The Village of Liverpool, New York shared a video on their Facebook page of a very special radio broadcast in honor of the retirement of a man who served as a dedicated public servant for more than half a century, Police Officer John M. Praskey. On the post, they wrote, “A bittersweet day in the Village as we wish a Happy Retirement to Officer John Praskey after 51 years of dedicated service in law enforcement. We wish you the best!”
The post and video can be viewed here, in which they share about his many years of service as well as the many places it took him. The broadcast mentioned his part in quelling the dangerous prison riot at Attica, just one year into the job; his service at Ground Zero on 9/11; the Security Detail he provided for then Vice President George H. W. Bush, his heroism when he went into a burning home alone to save a man’s life ahead of the arrival of the Fire Department; and many more.
On June 15, 2020, Congressman Katko in the United States House of Representatives honored Officer Praskey. The Congressional Record with Congressman Katko’s comments that day about John’s distinguished service can be viewed here. The Congressman shared many of the same details about John’s service that the Village of Liverpool did, but he also mentioned his acts of kindness. These included some examples such as giving a stranded motorist $10 out of his own pocket for gas and arranging for the victim of a bike theft to get a new one when John found out that they relied on their bike for transportation.
Officers who worked with John also benefitted from his generosity. At seventy-six years of age, since he was able to do so as a part time officer, John would provide last minute shift coverage for his fellow officers when they needed it between eight and fifteen times a month. An officer who worked with John described him as the most dedicated officer they had ever known, someone who was always connecting with members of the community through community policing and a friend to everyone he met.
Officer Praskey’s dedication truly knew no bounds. On September 11, 2001, John was at his mother’s memorial service, then on his way to the cemetery when he saw a sign on a pizza place that said, “God Bless America” that told him that something was not right. He asked about it and upon finding out what had happened and after saying goodbye to his mother at the cemetery, he volunteered to go to Ground Zero, rather than use his bereavement leave.
When John spoke of that choice on 9/11, he said that he thought it would be better to do what he could to help than to spend his time being sad, which wouldn’t do anyone any good. Instead, he worked a command post at Ground Zero, where all he had that first day to communicate with was a portable radio and a phone, though by the end of that day, he said they were much better equipped.
Officer Praskey’s first call was during a snowstorm when everyone was snowed in without a snowplow, including him. He talked a worried father with a sick child through getting in touch with neighbors until they found one who was a doctor who had medicine. As a result, the child recovered and all was well.
John’s last call was to check on the status of an older woman. Meals on Wheels had become concerned when they had not seen her and had called in their worry. Upon investigation, John discovered that the woman was simply out of the house, quite well, and with her daughter.
When asked which call was his favorite call, John shared that the absolute worst calls were always calls about children who were killed and the very worst part of those were the ones when he had to give a death notification to a child’s parents. He was once on his way to perform a death notification for what was believed to be the child of the parents he was to notify. Before he made the notification, he discovered that the child was alive and well, a few doors down. He said it was a wonderful relief.
John’s philosophy in police work was positive in nature. He said that as a supervisor, he would never ever ask anyone to do anything he himself would not do. When he interacted with the public, he never hammered them. For example, when there were numerous charges that could have been pressed, John would write up the one or ones that served the overall purpose, rather than giving them so many that would probably be reduced later on anyways. He said that people appreciated that too, that he would give them a break, rather than throwing the book at them. John also tried to use conversation as a way of cooling things off. He described himself as a talker, not a fighter.
An officer that worked closely with John described him as a friend and said that it hurt to lose him. He said that some officers do the job because it is what they do for a living, some officers do the job because it is their profession, but that John is in the third category, which is those who do the job because it is who they are.
Police Officer John M. Praskey, thank you for your dedicated and distinguished service, sir, from all of us here at the I.U.P.A. as well as NYSUPA.