Today, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – New York City Chapter (AFSP – NYC) and New York City Police Department (NYPD) co-hosted the second annual HOPE Awards. The ceremony, presided over by Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, was held at One Police Plaza in recognition of NYPD officers who have come to the aid of people in crisis.
The actions of the awardees included crisis communication skills, specialized training to treat wounds, sharing information that dispels suicide and mental illness myths, and recognizing the signs of a person in crisis and properly responding. Whether it was rendering critical aid to someone who harmed themselves, convincing a suicidal person to step back from a rooftop ledge, or de-escalating a potentially volatile situation with a distraught person, these officers rose to the occasion to save lives.
The HOPE Awards are a continuation of the long-standing partnership between the NYPD and AFSP’s local and national offices. AFSP-NYC Chapter has supported the NYPD by sharing their Talk Saves Lives presentations at police-community events to raise awareness about the warning signs of suicide, helped develop training for police officers, and sponsored the first-ever NYPD psychological autopsy training created specifically for law enforcement.
“Every single day, NYPD officers go out there and do extraordinary life-saving work. While their acts often go unrecognized, today we stop to acknowledge officers who went above and beyond the call of duty to help those in crisis,” said Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. “Thanks to each officers’ heroism and compassion, people who were contemplating suicide were given a second chance at life. Because of our partnership with the NYC Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we are able to recognize and support our officers in their continued efforts to protect all New Yorkers.”
“Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. Our mission at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide and everyone has a part to play,” said AFSP NYC Area Director Amy Monahan. “We are grateful to the men and women being honored today for their work to save the lives of New Yorkers in crisis.”
1. Police Officer Tim Poon & Police Officer Christopher Collins
While Officers Poon and Collins were on patrol last August in the 10th Precinct, they received a call for a dispute at Pier 61 in Manhattan. During the dispute, the woman became despondent and threw herself into the water in desperation. While arriving on scene, Officers Collins and Poon spotted the woman who was wearing a heavy backpack, struggling to stay afloat in the choppy waters. Officer Collins immediately removed his duty belt, grabbed a buoy from the patrol car, and jumped into the water to rescue her while Officer Poon assisted from the pier. Once they safely brought her to dry land, Officers Poon and Collins listened to the woman while she explained what had happened that led to the point of her jumping into the water. The officers assured her that they were going to get her the help she needed and deserved. Thanks to their compassion and quick actions, the woman voluntarily accepted medical attention and was transported to the hospital to receive the support she needs.
2. Police Officer Mel Mahapong & Police Officer Steven Reilly
When Police Officers Mel Mahapong and Steven Reilly, both of Police Service Area 8, received a call regarding a man with a firearm at the Sotomayor Housing Development in the Bronx, they immediately responded. At the scene, they found a man pacing back and forth while holding what appeared to be a gun. After several attempts to get the man to drop the weapon, the officers slowed the situation down by securing the scene and calling for backup while they continued using their crisis communication skills. Once ESU arrived, they were able to safely take the man into custody. Officer Mahapong accompanied the distraught man into an ambulance where he told the officer that he was acting erratically in hopes that they would be forced to shoot him. Through crisis communications, Officers Mahapong and Reilly were able to contain the situation and ensure that the man was safely taken to the hospital to get help.
3. Police Officer Erika Luna
Police Officer Erika Luna, assigned to the Strategic Response Group, was driving home from work when she spotted a woman sitting on a ledge above traffic on the Major Deegan Expressway. Fearing for the woman’s life, Officer Luna pulled her vehicle safely over to the side of the road and walked back to engage the young woman. Having just completed the NYPD’s Peer Support Program, Officer Luna used her crisis communications skills to demonstrate empathy and concern for the woman. Officer Luna remained calm despite the woman remaining on the ledge, and the two continued their conversation. After some time had passed, Officer Luna continued to build rapport and eventually she was able to get the woman to step back from the ledge. While they waited for an ambulance to arrive, Officer Luna comforted the young woman assuring her she was not alone and that she would get the help she needed and deserved.
4. Police Officer Brian Kearney, Police Officer Joseph Vincent, & Police Officer Adam Gonzalez
When a New York City ferry crew noticed a man floating in the water, they called 911 for help. Officers Brian Kearney, Joseph Vincent, and Adam Gonzalez, assigned to the Harbor Unit, quickly responded and pulled the injured man onto their boat. The distraught man had just jumped from the RFK Bridge and was alert, but unresponsive. Knowing that time was of the essence, these officers transported him to the nearby FDNY Fire Academy where they had EMS on standby. Thanks to their quick thinking and ability to work together as a team during these stressful moments, Officers Kearney, Vincent and Gonzalez reached land in time for the EMTs to quickly stabilize the man and transport him to the hospital for further treatment.
5. Police Officer Michelle White
While investigating a call for a missing person, Officer Michelle White of Police Service Area 1, discovered that a woman had fled New York City with her young child with the intention of taking her own life. After conducting a search on the missing woman’s vehicle, Officer White determined that the woman was heading towards Pennsylvania and further information revealed that she intended to hurt herself and the child. In an attempt to intercept the woman before she was able to harm herself and child, Officer White contacted multiple firearms stores along the route she believed the woman was traveling towards. Fortunately, Officer White’s efforts paid off and one of the store owners called her back to inform her that a woman and child that matched the description the officer provided were in the store. The owner was able to successfully stall the woman until local law enforcement arrived and placed her in custody. Thanks to Officer White’s determination, great investigative work, and compassion, the mother and child we both safely found.
6. Detective Adrian Goodwin & Detective Ahmed Mahmoud
When a man barricaded himself inside an apartment and threatened to take his own life, the NYPD Hostage Negotiation Team responded to the scene. With the knowledge that the man was wanted in connection to a domestic violence and aggravated harassment incident, Detectives Adrian Goodwin and Ahmed Mahmoud knew they were dealing with a delicate situation. Further, information from a witness at the scene revealed that the barricaded individual had previously threatened his ex-wife with a gun and that he may currently be in possession of that firearm. With assistance from the Emergency Service Unit and TARU, responding officers were able to confirm that the man in the apartment was holding a gun to his own head. By employing crisis communications tactics and establishing a rapport with the man, after six hours, Detectives Goodwin and Mahmoud were able to convince the man to leave his firearm in the apartment and surrender himself to the officers.
7. Sergeant Stephen Daly, Detective Daniel Ortiz, & Detective Michael Langlois
When a report of a suicidal man standing on the edge of a roof in Far Rockaway came over the radio, members of the Emergency Service Squad 9 quickly responded. Sergeant Stephen Daly, Detective Danny Ortiz, and Detective Michael Langlois carefully climbed to the roof and slowly approached the man who was contemplating taking his own life. They built a relationship and developed rapport with the despondent man by communicating with him in Spanish. While Detectives Ortiz and Langlois engaged the man in conversation, other members of the Emergency Service Unit (ESU) strategically positioned themselves alongside the building. Despite gaining the distraught man’s trust, he continued to state that he was going to jump off of the ledge. Understanding that they were running out of time, Detectives Langlois and Ortiz maintained their composure during this tense situation and climbed to the edge with the man while being anchored in place by other ESU team members. Together, they were able to pull him to safety. They continued to assure the man they were there to help and he was later transported to a hospital to receive additional care.
8. Sergeant John Iskaros, Police Officer Christopher Gambardella, Police Officer Kenneth Greene, & Police Officer Francis Torres
Sergeant John Iskaros and Officers Christopher Gambardella, Kenneth Greene, and Frances Torres, all from the 121 Precinct, were the first officers to respond to a scene where a man attempted to use a knife to die by suicide. The quick-thinking officers safely took possession of the knife and immediately applied pressure to the man’s wound, including Officer Gambardella applying his department-issued tourniquet to the man’s arm. Although the despondent man suffered severe blood loss, the officers were able to slow down the bleeding while they awaited EMS to arrive. Thanks to their incredible quick-thinking instincts and training, the officers were able to give this man a second chance at life.
9. Police Officer Ibrahim Morsi, Police Officer Eugene Choi, Police Officer William Bodner, & Police Officer Nelson Gomez
Responding to a call for a suicidal male with a knife, Officers Ibrahim Morsi, Eugene Choi, William Bodner, and Nelson Gomez, of the 24 Precinct, responded to the 10th floor of an apartment. At the scene, they found a mother trying to keep her son, who was armed with a knife, away from an open window. As the officers attempted to get the young man to drop the knife, he suddenly attempted to leap out of the window. Officer Choi swiftly grabbed the suicidal young man by the ankle as he dangled outside of the building. Officer Bodner jumped in to assist and, together, they were able to pull the man back to safety. By effectively using their crisis communication skills, they were able to convince the man into voluntarily dropping the knife. Once the situation was under control, Officer Morsi stayed to listen and provide comfort to the young man in the hospital for over two hours. The officers’ quick thinking and compassion not only prevented the loss of life, but allowed him to start the process of receiving the help that he needed.
10. Employee Assistance Unit
The Employee Assistance Unit (EAU) is a 24 hour, seven days a week operational unit that provides support for members of the NYPD (uniformed and civilians) who are in a crisis, are seeking support, or are in need of resources. Thanks to the dedicated and professional work of EAU’s peer counselors, they have successfully provided care to suicidal members of the service when it was needed most. Additionally, in the unfortunate situations when an NYPD member has died by suicide their compassionate assistance has helped grieving co-workers, family and friends.
In addition to their role during crisis incidents, EAU members also proactively engage in suicide prevention outreach. This includes supporting the newly created Peer Support Program of more than 300 peers, conducting roll calls, developing trainings, and distributing digital and print information.
If you are feeling suicidal or in a crisis help is available and you have options. For emergencies, call 911.
Options for help include: In New York City, reach out to NYC Well, call 1-888 NYC-WELL, text WELL to 651173 Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255) Text TALK to Crisis Text Line at 741741, police officers text BLUE to 741741.