Military and Police

Largest City Police Agency in the World Has its Own Beekeepers Squad

You likely guessed from the title that we are referring to the massive ranks comprising the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Serving approximately 8.6 million residents and a steady flow of visitors from all across the globe, the NYPD has every imaginable construct among its membership. As a youngster growing up in Brooklyn, I watched countless movie stars on production sets on any given street filming a major motion picture. Movie crews are present in all five boroughs (counties) all year round. Given the tight squeezes and robust pace of life in the Big Apple, the NYPD Movie and TV Unit cops cordon a perimeter and secure an area determined as part of the movie-making project, all done as a free service to Hollywood big-wigs. Police patch collectors endeavor to obtain every single NYPD shoulder patch. I completed my NYPD patch collection years ago. Or so I thought.

Today, I found out I was lacking the NYPD Bee Squad patch. Yes, you read that correctly. That’s a thing in New York City: Cops who deploy to complaints of swarming bees in public areas.

This is the buzz from the NYPD site: “As sworn police officers and NYPD beekeepers, Officers Darren Mays and Michael Lauriano keep NYC safe one swarm at a time. On any given day they can be called upon to safely relocate thousands of our precious pollinators using a special vacuum and protective gear. ”

NYPD beekeepers on the job.

You’ve heard of the A-team…now meet the Bee-team 🐝! As sworn police officers and NYPD beekeepers, Officers Darren Mays and Michael Lauriano keep NYC safe one swarm at a time. On any given day they can be called upon to safely relocate thousands of our precious pollinators using a special vacuum and protective gear. See what all the buzz is about.

Posted by NYPD on Wednesday, August 29, 2018

NYPD loyalist James Teehan said, “Only the NYPD would have this type of capability in law enforcement. Just another example of the most experienced and capable big city police department in the world.”

Indeed, the super-staffed police agency keeps everything in-house and at-the-ready. Unlike my department in Florida, the NYPD does little-to-no outsourcing. Besides combatting crime, everything needing attention has a unit, requisite training, and appropriate equipment to handle The Job.

As John Comparetto related about the Beekeeping detachment, “It’s an assignment, possibly part-time, I just don’t know. I must tell you that in the 70s & 80s there were 2 units staffed by cops that amazed me. First was the ‘Low Tension Unit.’ Took me a while to figure that one out. They maintained and repaired the alarm systems in the precincts and police buildings. We also had the Elevator Repair Unit. There is a place for everyone in NYPD.” That is for certain, and perhaps not surprising for “the city that never sleeps.” Researching this NYPD unit, I found that the cops assigned respond on an on-call basis, so it is a part-time gig paid as overtime when they are not already on full-time regular-duty assignments.

When I lived in Brooklyn, the neighborhood police precinct had a pine-green panel van marked as the “NYPD Police Auxiliary Unit.” This van was driven by a retired cop who continued serving the community by volunteering his time, in uniform, while partnering with a panel-truck full of youths. Each of the teens donned a NYPD police uniform with Police Auxiliary patches. Naturally, the panel van had no get-up-and-go and only served as a patrol force of extra eyes/ears. Equipped with a police radio to call in to the NYPD Police Communications Center, dispatchers would deploy fully-sworn NYC cops to respond to whatever dilemma the Auxiliary unit discovered.

Nowadays, many police departments operate their own assemblage of youngsters who aspire to the police profession, otherwise know as “police explorers.” My agency has its own contingent of youngsters in our police explorer program. Essentially, an explorer is exposed to what it is like to live the life of a police officer. Some members go on to fully enriching careers as cops while others decide the police culture is not for them. Police explorer programs are not designed to weed out but to allow recruits their own self-determination as far as a law enforcement career goes.

Given our multifaceted police department subject matter, the NYPD has both an auxiliary unit as well as an explorer detail. Imagine how many young people are away from the dread of street life and the lure of criminal elements seeking to recruit for nefarious deeds. The NYPD becomes sort of a surrogate to thwart such raucous recruitment while keeping kids in school for the inevitable diploma leading to police educational requirements and beyond.

Police explorers. (Credit: Facebook/NYPD)

I liken the NYPD’s robust resources as a reflection of our Armed Forces: for every purpose there is a MOS and specially-trained professionals prepared to carry out whatever mission arises. Heck, even when some special ops specifications call for steady hands to tinker with nodes, wires, and soldering…the NYPD Electronics Unit steps up. As Mike DiPalma attributed: “When I used to visit the Electronics Section in Woodside, the Low Tension Unit was in the building. Part of the Communications Division. I would ask ‘Low tension? Is that what you do or what you are?'”

If you build it, they will come. If you can imagine it, the NYPD likely has it among its operational wizardry.

Back to the buzz on the beekeeping cops in NYC. I can only imagine that these specialized police officers are diligent yet precautionary with the hives that are discovered in NYC, especially considering the mass-populace all around at any time of day and night. Although the NYPD Beekeeping Unit is the only such squad of which I am aware in our nation, I found a cohort bee police unit way down under, in Coonalpyn, South Australia.

After 18 beehives were stolen from the private property of a community beekeeper, the Coonalpyn Police Department was assigned the theft investigation and showed up dressed for bee success.

Coonalpyn, South Australia cops, specially trained to handle bees, investigate a theft of 18 beehives stolen from private property. (Credit: Facebook/SAPOL)

By the way, Coonalpyn police did report arrests in the bee caper, and were able to return the 18 stolen hives to the original owner/beekeeper.

Hoover and Hives

Vacuuming bees is not your everyday fare, and witnessing such an activity is a far cry from the hustle and bustle in a fast-moving metropolis whose human population mixed with an overabundance of vehicular traffic likely wouldn’t even notice beekeepers…even if an errant one stung them in the ass-pillows.

Having been raised in NYC not much really captivates the mind so easily since the likelihood of strange things happening in the Big Apple is so enormously high and thus common-fare. Urban folks simply become desensitized to what suburbanites may find alarming. But swarms of bees clinging to utilities, electronics, and hot dog-stand umbrellas is a unique twist.

NYPD policeman suited up and equipped with a bee-vacuum scoops roughly 30,000 bees which showed up in NYC’s Times Square on August 28, 2018. (Credit: YouTube/Global News)

On June 19, 2018, NYPD police officer/beekeeper Michael Lauriano was assigned to eradicate what turned out to be a reported 20,000-30,000 bees inhabiting a NYPD surveillance camera system located in Times Square. Where’d all those bees wind up? According to a segment on Good Morning America reporting on the bee fiasco, they were all released to an aviary.

One of the NYC cops performing the honey-do list including recouping bees is police Officer Darren Mays who, as he labels himself, “the official department beekeeper.” Gifted with a beekeeper kit in 2008, he honed his hobbyist skills and ultimately graduated to a professional level leading to an assignment as a NYPD beekeeper guru.

As a patrol officer assigned to midnight-shift, Officer Mays says getting off-duty in the morning does not necessarily mean he is going home. Often, early-rise folks discover bee hives or “public nuisance” swarms to which he must respond. I bet that stings the OT budget. Admitting he has been stung by bees over 400 time, Mays nonetheless claims that bees are docile by nature and “don’t go out looking to sting you or to harm you, that’s not their intention.” Well, that’s nice; I’ll leave that assignment to him, since he seems to have a passion for the buzzers.

Now I know who to write to acquire the NYPD Bee Unit police shoulder patch for my collection.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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