Nassau Police Headquarters building renamed after its 1st Black commissioner

The building is now officially The William J. Willett Nassau County Police Headquarters named for the Glen Cove native and Navy veteran, who in 1953 joined the police department.

News 12 Staff

May 11, 2021, 10:39 PM

Updated 1,167 days ago

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The Nassau County Police Department honored a former commissioner who broke racial barriers and became the top brass.
The building is now officially The William J. Willett Nassau County Police Headquarters named for the Glen Cove native and Navy veteran, who in 1953 joined the police department.
On Tuesday, Nassau leaders and members of William J. Willett's family gathered in Mineola for a ceremony to rename police headquarters.
"It's a great testament of all the sacrificing and dedication that he put forward to the county of Nassau. Bill, we are so proud of you," said wife Floretta Willett.
"With the naming of headquarters, my father, those who weren't in his presence of Bill Willett will be invoked to inquire who he was and his legacy will live on forever," said Willet's son, Daniel.
"His father and his friends said, 'Forget about it, don't do it.' At that time, the department already had it's 'quota' of people of color," said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.
"We welcome all to this police department today and it is because of the trailblaze of Bill Willet that set the groundwork that makes that happen today," said Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.
Willett rose through the ranks of the department and ultimately became the first Black police commissioner in the history of Long Island, and Nassau Police says it's building on that legacy. They have 103 sworn officers who are Black, 25 who are Asian and 185 who are Hispanic.
"He made a decision to make his life meaningful. He made a decision to make a difference," said son Blake Willett.
And now Willett's name and legacy are a permanent part of Nassau County's past and present.
"If you really believe in who he was and what he was trying to accomplish, through all the adversity, it is now your turn," said Dan Willett.
There was one rank Commissioner Willett did not have, which was that of detective.
He was promoted to detective during the ceremony and his shield number, 1029 was retired -- it will never be worn again by another officer in Nassau County.


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