After 26 years on the job, NYPD Deputy Inspector Paul Valerga called it a career Thursday during a retirement celebration with his colleagues and family members at the NYPD Police Academy in College Point.
Following the celebration, hundreds of officers and police officials were lined up outside of the Police Academy, located at 130-30 28th Ave., and gave Valerga a round of applause as he joined his wife and walked out of the building for the very last time. Valerga previously served as the commanding officer of the 107th Precinct and was part of the Community Outreach Division.
“It’s truly amazing that people I have spent my entire career with and a lot of people’s lives I’ve touched, and they’ve touched me, wanted to come here just to be with me on this day,” Valerga said. “It matters and it shows that it wasn’t just my uniform; it wasn’t my rank, nor my title. It was me who touched these people. I’ve gotten so many beautiful text messages today, and it makes me feel that I did something positive.”
Now that he’s retired, Valerga, who resides in Seaford on Long Island, said he will be walking his dogs, spending more time with his family and going on vacations.
“It’s been about 15 years that I’ve been in these command positions, and it’s been a great time, but it’s also no joke,” Valerga said. “There’s a lot of work that goes on. I’ve been working very hard for a long time, and I want to take it easy. I told my dogs that I’m coming home tonight and their lives will be different.”
During his career in the NYPD, Valerga has served in six bureaus — five of which he was a commanding officer — and 14 different precincts, which he said gave him a very unique perspective of how things worked in the NYPD and what the department is all about.
When he became squad commander for the 13th Precinct in Manhattan, it was an honor for him to lead the fifth busiest detective squad in NYC, he said.
“At that point I got to understand why our detectives are known as the greatest detectives in the world and we truly are,” Valerga said. “That should’ve been a crowning achievement in my career, but a couple years later, when I was named the commanding officer of the 107th Precinct, that truly was the pinnacle of my career.”
For Valerga, it was both hard work and a rewarding experience that he will never forget. A couple of years later, he was named commanding officer of the Community Outreach Division, leading eight units.
“If you want to talk about diversity in New York City, that position gave me the experience to go out and go into every neighborhood in NYC,” Valerga said. “We went to every neighborhood — it didn’t matter what ethnicity you were, what races, what religion. It didn’t matter. I wanted to treat people as human beings, and I wanted to get to know them as human beings.”
While he met and sat down with people to educate them about the NYPD, Valerga noted that he quickly learned a lot from those individuals who welcomed him into their homes and community.
“I’m the one that walked away with the knowledge of all these cultures and different religions,” Valerga said. “I took part in those things and I want to thank every one of those community members for allowing me into their homes and houses of worship and educating me, which I thought was so wonderful. It’s something most New Yorkers don’t get to experience, which is the true diversity that NYC brings to them.”
“Now I get to end my career where I started, which was working for the Police Academy. One of the things I wanted to do when I got here was to give back to the officers who are out on the streets fighting crime, helping people and doing their jobs, which is very tough these days,” Valerga said. “Because of what I’ve gone through all these years and all of the positions I’ve held, I can give them guidance here.”
Valerga said maybe someday he’ll return to teach at the Police Academy. When asked what led him to pursue a career in law enforcement, Valerga said he just wanted to help people and to make a difference.
“I enjoy people, and I enjoy talking to them. I have a degree in psychology and figured what better way to use my knowledge … this is the perfect opportunity to be able to utilize my skills,” Valerga said.
While reflecting on his tenured career, Valerga thanked his family for their support throughout the years.
“For the past 26 years, I’ve been married to the NYPD and it’s very demanding. My family had to put up with me not being home for the holidays, birthdays, a lot of family gatherings for a lot of different things,” Valerga said. “I thank them for their support because without that you can’t do anything.”