of 715 peace officers throughout the HHC system. The officers guard people, medication, equipment and property, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the city's 11 public hospitals, nursing facilities, large diagnostic and treatment centers including Belvis, and large community clinics. They also teach safety and do their fair share of community relations.
Morales began his 32-year career as an HHC Peace Officer at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, but has spent the last 20 years at Belvis. He is scheduled to work 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
"But in reality I stay until everyone else has gone home," he says. "I want to make sure that everyone gets out and on their way safely."
Amanda Ascher, M.D., Internist and Medical Director at Belvis, says the attention means a lot.
"Officer Mo's presence is irreplaceable. He's attentive. He listens. He checks on me, and when it really gets late, he kicks me out!" she says with a smile. "He says, ‘It's time to go, Doc.' Then he escorts me to my car."
Morales defuses tense confrontations and stays calm in difficult situations, such as the day a brownout hit the Bronx in the summer of 2007.
"It wasn't our fault, but all of a sudden the power dropped and we had several patients stuck in elevators," recalls Elizabeth Rodriguez-Suarez, RN, Senior Associate Executive Director at Belvis.
"Officer Mo took immediate action," she says. "He secured the area and evacuated the patients—including one very elderly gentleman— quickly and safely, maintaining a level of spiritual calm all the while he worked."
Morales grew up in the Bronx and still lives there. After graduating from Alfred E. Smith High School, he enlisted in the Marines, where he spent four years on active duty at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and in Okinawa, Japan, and two years in the reserves.
After returning to New York, he became an HHC Peace Officer. He went to John Jay College of Criminal Justice for training and has done additional study at Pace University and York College. Last year he was recognized with an HHC Patient Safety Champion Award.
"I'm always out there greeting people," Officer Mo says. "I like listening to people and learning. We're like a family here. I look forward to coming to work."