Suffolk County Police School Resource Officer Andrew Fiorillo has the unique job of patrolling hallways instead of streets in an effort to bridge the gap between youth and law enforcement.
The 14-year veteran has been working as a school resource officer with Huntington and South Huntington school districts for more than 10 years. And while he is a sworn law enforcement officer “Officer Drew,” as he is called, protects and educates students in need.
“I love to speak to them as a mentor, not a police officer,” Fiorillo said in an interview at the 2nd Precinct headquarters in Huntington.
Prior to becoming a police officer in 2001, Fiorillo, a graduate of Queens College with a bachelor’s degree in teaching, was a New York City firefighter. When he got the call offering him a job as a police officer, he knew it was where he was meant to be, as he wanted to help make a difference.
Fiorillo said walking the hallways helps both he and the students get to know each other better. He spends his days walking and talking and helping students in need. The officer said there are many different challenges he faces on a daily basis, which include speaking with students about issues they may be having, giving presentations to forming relationships and ensuring the school environment remains a place where students feel safe to learn and teachers feel safe to teach. Each day is different, which makes it exciting for him, he said.
“I explain things, show how to correct things, obtain information and deliver it in a non-confrontational way,” Fiorillo said.
The officer spends his days in the schools and sometimes goes into classrooms and delivers presentations to the students. One of the presentations he gives is the zero-tolerance law for drinking alcohol under the age of 21. He helps students understand that they cannot operate a motor vehicle with any blood alcohol content if they are under 21.
Fiorillo said he lives by the motto, “no problems, only solutions,” and that is what he tells students when they are in need of advice or any kind of help. He also teaches students that character counts and to do the right thing when no one is watching.
Huntington Superintendent Jim Polansky spoke highly of the officer and said he has proven himself to be a resource for everyone around him.
“They know he is there for them and will go out of his way to help them,” Polansky said in an interview. “I can’t see anyone doing a better job than him.”
Many can attest to Fiorillo’s passion for helping students. Those who encounter him each day say he goes above and beyond his daily duties and is not only spotted in the schools, but also at community events.
Huntington High School Principal Carmela Leonardi said Fiorillo is very approachable and that students “flock to him.” She also said he has been a partner to the administration and helped create a great environment.
“The ultimate goal is to provide a safe learning environment where kids can learn and teachers can teach,” Fiorillo said.
The officer said he is very thankful and lucky to get the opportunity to work with the students, teachers and administrators, and he hopes to continue the path for a very long time.
“We have an opportunity as police officers to have a positive influence in young people’s lives, which will hopefully help them become better in life,” Fiorillo said.