Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

Remarks by Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci
DOCCS Annual Memorial Service & Medals Ceremony
Albany Training Academy June 12, 2014

Good afternoon. Thank you Joe, and once again welcome to all of our guests joining us here in remembering and honoring the memory of our 42 fallen co-workers, and in saluting the heroic actions of the five staff members being recognized today.

I have had the honor of attending all 15 years of this sacred event, with both the last one and this one as Acting Commissioner of the Department. I will tell you that with each year, my respect, appreciation and admiration for the courageous actions of members of our staff, grow exponentially, and each time I see and hear the names of those who tragically gave their lives in the line of duty, my somber feeling of loss runs deep. It is significant to note that this year, we are not adding another name to the memorial. Above all else, I want each and every one of our more than 29,000 employees, to return safely to their homes and loved ones, at the conclusion of their workday.

This year has reminded me that you are never through learning, and even after my nearly thirty years of experience at DOCCS, I continue to acquire a deeper understanding of why this is the finest corrections and community supervision department in the entire country. It is because we can and do work together, as a family. It is because we care for each other, and support one another, as a family.

are in a profession that is inherently dangerous, and each and every day that any one of us walks into a correctional facility or into a regional community supervision office, or makes a home visit to a parolee, there is that chance that something could go wrong. If even for the briefest of moments, we were to let our guard down, or lose our focus, or fail to maintain constant vigilance, then, we have increased the risk that any one of us, or one of our co-workers, will be harmed. And even when we do take every reasonable precaution for the sake of safety, the element of risk is never eliminated.

We are charged with supervising a difficult and oftentimes violent inmate and parolee population. We strive to prepare our staff for the potential dangers in our line of work, and when there is an incident, we review what happened, and we examine all possible ways to improve our work environment and our procedures in order to protect staff, the inmate and parolee population, and the people of New York State.

It is an on-going challenge and one that we must constantly focus upon together. And that is something this department can do, and does do well. Now whether you like the store or not, entrepreneur Sam Walton created a massive company which we all know as Wal-Mart, and when asked about his success he said, "We’re all working together. That’s the secret."

That also happens to be the secret for this agency, and it is what has brought us here today. We are together to honor the exceptional actions of five of our co-workers. And we are together today to remember our friends and colleagues, who gave their lives while working to keep New York State safe.

As this ceremony was approaching, and I looked back over the events of this past year, I was reminded how much our employment in this agency, is like the membership we have within our own families. Every year we celebrate personal milestones with each other, we help each other out when tough times arise, and we mourn with each other when we experience a tragic loss. Do we always get along and see eye to eye on every single issue. The answer of course is no. But then again, that too sounds like a family. What is vitally important is that, when the chips are down, we stand together as a family. When we face a formidable challenge or undertake an important new initiative, we put aside any differences and work together as one. That’s the secret.

We are motivated to do our jobs at a high standard, by each other and by the people we remember today, who taught us that doing the right thing isn’t easy. I hope today, as the names of the 42 men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty are read aloud, that we once again are unified in honoring the sacrifice they and their families have made. And that through their sacrifices we are all driven to make sure we watch out for each other, we support one another, and we continually strive to be both the finest and the safest department of corrections and community supervision in the country.

One last observation I would like to share with you comes after a recent visit to Sing Sing Correctional Facility. The Hudson Link college program held a graduation ceremony and the keynote speaker was talk show host and actress Whoopi Goldberg. After the ceremony Ms. Goldberg came up to me, and she commented on what an inspirational event it was. She then asked how she could be of help. I told her she could use her national platform to help bring us more private donations for the college program. Later I thought the real lesson here is that no matter who you are, and what you do, each and every one of us has the potential to be of help. I then wondered whether or not we make that offer to help often enough? The five medal recipients who are being recognized today did much more than offer to help. They took decisive action under perilous circumstances without regard to their own personal safety, and I personally, am very proud of the fact that together, we are all members of the same DOCCS family.

Thank you.