Posthumous Promotions Serve as Point of Contention Within the NYPD

Promotion of slain NYPD officer stirs debate in police community.

NYPD Officer Miosotis Familia sat alone inside of a mobile command vehicle parked in a rough Bronx neighborhood on July 4th.  She wasn’t out running and gunning.  She wasn’t hunting for bad guys.  She didn’t just kick a door while serving a warrant and catch a bullet on the other side.  Officer Familia took a single shot to the back of the head execution style while writing in a memo pad.  She never even saw it coming.

Officer Familia joined the force as a single thirty-six-year-old mother of three children. She also was the primary caretaker of her aging mother. Prior to attending the New York City Police Academy, Familia had a successful career in the medical field – where she obtained her degree and advanced from medical assistant to nurse.  I don’t know how things work up in New York City, but I know of a lot more cops striving to become nurses than the other way around.  Down here in Georgia we call what Officer Familia did “taking a pay cut” – but for officers like her, this job is a calling.  Familia is just the third female officer killed in the line of duty in the long and storied history of the world’s most acclaimed police department.  While it’s an honor no female NYPD officer wishes to have, it is quite the honor, nonetheless.

When she was lowered into the ground on Monday, Officer Familia was posthumously awarded a promotion to Detective First Class by NYPD brass.  This promotion is not merely symbolic.  By bumping Familia up from the Police Officer rank to Detective First Class, it puts her in a higher bracket within the police officer’s pension fund.  This should help the family collect a little bit of extra scratch now that she’s gone.  While perusing one popular NYPD police officer’s forum, Thee Rant, I became aware that there are varied opinions on this practice from within the force. A User with the handle RetirementIsParole wrote, “I had hoped this well meaning yet nevertheless insulting practice would end with Kelly’s exit, sadly Bratton perpetuates it.” about the posthumous promotion of a fallen colleague.

Some officers that agree with this sentiment believe that posthumous promotions “cheapen” the rank of Police Officer because it will cause the history books to inaccurately show a disproportionately high number of line of duty deaths at the Detective rank when it was really the officers in the trenches taking the grenades. To be fair, many of these officers are not against a maximum death payout to the family. It is the symbolic promotion that bothers them.  It is a fair point, but at what cost is it made? Another officer with the handle krepke wrote, “The officer is barely in the ground and you people are discussing this? How vulgar. Not the time.”

Of course, there are those in support of the posthumous promotion.  This group believes that it is a good gesture on the part of the department to acknowledge the sacrifice of a deceased officer.  After all, how are you going to be told you didn’t earn the stripes on your sleeve at your own funeral after you’ve given your life for the department, the citizens, and the profession as a whole? Is sacrificing all somehow not good enough for a promotion because you didn’t take a written exam? Sorry that you died and all but you didn’t put in the study time for that promotion, Officer.

This faction is best represented by the user, Santos, who had this to say: “…I think it is nice for the family. We are ALL police officers, regardless of rank. Like in the army, whether you are a general or a private, you are a soldier. Not everyone is wrapped up in the day to “goings on” of the NYPD. If that little kid -who was wearing his dads eight-point hat at today’s funeral- is proud that his dad is now a “Detective”, it was worth it…”

I look at it the way I imagine any cop killed in the line of duty would if they were around to weigh in on it – pragmatically.  It is no mystery to me whether Detective Familia cares at all about the symbolic promotion she received from wherever she may be now.  I imagine that Familia is far more concerned with how her three kids will get on now that she won’t be around to provide for them financially throughout their lives.  If she could sit down with us and talk about it, I think she would say that she was both relieved and thankful for the extra money her family will be receiving now that her death pension pay rate has been bumped up a bit.  They say ghosts are troubled souls stuck roaming the earth because they cannot let go of unfinished business down here.  If there is any reality to this notion, then hopefully knowing that her kids will be taken care of helps Detective Familia pass on peacefully to the afterlife.

I’d also be willing to bet that many of the officers criticizing the department’s tradition of posthumous promotions would feel quite differently if they were the ones being honored for giving their lives in the line of duty.  I get it.  Street cops are the tip of the spear in any department be it a large or small one – and as a soldier on the front line, a cop with the rank of Police Officer will always sustain the most loss of life.  We are the most important, yet most taken for granted rank in any department – but hear this. If you’re still around to complain about the “good name” of the Police Officer rank, then you haven’t got the skin in the game to complain about it being “cheapened” by the posthumous promotions of officers that have provided the most ink in writing the legacy you’re trying to defend.

In this police officer’s opinion, there’s just no tasteful way for one cop to come out against a practice that benefits the families of their fallen brothers and sisters whether it be symbolically or financially.  Stop feeling insulted and show some respect.

People outside of policing like to complain about the Thin Blue Line mentality.  As a Jersey kid growing up in the shadow of New York City, I always thought of the NYPD as the torchbearer for that Thin Blue Line that we all hear about.  My own father – a police officer in NJ – was a constant reminder of how NYPD and Port Authority cops were representative of the best examples of brotherhood and fraternity that our profession had to offer.

It wasn’t just the post 9/11 stories of those heroes running up flights of stairs toward the fire in search of survivors just before the towers fell that gave me such a high opinion of New York City cops, though those officers are truly legendary and add to it in a huge way.  It was rather all my positive memories of them before 9/11 that have shaped my opinion.  Without question, they’d look out for my dad and I anytime we would visit the Big Apple.  Whether it was the two foot-beat officers in Manhattan who took us out to eat when pop asked if they knew of a good place in the area, or one of the many that helped him find a place to keep his weapon anytime we’d go into a gun-free zone over the years, my southern colleagues could learn a few things about brotherhood from our brothers to the north.  Down here, we’ll write each other tickets, lock each other up, and brag about it. The brotherhood is fractured.  It’s just not the same and it needs improvement.

Differences in opinion on posthumous promotions aside, there’s not a better place to be a cop if you’re looking for brotherhood and fraternity than the New York Police Department. Rest in peace Detective Familia. Your family is taken care of.

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T.B. Lefever
T.B. Lefever is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and active police officer in the Metro-Atlanta area. Throughout his career, Lefever has served as a SWAT Hostage Negotiator, a member of the Crime Suppression Unit, a School Resource Officer, and a Uniformed Patrol Officer. T.B. is also a certified Field Training Officer. He has a BA in Criminal Justice and Sociology from Rutgers University. Follow T.B. on Twitter @tblefever.

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