PARSIPPANY, N.J. - Peter John McPolin, 53, of Great Kills, a retired sergeant decorated 15 times during a heroic but injury-shortened 12-year NYPD career, who became a successful and charitable entrepreneur, died Monday in a highway accident in New Jersey. Mr. McPolin was traveling alone on Route 80 about 3:30 p.m. when his GMC Yukon veered off the highway and struck a tree. He was returning to Staten Island from the vacation home he had built in Hawley, Pa. Authorities are investigating the cause of the crash, including the possibility that Mr. McPolin, who had a degenerative cardiac condition, suffered a heart attack behind the...
PARSIPPANY, N.J. - Peter John McPolin, 53, of Great Kills, a retired sergeant decorated 15 times during a heroic but injury-shortened 12-year NYPD career, who became a successful and charitable entrepreneur, died Monday in a highway accident in New Jersey.
Mr. McPolin was traveling alone on Route 80 about 3:30 p.m. when his GMC Yukon veered off the highway and struck a tree. He was returning to Staten Island from the vacation home he had built in Hawley, Pa.
Authorities are investigating the cause of the crash, including the possibility that Mr. McPolin, who had a degenerative cardiac condition, suffered a heart attack behind the wheel.
He joined the NYPD in 1984 and served as a patrolman in Manhattan before a transfer to the elite Emergency Service Unit on Staten Island. After being promoted to sergeant in 1989, he served as a boss in the 120th, 122nd and 123rd precincts, before becoming a key supervisor on the Staten Island Task Force.
When Borough Command created a "debriefing unit" in the 1990s, Sgt. McPolin was tapped as the first supervisor, charged with grilling Ânewly arrested suspects to extract their knowledge of other crimes and criminals, and he was often called upon to give presentations at the monthly Compstat meetings at 1 Police Plaza in Manhattan. While many police supervisors found Compstat notoriously intimidating, Sgt. McPolin reveled in the high-stakes Q&A conferences before top NYPD brass.
Known as a popular and fearless cop with a linebacker-sized, 6-foot-1 frame - and an even bigger personality - he was elected precinct delegate to the Sergeants Benevolent Association, and union members later chose him to be the borough director of the powerful SBA.
Around this time, Mr. McPolin became active in political affairs and was a key campaign supporter of then-Borough President Guy V. Molinari. He was a lifelong friend of former South Shore City Councilman Fred Cerullo, who grew up around the corner from the McPolin family.
But he was far from a desk jockey and found himself in the midst of more than a few life-and-death dramas, including a shootout with a gunman barricaded inside the former Roberto's Restaurant in Stapleton.
In 1994, he faced a gunman again. While off-duty and unarmed in West Brighton, Sgt. McPolin was confronted by three teens, one brandishing a 9mm handgun. After they took his phone, Sgt. McPolin chased them down in his SUV, despite a fusillade of bullets that lodged in a headrest and blew out a tire. Undeterred, he and his partner leaped out of the truck and apprehended one of the muggers, who led detectives to the triggerman.
"It wasn't until the whole thing was over that we realized we were nuts," the sergeant told the Advance at the time.
Sgt. McPolin found himself in the middle of one of the borough's most memorable manhunts a few months later, on Feb. 28, 1995, when a 40-year-old woman was shot point-blank in the chest by a carjacker in the parking lot of the Staten Island Mall.
Sgt. McPolin spotted the suspect's car in Clifton, and during a 30-block chase, was able to broadcast his location so that police could set up roadblocks.
Eventually cornered, the gunman, Bjorn Gunn, smashed his car into Sgt. McPolin's patrol car and careened into a home on Hillside Avenue, where he was finally apprehended.
In 1988, as an ESU officer, he helped save a seriously hurt worker who had fallen precariously on the Outerbridge Crossing, using a special basket hoist to retrieve him. Another worker died.
And he loved to tell the story of rescuing a bearded man on a tiny raft in the Narrows who claimed he was sailing to Europe.
He was twice named Staten Island Advance Police Officer of the Month in the same year. He received two commendations from the NYPD, and was cited seven times for "excellent police duty," and six times for "meritorious police duty."
Sgt. McPolin was forced to retire on full disability in 1995 when he suffered a line-of-duty injury while subduing a suspect in Bay Terrace.
But injury, retirement and a worsening heart condition did not deter Mr. McPolin from jumping on one of the first Staten Island ferryboats to carry rescuers to Ground Zero on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. A few days later, when he learned that a friend wanted to help look for his Cantor Fitzgerald broker-brother, Mr. McPolin hopped in his own motorboat to ferry the man across the harbor, only to be stopped at riflepoint by a Coast Guard cutter. When the crew learned of his mission, they allowed him to pass.
In retirement, Mr. McPolin continued to manage and nurture a business he had begun as a police officer, Finest Fence Co., which grew into one of the borough's largest fence-installation contractors. He was known to put up free fences for 9/11 widows, Hurricane Sandy victims and the Staten Ireland fair, and to do work at a discount for non-profits like Meals on Wheels and Monsignor Farrell High School, his alma mater. He learned to speak Spanish fluently, in order to communicate with his workers.
On Feb. 9, he shared his life philosophy with his Facebook friends: "Every day is a learning opportunity that you should take to heart. It takes a lot more energy to hate than love. Life is something you take for granted until you lose a loved one, friend or an acquaintance. Do yourself a favor and live life to the fullest. Look in the eyes of a child or your child and realize that every word you speak and every action you make doesn't only affect you but everyone you touch."
Mr. McPolin attended St. Clare's School, and served as an altar boy at the parish as a youngster. He remained a parishioner for the rest of his life.
He was a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division 4; the NYPD Emerald Society; the Elks Club in Greenridge, and the Staten Island Council, Knights of Columbus. in Great Kills.
Born in Brooklyn, he was brought to Great Kills as a child.
He earned an associate's degree from Empire State College.
An avid sports fisherman, Mr. McPolin and his father, the late Peter McPolin, berthed a 28-foot cabin cruiser at the Atlantic Marina in Tottenville for many years. More recently, he would fish for shark, marlin and sailfish in Costa Rica, Mexico and Florida. He once landed an 800-pound bull shark off the coast of Fort Lauderdale.
He loved to travel with his longtime companion, Jamie Hatton-Cregin, and visited Ireland, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and, just two weeks ago, Belgium and France. On Sunday, he returned from a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico, and the Grand Caymans. When in Florida, he spent time with his aunt and uncle, Paul and Evangeline McPolin, formerly of Great Kills.
He enjoyed golfing, and loved the Yankees, Knicks and Jets. For a decade, he was a Jets season-ticket holder and would often man the grill at tailgate parties with Ms. Hatton-Cregin, his brother and his cousins. A student of Irish history, he enjoyed marching in the St. Patrick's Parade in West Brighton. He was a master at Scrabble, which was considered bloodsport among the McPolins.
An animal lover, Mr.McPolin owned two Rottweilers, a lizard, a puggle and a rabbit named Jefferson.
Surviving, in addition to his companion, Ms. Hatton-Cregin, are his daughters, Shannon, Amanda, Vanessa and Tiffany McPolin; his mother, Mary Alice McPolin; his brother, Jeffrey; his sister, Jeanette McPolin, and three nieces and a nephew.
The funeral will be Saturday from the Casey McCallum Rice South Shore Funeral Home, Great Kills, with a mass at 9:45 a.m. in St. Clare's Church. Burial will follow in Resurrection Cemetery, Pleasant Plains.
Arrangements under the direction of Casey McCallum Rice South Shore Funeral Home, Staten Island, NY.