Melvin Padilla, Bedford, New York’s Police Chief a Latino who is committed to reaching out to everyone he serves
It’s a TV and movie cliché: A young man looks up to his police officer father or other law-enforcement relative and decides at an early age, “Hey, that’s what I’m going to do. Follow in their footsteps and continue their legacy.”
One could argue that that’s what Bedford, New York’s Police Chief (Provisional) Melvin Padilla did, but he has a different take on it, saying, “I honestly don’t specifically know why I chose this path, and perhaps that’s what makes it special.” This is despite his father being a retired New York State corrections sergeant and his uncle a retired New York City Police detective.
And his resume bears that out. Although he had a childhood inkling that he wanted to go into law enforcement, he didn’t blindly fall into it. Rather, he was insistent on taking a deliberate approach to his future, beginning with a six-year active-duty stint in the U.S. Navy.
While in the Navy, he chose to become a hospital corpsman—or medic. “I wanted to do something in the military that would have an equivalent on the civilian side just in case my aspirations of becoming a police officer didn’t work out. Loading missiles on an F-14, is great, but what would that qualify me to do when I got out? The medical field was something I was interested in, and it worked out,” Padilla says.
This became especially apparent when he did indeed decided to join the law-enforcement ranks, as a rookie in the New York City Police Department. His Naval medical training—including at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and in Japan—paid off in many ways, with police officers such as himself often being first responders to emergency medical situations.
The Right Decision
Although he was only with the New York City department for two years, he learned a great deal along the way, including from superiors who counseled him that the best way to move up through the ranks was to take as many tests as he could—and he did. These included a Westchester County-wide test and another for the New York State Police.
“Westchester County has 42 different police departments, and pretty much every town and village in Westchester County has its own police. The county gives one test that all of those agencies hire from. So I took that Westchester County exam and did well. In fact, I received canvas letters from multiple police agencies including Bedford, Scarsdale, Peekskill and the Westchester County Police, as well,” Padilla recalls.
After selecting Bedford as his department of choice, and eventually being promoted to patrol sergeant, he then went to the prestigious FBI National Academy for further training. This allowed him to learn advanced law-enforcement techniques and network with police executive leaders from just about every state in the country and multiple international agencies, including a roommate from Scotland. Because only approximately 1 percent of police supervisors worldwide are given the privilege to attend, he says, he jumped on the opportunity when it was presented to him.
“At the time, I was newly married and my first son was just three months old, so it was a bit of a personal sacrifice, going away and living there for ten weeks,” Padilla says. “But I drove back from Quantico, Virginia, on the weekends to see my son and spend time with my wife, Lisa, who supported my attending the academy 100 percent. Overall, I believe this was a special opportunity, and in hindsight, it turned out to be the right decision. I was promoted to Lieutenant and put in charge of Patrol Division Operations three months after graduating.”
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