Irish pride will be on display Saturday during the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. And once again, thousands of police officers will be marching — reflecting the long history of Irish-Americans in the nation's largest police department. NY1 Criminal Justice Reporter Dean Meminger examines that rich legacy.
For NYPD lawyer and bagpiper Brian Meaghar, there was never a question he would join the Police Department.
"Both grandfathers, four uncles, my father and my brother were all officers in the NYPD," Meagher said.
The NYPD's highest ranking uniformed officer, Chief of Department Terence Monahan tells a similar story.
"My grandfather was a cop back in 1927, my father came on in 1946 after serving in the Marine Corp in World War II," Monahan said. "My brother came on in 1972. And in 1982, I came on the job. We are coming up on 90 years of consecutive history of my family in the NYPD."
With the promise of steady pay and good benefits, the NYPD has long been a draw for immigrants, especially the Irish. Seventy years ago, at least half the force was of Irish descent. In many families, in many neighborhoods, sons followed their dads into the department. That's Chief Monahan's Bronx story.
"When I grew up in Parkchester it was predominantly an Irish Catholic Neighborhood," Monahan said. "We all went to St. Raymond's High School and grammar school.
"Our fathers who all lived in that community were cops, and we all became cops. It was just something, at least for me — it's what I always wanted to do. I really never wanted to do anything else."
For Brian Meagher, playing the bagpipes is part of the family's NYPD legacy.
"My great-grandfather he immigrated to The Bronx, but he actually learned here in the Bronx how to play the bagpipes," Meagher said. "He taught all of his sons, two of which were NYPD officers who founded the NYPD pipe band.
"The most important job that the band does would be line of duty funeral. And it doesn't matter the ethnicity of the fallen officer. It's the tradition of the NYPD."
Those bagpipers, along with the rest of the NYPD's Emerald Society, will be front and center Saturday at the city's St. Patrick's Day Parade. The Emerald Society — a fraternal organization of Irish-American cops — was founded 65 years ago as the department began to diversify.
Now, the NYPD is a virtual United Nations, featuring more than 80 nationalities including many officers from places like Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Pakistan, China and Russia.
Commissioner James O'Neill who is a proud Irishman and Chief of Department Monahan say diversity is important in the NYPD.
"I want to see the best move up," O'Neill said. "Honestly, as much as I am proud of being Irish, I am more proud of this agency and what we can do for this city. I want the best individuals.
"I don't care, White, Black, Spanish, Asian, I want the best. Just because I am Irish doesn't mean that I need an Irish person coming up behind me."
That said, Irish-American cops are still a large part of that diversity — and they still carry a lot of clout in the NYPD.