Military and Police

NYPD Delivers a Cop Christmas for Special-Needs Boy

Aidan Riley is a 16-year-old boy who is confined to a wheelchair stemming from cerebral palsy. Aidan’s dad is a NYPD cop. Like most cops’ children, Aidan longs to be a police officer himself. Given his debilitating condition, however, that does not seem plausible. So the staff of the New York City Police Department got as close as they could to help fulfill that dream; they pooled together contributions and ordered a specially-engineered custom-made NYPD RMP (radio motor patrol) cruiser, an exact replica of what Aidan’s dad and most of the other 36,000-plus NYC cops use to cruise around the Big Apple.

Including authentic red rotating lights atop the roof, with Aidan’s specially-equipped wheelchair fitting precisely in the cabin of his very own NYPD cop car, he can tool around and feel the feeling his dad feels on the job.

Assigned to the Midtown South Precinct, NYPD police Officer Merritt Riley is part of the contingent of cops who patrol “the southern portion of Midtown, Manhattan” which encompasses “commercials offices, hotels, Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, Koreatown section, and the Manhattan Mall Plaza.” Having grown up in NYC, those locations and environments can sizzle and boil on a 24-hour basis, keeping the precinct police officers hopping from call to call.

Consider the rapid pace and the kind of workload NYPD cops know all too well, and it may engender thoughts of not only the special care required for his son Aidan but also the acute attention given by Officer Riley to his constituents in an area teaming with myriad folks from all over the globe. My point is his super-capacity to relate differently. As a dad to an intensely autistic daughter, I found this to be true when I served in a police uniform. Fortuitously or otherwise, I was assigned most of the calls in which a parent or guardian was having difficulty with an autistic child or adult. The dynamics are quite unique and, at that time in my career, information regarding both the rudimentary pertaining to autism and the complexity of some isolated cases was not as prevalent. If I didn’t know, I spent the time with the complainant and researched answers. Or I went back to the caller as soon as practicable.

Conversely, I never anticipated people to readily understand my daughter’s affliction. I was learning then; I am learning still. Officer Riley hinted at such a thing when he said “…we always try to help people. So, when someone reaches out to help you, it’s not a comfortable feeling.” I can interpret that candid statement in a few ways, and I do not believe he meant anything negative in his words. To the contrary, it implies the rarity of receiving kind gestures and help. Grace and humility was his telegraph. I experienced what Riley did. It sort of came as a surprise when anyone made attempts to get close and offer some semblance of help, even if it were a passing smile and/or a nod. Did my family experience the cold, standoffish, ignorant side of humanity? Yes, unfortunately. Have we been asked to leave premises because of my child’s outbursts stemming from autism? Yes, including churches.

Was my daughter bullied, badgered and made fun of at school? Sadly, yes. And a school resource officer nipped that nonsense right in the bud.

Attempts at sitting as a family and having a meal in restaurants always resulted in a bust, often literally with something busted by my daughter. The complexity of autism I referenced earlier includes severe tantrums whereby flailing sometimes results in property damage. Paid the tab and paid the damages. Despite onlookers’ ignorance and arrogance, life goes on.

Child comes first. And I suspect that is the philosophy with Officer Riley and his family. His tears of joy prove it. After all, what cop wouldn’t want to see his prodigy in police gear, even if it were modified to suit a young boy and render his heart happy? So a make-shift police car to elevate a young boy’s dreamscape was the featured order.

And the NYPD delivered!

Boy with cerebral palsy gets police car costume that fits over wheelchair

JUST LIKE DAD: This boy with cerebral palsy wants to be just like his dad, who is a police officer. So, the NYPD got him a police car costume that fits right over his wheelchair đź’™ https://cbsn.ws/2NPGiDS

Posted by CBS News on Thursday, December 20, 2018

That video-still from the beginning moments of the footage above depicts NYPD police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, indicating the NYPD’s investment in its personnel, their families, and any unique hardships they may be enduring. He seems to be admiring the craftsmanship of the replica NYPD cruiser.

Like father, like son. And it doesn’t get any more awe-inspiring to witness the smiles from a special-needs face complimented by his dad’s tears of contentment during a season if giving. Indeed, despite the job-related hardships and personal life circumstances endured by law enforcement officers, the blue family is strong and typifies pillars of formidable power when one of their brothers or sisters has a cross to bear, a burden to carry. It is one of many reasons I wished for a police career as a NYPD cop; the camaraderie there is intoxicating. Nonetheless, the cross I carried at the time (cancer) brought me to Florida where my badge was pinned and where my daughter was born with autism. Blue buddies here have done for my special-needs child what NYPD cops did for Officer Riley’s boy, Aidan for Christmas 2018.

As to that camaraderie among cops…I suspect Aidan knows that factor quite well, thanks to his dad and company.

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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