One On 1 Profile: Lieutenant Tony Giorgio Was Tasked With Arranging Funerals for NYPD Officers Killed on 9/11
For almost 20 years, Lieutenant Tony Giorgio has headed the NYPD’s Ceremonial Unit, which means he plays a big role in the department’s commemorations and celebrations. It's a path he could not have foreseen when he joined the NYPD in 1983. NY1's Budd Mishkin filed the following report.
Twenty-three New York City police officers were killed on September 11th. The task of arranging their funerals fell to Lieutenant Tony Giorgio.
"This was different," Giorgio says. "This was different because of the mass casualties. This was different that it was an attack on our city."
Giorgio has headed the NYPD ceremonial unit since 1997. He and his team have overseen the funerals of thousands of New York City police officers, both active and retired.
There is an extra level of pressure when an officer has been killed in the line of duty.
"Our task is, get that family through the worst day of their life," Giorgio says.
"It's on you to make sure every ceremony, every funeral is done exactly to protocol and is as close to perfect as you can get it."
In Battery Park City stands the New York City Police Memorial, with the names of more than 800 police officers who have died since the beginning of the NYPD.
After September 11th, Giorgio had a dilemma.
"We had multitude of funerals. There were no bodies recovered," he says.
How do you have a traditional funeral without a casket?
"We came up with memorial tables. We came up with different types of celebrations of life ceremonies," Giorgio says.
Giorgio was on Liberty and West streets across from the World Trade Center only blocks from his apartment when the second plane hit.
"I saw the devastation every time I came home. I saw the destruction every time I woke up in the morning," he says. "So it became my life for a number of months, to get through every one of these funerals."
After September 11th, New York came together.
It was a different atmosphere in December 2014 when two officers were assassinated as they sat in their patrol car in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The vitriol from the police union and many officers toward the mayor was palpable. The headlines blared. None of which could affect Giorgio and his team.
"We're working with families. We're working with the members of the affected precinct that lost those officers. We're working with out-of-town officers coming in. We're working with the local clergy. We're working with the funeral home and their staff. So all the noise around it, we're sort of not paying attention to," he says.
One of the police officers, Wenjian Liu, was of Chinese descent.
Giorgio says when he first joined the ceremonial unit, most of the funerals were Roman Catholic. But the NYPD, and its funerals, have changed.
"Buddhist funerals, Tao funerals, all different types of religion and then figuring out what type of protocol should we put into place," he says.
Much of Giorgio's work is joyous, such as overseeing, hosting and rehearsing every single aspect of promotion ceremonies. And he's the guy leading the NYPD band in parades all over New York.
"We realized what the reaction was when you see an officer play a musical instrument or sing, that the community connected more," he says.
In the early '90s, the NYPD knew that Giorgio had a background and college degree in music. So it asked him to form a choir for a concert for returning veterans from the first Gulf War.
That led the department to ask Giorgio to reform the NYPD band for parades. Now, the unit plays in police department band competitions around the world.
Giorgio has conducted at Carnegie Hall and led the band as it gigged with Jon Bon Jovi.
He’s also overseen the creation of the department's steel drum band and its jazz ensemble.
"It's a great outreach to communities," he says. "And there's the connection, there's that universal language that the band plays. And it's something to be said when you see a police officer with a trombone in their hand as opposed to a baton in their hand."
Tony Giorgio was raised first in Crown Heights and then Bellmore, Long Island.
"My dream was to be in the Peter Frampton band," he says. "That's what I thought I was going to grow up to be. I was going to be a rock drummer in Peter Frampton and play on tour with him."
His family was musical. His mother went to Juilliard.
Giorgio eventually tried the piano, viola, clarinet and sax. But his final choice of instrument had little to do with music.
"I noticed in junior high, all the drummers had girlfriends, and here I am playing clarinet with no girlfriends. So that summer, I switched over to drums and I immediately had a girlfriend," he said.
Giorgio played in several rock bands and studied music at C.W. Post College. After graduation, he briefly taught music at a local high school. But his grandfather, who owned a deli in Crown Heights, felt strongly about the security of civil service and convinced Giorgio to take the test for the NYPD. He passed, but deferred for a few years.
When the department called in 1983 and said the expiration on the test results was fast approaching, Giorgio took the plunge. And the reaction from his family?
"Oh, that was interesting. 'You went to college to become a teacher and now you're a police officer?' So it was interesting. My mom and dad said, 'If that's the path you choose, we'll support you,'" Giorgio recalls.
Giorgio says he immediately felt comfortable interacting with the public on patrol, even though it coincided with a violent chapter in New York's history.
"The crack wars just started. Shootings, you heard them, for blocks away, you could hear the shootings," he says. "We never had any type of foresight that, 'Oh, this will change in a decade or so.'"
Giorgio is a divorced father of two, and a serious runner and marathoner. He never got to tour with Peter Frampton, but he’s happy with the path chosen, helping police officers and their families celebrate and mourn.
"You know, I love music. It's in me. It's in my DNA. It's always going to be there. But I just couldn't see myself doing that for next 20, 30 years," he says. "I was looking for something else. I didn't know what that would be until I got a phone call and said, 'Let me try that.' And it was no looking back since then."
EXCLUSIVE: Rikers Island correction officers attacked, inmate slashed in bloody weekend at jail complex
This is no cause for cell-bration.
Days after Mayor de Blasio touted an "astonishing" turnaround at several units in Rikers Island, two inmates unleashed simultaneous attacks against correction officers in an apparent attempt to get transferred out of one of the specialized facilities, sources say.
Around the same time, an inmate was nearly killed after he was slashed in the neck in a different building at the troubled jail complex, capping a bloody Friday.
The disturbing mayhem began at 6:22 p.m. when inmate Tyquan Lesane, 20, assaulted Correction Officer Ernesto Brands, delivering several brutal blows to his face inside the George R. Vierno Center on Rikers Island, a video obtained by the Daily News shows.
At that same moment, inmate Ibrahim Doombouya, 18, who is also a listed as a member of the Bloods gang, assaulted correction officer Timothy Edmund, 26, splashing him with an unknown liquid and striking him in the face. Edmund's then blasted Doombouya with pepper spray, "which achieved the desired effect," documents show.
The inmates were communicating with each other across a partition moments before the assaults, a source said.
NYPD Assistant Chief Terence Monahan will be taking over as the department’s new chief of patrol, police sources told The Post on Monday.
Monahan, commanding officer of the NYPD’s chief of department’s office, was selected as a result of top cop Bill Bratton stepping down as police commissioner, sources said.
Monahan will replace Carlos Gomez, the highest-ranked Latino within the NYPD. Gomez will be promoted to Chief of Department, the first Hispanic to ever hold the position.
Outgoing Police Commissioner Bill Bratton took a parting shot Monday at critics of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk and broken-windows policies.
“The advocates out there that want to do away with broken windows … that feel that they can totally do away with stop, question and frisk, they’re crazy, they’re out of their minds,” Bratton said at an event hosted by the Citizens Crime Commission.
The broken-windows theory of policing — which tackles small quality-of-life offenses as a way of deterring more serious crime — has been at the heart of Bratton’s philosophy for decades.
And while stop-and-frisk has been greatly reduced under Bratton’s administration, he has maintained the controversial practice’s usefulness as a policing tool.
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‘The streets are gone,” Dean Angelo, president of the Chicago police union, told me last month. The night before, Aug. 14, a Chicago police officer’s son had been killed in a shooting while sitting on his family’s porch, one of 92 people killed in Chicago during the worst month for homicides in the Windy City since July 1993. The August victims who survived included 10-year-old Tavon Tanner, shot while playing in front of his house (the bullet ripped through Tavon’s pancreas, intestines, kidney and spleen); an 8-year-old girl shot in the arm while crossing the street; and two 6-year-old girls.
On Sept. 6, a 71-year-old man was accosted by a teen on a bike while watering his lawn. The robber demanded the man’s wallet and when he refused shot him in the abdomen, then grabbed his wallet before pedaling away.
By Sept. 8, nearly 3,000 people had been shot in Chicago in 2016, an average of one shooting victim every two hours. Five hundred and sixteen people had been murdered. Gun homicides and non-fatal shootings were up 47% over the same period of 2015, which had seen a significant rise in crime over 2014.
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