The Distinguished Alumnus Award Winner Peter J. Mancuso ’79 Looks Back At His Career in Law Enforcement

The Distinguished Alumnus Award Winner Peter J. Mancuso ’79 Looks Back At His Career in Law Enforcement

The Distinguished Alumnus Award Winner Peter J. Mancuso ’79 Looks Back At His Career in Law Enforcement

In anticipation of the 2019 Alumni Reunion on April 4th, we spoke to the recipients of our three prestigious alumni awards. Each awardee has paved their way to success and serves as an inspiration to the John Jay community, both for current students and alumni. Their continued advocacy for justice is a testament to the education they received while at John Jay. Our next “Alumni Spotlight” is Peter Mancuso BA’76, MA’79, a Vietnam veteran and former law enforcement official, who is receiving the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

What inspired you to go into law enforcement?
I remember as an 11-year old being inspired by the film The FBI Story, starring Jimmy Stewart and thinking how exciting working in law enforcement would be. That put me on the path. A year and a half after high school graduation I entered the Marine Corps and went to Vietnam. I finished my enlistment as an instructor of young Marine officers in Quantico, Virginia. About a year after my discharge from military service, I took the test for the NYPD and was appointed to the agency 10 months later.

What did you love about working in law enforcement?
What I never anticipated was the wonderful people I would meet within the Department, throughout New York City and beyond. Additionally, the variety of work that I engaged in was inspiring. Every person and every assignment was interesting and instructive. I learned that wherever I went in law enforcement, and whatever the task-at-hand, it all mattered. Being an up-close witness to justice, and at times injustice, was an indelible experience that would shape me during my career and beyond.

“Being an up-close witness to justice, and at times injustice, was an indelible experience that would shape me during my career and beyond.” –Peter J. Mancuso, BA’76, MA’79

How did your John Jay education help prepare you for the law enforcement field?
I attended John Jay College for a total of nine years, from freshman undergrad to earning my graduate degree in Criminal Justice. During each of these experiences, I was juggling school, work, and a family life. While I was an undergrad I worked as a young police officer in Brooklyn, and while I attended graduate school, I was the Chairman of the Police Academy’s Social Science Department. It was rigorous in terms of juggling all three facets of my life, but attending John Jay College was an indispensable experience that became increasingly inspiring each semester.

What were some of your favorite moments as a law enforcement official?
One might be tempted to recall ones’ promotion in rank or position, or a specific arrest or investigation, or even the development and deployment of a program or project that you initiated or contributed to. But I always found my greatest joy in the quieter moments. For example, I received a surprise visit from Rachel Robinson, the widow of baseball legend and civil rights advocate Jackie Robinson, while I was chairing the Social Science Department at the Police Academy. During Mrs. Robinson’s visit, she expressed interest in learning how young recruit police officers were being trained to address and engage with children and juveniles in city neighborhoods. After our nearly 90-minutes of one-on-one conversation, I remember thinking, “If the curriculum we’re offering was accomplishing what we hoped it would, Mrs. Robinson would not be inquiring about it.” So I knew something had to change. Not long after my conversation with her, I was assigned to the Office of Management and Planning and was the Department’s liaison to the Vera Institute of Justice. It was then when I deeply examined our most fundamental police and patrol activities and practices, and I revised the police work. Our Community Police Officers’ approach to children and juveniles received greater attention because of Mrs. Robinson’s visit.

What were some of the more challenging moments?
My two-year attempt during my tenure as the NYPD’s Assistant Director of Training to revive an earlier model of field training was one of the more challenging moments for me. I was fortunate enough in the early 1970s, to help shape the NYPD’s greatest commitment to the field training of new police officers. Because of that, I was driven in the 1980s to attempt to bring back the NYPD’s one-on-one, six-month bonding of the new academy graduates with hand-selected and trained Field Training Officers. While I had the support of the then Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward and many of the command level personnel, it was a bridge too far for me. It would be another three decades before that type of field training would be revived.

“Attending John Jay College was an indispensable experience that became increasingly inspiring each semester.” –Peter J. Mancuso, BA’76, MA’79

Looking back at your distinguished career, what would you say was your most defining moment?
In 1978 when I became the Chairman of the Police Academy’s Social Science Department, an assignment that would last six years. This defining moment has more to do with the people that I would come to work with, like my Assistant Chair, Ed Stubbing, who was in every sense, my Co-Chair. My work with the Police Academy brought me into contact with scores of brilliant, incredibly smart, talented and devoted individuals who worked in and with New York City, both in the public and private sector.

You were instrumental in the development of a number of initiatives and programs within the NYPD, including the Community Police Officer Project (CPOP). How did these initiatives help push the needle forward on justice?
Perhaps CPOP did more to push the needle forward on justice issues than any other single project I was associated with, and for a largely unnoticed reason. During the re-writing and updating of the Social Science curriculum for police recruits, I was captivated by styles of policing throughout history and in different parts of the world. This is when I began imagining the “Police Authoritarian–Democratic Continuum.” I realized that any police department, at any time in history, could be placed on this continuum to determine how authoritarian or democratic their tendencies were. One very important indicator was how accessible a police agency made its services available to an entire community and not just a certain segment within that community. CPOP was the pilot program to what would ultimately lead to a citywide deployment of designated and trained Community Police Officers in every precinct and in every neighborhood.

You also founded the Concerned Alliance of Professional Policing (CAPP). What was CAPP’s mission?
The initial impetus for the creation of CAPP was a chance meeting with one of my former instructors, Howard Tranum. He was retired from the NYPD and was counseling young inmates in the City’s jail system. That led me to think about the possibility of forming a volunteer group, made up of retired NYPD personnel, who could go out into the neighborhoods they used to work in and engage with at-risk youths. CAPP would steer away from its original purpose after the Mollen Commission came into being in 1992. During this time, CAPP can be best described as an NYPD whistleblowers protection program. It was instrumental in changing the NYPD’s policy on disallowing anonymous reports of corruption and misconduct by members of the Department. CAPP was able to provide public support for brave officers who became a key witness to the investigation. More recently, retired NYPD Sergeant and President of CAPP, Joseph Crocitto has moved CAPP closer to its original intention. Under his leadership, CAPP became the Police Partnership for a Better New York and concentrated their efforts toward charitable work aimed at child protection and youth development. Most recently, Crocitto has renamed it the NYC Police Alliance, and the organization supports the relationship between the NYPD Neighborhood Policing Officers and the communities they serve.

During the Alumni Reunion, you will be receiving the Distinguished Alumnus Award. What does this award mean to you?
When coming to John Jay as a young police officer, and a nervous and apprehensive college freshman all those years ago, I could never have imagined this honor being bestowed upon me. I am truly honored and humbled because I know some of the past recipients of this award and they are truly more deserving than I.

“If you are considering a career in law enforcement, remember that it can be one of the most demanding jobs, but also one of the most rewarding.” – Peter J. Mancuso, BA’76, MA’79

What advice can you give to John Jay students who might be considering entering law enforcement?
If you are considering a career in law enforcement, remember that it can be one of the most demanding jobs, but also one of the most rewarding. I had a very good, rewarding career. It was endlessly interesting and always meaningful.

Can you finish this sentence: Without John Jay…
Without John Jay my devotion to and love for justice would have never reached the depth and intensity that it has.