From the Street to the Beat: 2 police officers help guide Uniondale man to NYPD success
A Uniondale resident says he was once an at-risk youth, but two police officers helped him get on the right path.
Willie Thompson, 25, says the journey from the tough streets of Uniondale to the NYPD was not an easy one.
"There was gang violence in the school. It was kind of rough," says Thompson.
Thompson attended Uniondale High School, where he says most of his friends headed down the wrong path.
"One of my best friends in high school is in jail right now for 30 years for stabbing someone," he says.
Thompson grew up in a single-family household, and like many people in his neighborhood, he says he had a distrust of the police.
Growing up in Uniondale, Thompson says he was surrounded by gangs and violence, but never wanted any part of it. Thompson found out about the Police Explorer Program at school.
Community Affairs Officers Dan Johannessen and Bob Graves, with the Nassau County Law Enforcement Exploring program, say the program helps kids ages 14 to 20 years old stay off the streets, and shows them firsthand about careers in law enforcement.
The director of the program says thousands of young adults like Thompson have benefitted over the last decade.
"I remember Willie being that young adult who couldn't make eye contact," says program director Mario Doyle. "And has matured into a young man who is giving back to the community"
Thompson says he made it clear he never wanted to be a police officer but officers Johannessen and Graves saw something in him he never saw in himself.
The officers say because they knew that Thompson was capable of being a great officer one day, they surprised him by driving him into the city and signing him up for the NYPD test.
"They're telling me I got to take a police test and I was nervous, of course, but in the end I passed," says Thompson.
Thompson says after passing the exam he did not have enough money for a uniform or a car to get to work. He says Johannessen and Graves loaned him money so he could buy a car.
"I see him as a success already, he's grown into a wonderful man," says Officer Johannessen
Thompson has been with the NYPD for the past two years.