Recent events in New York City and the increasingly violent attacks on police have given me much to think about and remember. As Christmas came closer, memories of the loss of two Jersey City officers and their funerals were reinforced by the funerals of the two murdered New York City officers. The general sadness once again overshadowed a department around the holidays.
I remember when Shawn and Robbie died December 25, 2005. It was a foggy night. A major bridge had to be shut down because the safety equipment signaling that the drawbridge was being raised – was not functioning. Jersey City patrol units manned the Jersey City approach to the bridge as well as the Kearney New Jersey approach. Kearney asked for mutual assistance as they were short manpower.
Patrol Captain Mark Hussey had been promoted with me two months earlier. The Kearney unit requested additional flares. Captain Hussey gave permission to leave the city to deliver the flares; standard operating procedure.
After exchanging holiday well wishes, Rob and Shawn headed back to Jersey City over the closed bridge. Unknown to them because of the dense fog, the bridge had been raised. They plunged to their deaths in the icy waters of the Hackensack River.
In the days and weeks following (during the funerals especially) Captain Hussey was devastated with the loss of two of his men. He blamed himself for sending them to their deaths. He often cried regretting his decision.
I talked with Matt about the loss and his trying to deal with it. I told him that we cannot foresee everything that will happen when we make a decision. We try to cover as much as we can to minimize any loss or damage. We try to protect our officers at all costs. Sometimes some things happen beyond our control and our ability to predict future outcomes. Sometimes it’s just plain luck, or lack of it, that controls the outcome.
He thanked me, seemed to calm down and accept the inevitable may just happen and there’s nothing we can do to control it.
Four years later, tragedy struck the Jersey City Police Department once again. I authorized a high- risk tactical breach entry as the City Commander. Five officers were shot and wounded that day, one dying of his wounds.
As I waited for any word from the doctors concerning two of my officers in surgery, I wandered around the waiting area, sometimes stealing away to a secluded quiet area to have a good cry. That’s when I spotted Captain Hussey walking toward me.
In words that seemed so familiar to me, he gave me the same advice I had given him earlier. It was funny how those same words given were now being received. Comfort shared and given is comfort also received.
As we now endure the grieving period and once again bury two of our brothers, let’s try to be there for each other. This is when we rise to the level that makes being a police officer more than a profession, it is family. Lean on each other, cry if you need to, no one will judge you wrongly. They all feel the same way. As I did for Captain Hussey, he did for me.
That’s what makes us who we are and separates us from the rest. Family can be blood or blue, let’s draw near each other and protect each other during these horrible times. Let’s all get home after our shift is over.
Captain Robert Cubby served for 38 years with the Jersey City (NJ) Police Department, now retired. A PTSD survivor, he has been involved in PTSD issues with the CISM team. A prolific author, Captain Cubby focuses on writing about his experiences and solving police problems. He is a National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) instructor about police matters and a frequent conference speaker.