This past week many of us focused on the horrible incident that occurred in Westhampton, which allegedly involved an off-duty member or possibly members of the New York City Police Department. The incident resulted in severe injury to one young man, for whom all of us are praying and hoping that he will have a full and complete recovery. He is a young man whose family represents the very best of us.
While that investigation continues with intensive help from the New York City Police Department, some New Yorkers missed a really wonderful story that took place late Thursday evening, involving a New York City Police Officer who exemplifies the professionalism and dedication that marks the overwhelming majority of the men and women of the NYPD.
On Thursday afternoon 18 youngsters from a school for children with special needs were on a field trip to the Bronx Zoo. At about 1:30 in the afternoon two of the young women, aged 17 and 18, somehow got separated from the group. One of the girls had Downs Syndrome, the other was mentally disabled. They'd never been out alone before, and their parents, family and school staff were very concerned for their safety.
At three o'clock the Police Department was notified. A task force was immediately created and a command post was established at the Bronx Zoo, where over 80 people, using dogs and helicopters conducted a thorough search for the missing girls.
At 10 O'clock that evening, pictures of the girls appeared on local newscasts. A 29-year-old Police Officer named Robert Jackson was watching Channel 5, as he prepared for his midnight shift at the Sixth Precinct.
Officer Jackson boarded the A-Train. When he reached 50th Street he saw two girls he thought might be the missing students. Still in plain clothes, he approached them, identified himself and showed them his badge. The girls confirmed that they were lost, tired and very hungry, having ridden a bus and subways for many hours.
Officer Jackson called for a radio car and took the young girls to the precinct house, where all the officers showered them with attention and brought them food and flowers.
I'd just left the command post at the Bronx Zoo, where Commissioner Safir and I had held a press conference to urge New Yorkers to be on the look out for the missing girls, and was on my way back to Gracie Mansion, when I got the call that they had been found.
I was very fortunate to be there when the young girls and their families were reunited at the precinct house. It was a beautiful and moving scene.
I want to take this opportunity to once again thank Officer Jackson. A graduate of Rutgers, with just two years on the police force, Officer Jackson acted with great professionalism. His alertness and compassion averted a possible tragedy.
I'd also like to thank the officers of the Sixth Precinct -- not only for the dramatic declines in crime they have achieved -- but also for their kindness and compassion toward two frightened, confused youngsters.
This week, you provided us with a welcome reminder that most New York City Police Officers are dedicated professionals, who make our city a safer and better place to live.
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