June 5, 2020

#68 Peter Pranzo Pt. 1

#68 Peter Pranzo Pt. 1

Peter J. Pranzo is a retired New York City Police Department Lieutenant, with over 21 years of service. He has worked in all of the boroughs of New York, and is one of the most highly decorated Superior Officers in the history of the NYPD, receiving over 60 awards, department commendations, and community awards, including some of the Police Department's highest: The Police Combat Cross, the Award for Valor, and the Honor Legion Medal for Valor.

As a young police officer of the late sixties and early seventies, Pranzo worked in some of the city's toughest neighborhoods, including the 71st Precinct, bordering Brooklyn's East New York and Bedford-Stuyvesant. His assignment to the 26th Precinct of West Harlem, while still a rookie cop, forced him to encounter the residuals of one of America's most ruthless, organized cop-killing groups, the Black Liberation Army. The BLA, headed by Joanne Chesimard, targeted Pranzo for a machine gun murder, but for a matter of seconds, mistakenly gunned down two of his comrades in his stead. A traumatized, furious, and determined Pranzo, along with a multitude of NYPD officers, began the hunt for these assassins which would last for years. Joanne Chesimard remains at large today, with a one million dollar bounty on her head.

After his promotion to Sergeant in the mid-seventies, Pranzo's new assignment was to the 32nd Precinct of Central Harlem, the then murder and drug capital of America and most violent precinct in the nation, where 13 police officers lost their lives. Here he supervised a narcotics team for eight years, racking up over 8,000 arrests, kicking off the Operation Drug Campaign that spread citywide. Despite an open contract for his death issued by the Gambino organized crime family and personal attempts on his life, he would make his mark as he worked with the notable black community leader, Rita Webb Smith. Together with his narcotics team and community support, they took back the streets of this most deadly, drug and gun infested neighborhood, which freed an entire community and inspired a book entitled, "The Woman Who Took Back Her Streets," New Horizon Press, 1989, which highlighted the team's involvement. It was also within the 32nd Precinct where this young Sergeant was involved in multiple shootouts, and was honored ceremoniously on many occasions by the Honorable Mayor, Edward I. Koch.

Retired Lieutenant Pranzo's last assignment was to the New York City Police Department's elite Street Crime Unit. Here he supervised, daily, plainclothes/undercover police who made use of various disguises and impersonations such as cab drivers or street persons while they made arrests for violent street crimes in progress. The Unit effected over 3,000 arrests per year and achieved notoriety within the ranks of law enforcement throughout the Nation. It was within this specialized unit where Lieutenant Pranzo began his writing career for New York Newspapers and Police Magazines. After losing a personal friend and many other fellow officers to suicide, Lieutenant Pranzo knew there was a problem inherent in police work and vowed to make a difference. The many articles written for police magazines across the country about the subject of stress, trauma, and suicides in law enforcement, began to take hold. Through some prompting and political pushing, the NYPD and many other large city departments finally began formal counseling programs, peer units, and help-line numbers displayed on posters for any police officer who needed assistance. These remain in place today.

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