By Kathianne Boniello
After five years in the program, Charles Sedacca, 23, was thinking last fall about giving up his work as an auxiliary officer with the 111th Precinct’s Auxiliary Police force.
“There was a time I did want to quit,” said Sedacca, a Jackson Heights resident who graduated from Bayside High School. “Sept. 11 — it just changed my mind.”
A lot changed in the city after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, from airport security to traffic patterns to the memorials that seemed to pop up everywhere.
But for members of the New York Police Department’s Auxiliary Police Unit, Sept. 11 became the fulfillment of their ultimate role: to provide a civilian support unit for the police in times of national emergency.
That included the approximately 30 members of Bayside’s 111th Precinct Auxiliary Unit, where the program has been thriving, coordinator Officer Michael Desroschers said in a recent interview.
Desroschers, who has been with the 111th Precinct in Bayside since the late 1980s but did not take over the Auxiliary program until August, said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were the kind of national emergency the state had in mind in 1951 when it passed legislation to create the Auxiliary police unit.
The Auxiliary program, Desrochers said, has a structure that mirrors the NYPD itself, with officers, sergeants and lieutenants. Anyone who lives or works in the city is welcome to join the program but must complete a 15-week course, undergo a background check and be fingerprinted, he said. Auxiliary officers cannot give tickets or write summons, Desrochers said, but help serve as the “eyes and ears” of the Police Department, which has been consistently understaffed.
On Sept. 11, the city was in a state of lockdown in which major roadways were restricted to only emergency vehicles, public transportation was stopped and airports were closed.
During the day members of the 111th unit went to the precinct to offer their help.
Auxiliary officers, Desrochers said, were given limited peace officer status, which allowed them to secure intersections and man expressways and parkways in Queens.
“It gave them a little bit more authority,” Desrochers said. The Auxiliary officers also provided security for the precinct and other sensitive areas in the area, he said.
Sedacca said performing his duties on Sept. 11 helped him realize how important the Auxiliary program is.
“I got here at 9 a.m. and stayed for 14 hours,” Sedacca said during an interview last week, before he went out on patrol. “All of us did. We’re all a part of a bigger picture and we all do our small part.”
Auxiliary Sgt. William Almodovar, 33, of Queens Village, has been a member of the program for several years.
Helping on Sept. 11 was a way to release frustration, said Almodovar, because he works near the World Trade Center but was not at work during the terrorist attacks.
“I would have been able to help,” he said.
Auxiliary Sgt. Henry Lin, 33, of Douglaston, has been with the 111th for about six years.
“I do it because I enjoy it,” said Lin, who works full time for United Airlines. “A lot of people do it not because they want to join the Police Department but because they want to give back.”
Auxiliary Officer Edward Eum, 26, of Beechhurst, is a security officer at St. John’s University and has been with the 111th program for two years.
Eum said he enjoys the regular aspects of being an Auxiliary officer, such as providing extra patrols around the precinct, but was also gratified by the group’s contributions during Sept. 11.
“On 9/11 we were able to relieve a lot of the officers and fill in the personnel gaps,” he said.
Capt. Julio Ordonez, commander of the 111th Precinct who describes himself as a product of the Auxiliary Police Unit, said he has great respect for the Auxiliary officers.
“These are people who take time out of their lives,” he said. “It’s a great program.”
Desrochers said the captain’s support shows in how the officers are treated and the responsibilities they are given. In addition to Ordonez, he said, Lt. Dan Heffernan and the 111th Community Precinct Council have also helped nourish the group.
“All this makes for a very fertile ground for the program,” he said.
For more information on the 111th’s Auxiliary Police Unit call 279-5218.
Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.