“Community policing,” “engagement,” “backing the blue,” and the “thin blue line” are buzz words that have been floating around recently. Now, in the ever-changing environment that the men and women of law enforcement work in, these buzzwords have become part of who they are and the shifting roles that police officers play while they keep civilians safe.
In our community, we value law and order, respect those who put their life on the line to keep us safe, and we openly show support to the men and women of law enforcement as we “back the blue.” This was perfectly represented on Sunday, August 23, by the volunteers of Hatzalah and RNSP Shomrim, as they joined police officers from Far Rockaway’s 101st Precinct in a friendly game of softball: The First Responders Annual Softball Game. The players were all emergency responders from the NYPD, RNSP Shomrim, and Hatzalah of the Rockaways and Nassau County; the spectators were anyone who chose to come to the event which was open to the entire community. At this event, a free barbecue lunch was made available to everyone. It was a fun-filled afternoon for the whole family to enjoy, while also showing support to the heroes who keep them safe and healthy every single day.
The event began with the National Anthem, beautifully sung by RNSP Shomrim member and rising Jewish music sensation, Yisrael Hoffman. It was a seven inning game in the sweltering heat of a hot sunny summer afternoon. During the “4th inning stretch,” something very special transpired. Hatzalah and RNSP Shomrim held a moving tribute in memory of Inspector Justin Lenz, the former commanding officer of the NYPD’s 101st Precinct and a U.S. Army veteran. Sadly, this national and local hero died of a sudden heart attack earlier this summer, leaving behind a wife and two children, all of whom were present at this event. They were moved to the core by the honor bestowed upon their departed loved one.
Inspector Lenz was a man who kept our neighborhood safe as crime rates around the city soared. He was a leader who maintained law and order. At the same time, he was a visionary who embraced the initiative of community policing. To that end, the precinct piloted the NCO program, which was a smashing success that set an example for all other precincts around the city to follow. He was always open to listening to anyone in the community and humble enough to follow their suggestions. He was embraced by all within the community and certainly by the men and women who worked under his command.
Following the tribute in memory of Inspector Lenz, Hatzalah and the RNSP Shomrim surprised Police Officer Lynn Blanchette with honor and recognition for the outstanding work she does as the leader of the 101st Precinct’s expanded Community Affairs team. Through Officer Blanchette’s leadership, the relationship between all three emergency response groups remains as great as it has always been.
Officer Blanchette makes it her duty to ensure that there are great relationships between the precinct and the community’s youth, seniors, schools, organizations, and religious institutions. She goes above and beyond to understand all of the different culture groups that make up and call Far Rockaway home. As observant Jews, we know more than ever the complexities that come along with who we are, what we do, and how we live our lives. We are so thankful to have someone running the affairs of our community who treats our way of life with sensitivity, while doing the same for all other cultural groups residing in the area. Hatzalah and RNSP Shomrim recognized P.O. Lynn Blanchette for her leadership, disposition, and the work she does for our community.
In the end, the message was clear. Whereas the rest of the country is reeling from racial tensions, identity politics, and whereas law enforcement is under great scrutiny, the culturally diverse neighborhood that we call home is unified in its appreciation for the men and women who put their lives on the line to serve and protect us no matter what. This was the message of the First Responders Softball Game, and the message was made loud and clear by a united community. On the afternoon of August 23, we were truly “one heart, one community!”