The H. Lee Dennison Building lawn in Hauppauge was a sea of flags Oct. 4 as participants showed support for law enforcement officers across the state.
A few thousand people gathered around the war monuments in front of the Suffolk County building waving American, thin blue line and Trump 2020 flags at the “Back the Blue” rally organized by law enforcement associations and unions representing more than 80,000 law enforcement officers from the New York metropolitan region.
Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association President Noel DiGerolamo, Nassau County Police Benevolent Association President James McDermott, New York City Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY2), family members of fallen officers and more were on hand to address the crowd during the two-hour rally.
Genesis Familia, of the Bronx, was one of the first speakers and was visibly emotional. Her mother, New York Police Department Detective Miosotis Familia, was killed July 5, 2017, by a gunman while she sat in her mobile police command post in the Bronx. The 12-year veteran was 48 years old.
“Ever since that night, my life has been somewhat of a living nightmare,” the daughter said. “My mother was targeted for her blue uniform that she proudly wore for over a decade.”
Familia remembered the last time she saw her mother alive when she asked her for another hug before saying goodbye. She said after her mother’s murder she has helped raise her younger brother and sister. Officers like her mother at times sacrifice time with their families to protect all New Yorkers, Familia said, and she wanted to remind everyone that police officers are “human beings with families and loved ones who need them to come home, just like I needed my mom to come home to me that night.”
Kathy Vigiano, president of Survivors of the Shield, an advocate group for fallen police officers’ widows and children, had a plea for the press to report the “real numbers” regarding crime. Vigiano is a retired police officer and the widow of Joseph Vigiano, a police officer who died in the line of duty on 9/11.
“How many times do police officers put their lives on the line to take illegal guns off the street?” she asked. “New York City police officers took 607 guns off the street in the month of September alone without incident.”
She said officers put their lives in danger every time they stop someone.
“He doesn’t know who he’s stopping,” Vigiano said. “He doesn’t know when he pulls you over for a broken light who you are, but we all know who he is. It’s his job to ensure our safety. It’s his job to come home to his family. To the criminals I say, ‘How dare you? How dare you put his life in danger resisting whether passively or violently.’”
According to a press release from Suffolk PBA, crime is up in the state. It cites national numbers as at mid-July where the number of cops killed in the line of duty was 32, an increase of 28% compared to the previous year’s numbers. It also cites the murder rate in New York City which was up by 50% in August, according to NYPD data.
“The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has surged 28% nationally, as anti-police rhetoric, protesting and riots continue across the nation,” the local PBA said in the release.
During the rally, attendees would sporadically chant, “Back the blue,” and play sirens and blow horns, while drivers passing by on Veterans Highway could be heard honking and shouting words of encouragement.