Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

Remarks by Commissioner Brian Fischer
Medals and Memorial Ceremony
Albany Training Academy
June 10, 2010

Let me begin by personally thanking Senator Dale Volker and Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry for their comments. Both have been long time supporters of the Department and the work our staff do every day. I also want to thank Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, who became chair of the Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction last year and has shown great interest in and support for our agency and its mission. Lastly, a thank you to Mary Kavaney, our Deputy Secretary for Public Safety and our representative in the Governor’s Office.

It is easy, given all the serious issues facing us here in New York these days, to become distracted and self-absorbed. The everyday problems that confront us, both at work and at home, can often make us less aware of those around us, including our co-workers and what they mean to us in our daily lives.

Maybe that’s why a medal and memorial event such as today’s is so significant. We take time to stop to talk and reflect upon about what is truly important – honoring those for their personal actions in helping others, and honoring those who are no longer with us, but who did the jobs we have done and continue to do. Today is when we try to reconnect with one another and, in the process, reconnect with what is important within ourselves.

We all live and work in two worlds, the world outside with our friends and families and the world inside the prisons with its inherent levels of intensity and difficulty. As corrections professionals, we often find ourselves using the professional skills we learned over the years in our actions in both worlds. Those skills allowed our medal recipients to come to the assistance of strangers in peril. They exemplify the best in all of us. I believe that each of us, when called upon, will step forward and do whatever is necessary to assist others in need.

Our fallen colleagues, when called upon, did what they could to protect themselves and others from harm throughout their careers. Their deaths resulted from actions beyond their control. They chose this profession to do right by those we are asked to care for. Too often, however, those we try to help fail to understand and accept our efforts.

As the years go by, fewer of us have personal memories of the fallen. That is why it is so important that we, as an organization, set aside this day, each year, to pay our respects to those no longer with us. This day also serves to remind us of what can happen at any moment.

The saying, ‘Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it’ has special meaning to people in our business. Vigilance, awareness and preparation are far more than mere words to those in the criminal justice arena.

Likewise, the names that will be read aloud are far more than mere words. As you listen to each name, remember that these fallen heroes were once just like us. They were employees who came to work one day that ended tragically. They did what was asked of them by society and paid for their efforts with the ultimate sacrifice.

We acknowledge our two honorees today with medallions they can proudly wear. We pay our respects to those no longer with us by calling out their names and honoring them with a 21-gun salute. It is not as much as we would like, but it comes from our hearts.

I thank you, the families and friends, of all of our honorees today. A thanks also goes to all of our employees and their families and friends for giving of yourselves to make this a better and safer State.

Thank you.