William (Billy) Madden ’97 is currently a sergeant with the Suffolk County Police Department. He began his law enforcement career with the NYPD in July 2002 and transferred to SCPD in 2010. He has a liberal arts associate degree from Nassau Community College (2000) and a bachelor’s degree in public affairs & emergency management from SUNY Empire College (2019). He and his beautiful wife, Cheryl, have one son, Aaron (5).
What inspired you to pursue a career in law enforcement?
Growing up, I was always enamored with the idea of being a cop. My father was in the New York City Transit Police and my grandfather was a special agent in the FBI. As a teenager, I would always watch police dramas and follow court cases in the news. Despite these roots and what seemed to be such an obvious choice, I found myself at a crossroads in my early twenties. I barely earned my associate degree at Nassau and had become indecisive in my life. Was I destined to be a cop? Should I try the private sector or maybe go into nursing like my mother? In early 2001, I was called to begin my background investigation for the NYPD and I actually deferred! Ultimately, it was the events of September 11, 2001, that helped me make my decision. Seeing the horrors of that day unfold made me realize that my calling was right there in front of me. Soon thereafter, I reactivated my application process and I was sworn into the NYPD in July 2002.
How do you think your time at Kellenberg Memorial helped to prepare you for your success in your academic and professional pursuits?
To me, Kellenberg was never just about academics, and certainly never just about passing a test! Our teachers made us dig deep to find not only the answers on the surface but in the roots as well. We were encouraged to use intuition and creativity to solve problems. We also learned one of the most valuable skills you need to succeed in life: critical thinking.
Kellenberg teaches us something else that is quite unique, something that isn’t taught in other school systems. It is something that, along with critical thinking, I attribute to my accomplishments both at work and in my interpersonal relationships. At KMHS, we begin to understand our connection to one another through God. We learn the importance of faith in our lives and love in our hearts. As a police officer, that love is expressed through empathy for those who need help. Without that empathy, we lose sight of our relationship with God and our fellow man.
Do you have any advice for current students or young alumni who are interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement?
This summer I am starting my 22nd year as a police officer. I have worked in patrol, plain clothes, marine bureau, as a road supervisor, and as an academy instructor. I have my bad days just like everyone else, but I still love my job. And more importantly, I love coming home to my family.
So, my advice to any of you who want to be a police officer is this: go to school for something that impassions you, it doesn’t need to be criminal justice! If college isn’t the right fit, then find a trade, find a vocation, or enlist. Do something that will help you grow your skill set. Police officers have varying responsibilities. Many of us are lawyers, accountants, paramedics, pilots, and even scuba divers. There are almost two hundred different jobs for police officers in the NYPD alone.
If you get hired, learn something new every day – how to process an arrest, how to serve an order of protection, or how to talk to someone in distress. Always remember that negative experiences should be positive lessons for the future, too. This is something I still believe and practice all these years later.
Speaking of the future, plan for it! Start your retirement savings early. Diversify your portfolio (learn what a portfolio is before it’s too late!). This goes for everyone reading this because no matter what your job or your career becomes, you have so much life yet to live when it’s over.
And with that, I’ll offer one more piece of advice. As a police officer, you’re going to see some people at their best, but also many at their worst. You’re going to experience things that can be horrific to describe or even imagine. Your faith can and will be tested at times. My advice is that yes, we face these things with love, compassion, and empathy, but we must never forget that love, compassion, and empathy are two-way streets. So, decompress. Leave work at work when the shift is over. Exercise. Hike through the woods. Go to baseball games. Enjoy a movie. Play an instrument. Talk to people about your experiences. Seek love. Enjoy your family, hug them, squeeze them, and make memories with them. And lastly, thank God for it all.
Do you have any favorite teachers, coaches, or club moderators from your time at Kellenberg Memorial?
I know this may sound trite, but I am sincerely grateful for all my teachers at KMHS. Some impacted my life more than others, but I truly learned from every one of them. There were teachers like Mr. Brady and Mr. Buckley that could command a class like a captain at sea. Others like Mr. Basile spoke in a way that made us feel like peers more than pupils. And some teachers like Mrs. McNiff and Mr. A’Hearn could always tell when something was wrong and when they offered counsel, you were reminded that you weren’t alone.