NYPD Steven Silks — We Will Miss You, Brother
The New York Police Department lost one of its finest last week.
I first met NYPD Deputy Chief Steven Silks in July of 2011, when a mutual friend at NASA, Rob Schmidt, invited us to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to watch the final Space Shuttle launch – STS-135/Atlantis. It was a memorable trip not only because we observed the launch from a designated close up location Rob arranged for us, but because one of his other guests was Steven. Over the years, I have kept the NYPD patch and courtesy card he gave me above my car visor as a reminder of that excursion, and the friends we made that day. He was a gracious and personable top cop, who devoted his 39-year NYPD career to his officers — to the job.
Last Wednesday, Steven was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had just filed papers for his mandatory retirement in July. He had no spouse or children, and as one detective said, “He lived for the NYPD.” The president of the NYPD Detectives Endowment, Michael Palladino, added, “He had such enthusiasm for the job and for life itself which makes this difficult to understand. He was one of the nicest human beings I ever met.” NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said, “Deputy Chief Steven Silks truly was one of the most capable and most dependable cops this profession has ever seen. His entire 39-year NYPD career — much of his adult life, in fact — was devoted to NYC, its police officers, and to fighting crime & protecting all the people we serve.”
I asked our mutual friend, Rob, a Navy veteran and former head of law enforcement for NASA at KSC, to offer a few words about Steven.
“I met Steven Silks in 2008. In my capacity as the KSC Law Enforcement Program Manager, I was also in charge of the overall security operations for space shuttle launches. In that job, I received a lot of phone calls from cops in other agencies who were interested in watching a shuttle launch. I did not know Steven when he inquired, but given his position with what is arguably one of the world’s finest police departments, I invited him to attend a space shuttle launch as my personal guest. During my 12 years at NASA, no other person ever convinced me to let them attend a launch as my guest based on a phone call. But Steven was just that nice.
"In fact, after the first of several launch days he attended, I invited him back for an all-day, behind-the-scenes tour of every vital area of KSC, including all of the most historic sites. As a space program enthusiast, he loved it. In the years that followed, we became good friends. When I spoke with Steven last week, he was upbeat, positive, and energetic.
"I first became a federal agent in 1982 and retired in 2015. During that time, I knew hundreds of great cops. I’ve never known anyone who lived and breathed the job like Steven. He was truly a ‘cop’s cop.’ Steven loved serving and protecting the public; a more dedicated, loyal enforcement officer you’ll never find. I don’t know why Steven made the choice to end his life as he did, but I do know that this world is diminished by the loss of warriors like him. Steven, we’ll miss you, brother.”
The PTSD associated with policing in today’s urban centers, the result of exposure to trauma and cultural depravity, comes with a heavy toll. Over the last decade, 48 NYPD officers have ended their own lives, including four last year and three this year. The number of suicides by law enforcement officers is, per capita, lower than PTSD-associated suicides among military personnel, because police officers are less likely to be isolated from support groups. According to Blue Help, 167 police officers took their own lives in 2018.
Steven was 62, a month from his 63rd birthday and mandatory retirement. His NYPD patch and courtesy card will remain above my visor – now in remembrance of him.