2004-11-05 / Community

Auxiliary Volunteer Gives Rockaway 20 Years

By Brian Magoolaghan

Auxiliary Lieutenant Henry Mehrtens, holding his Longevity Award, stands with 100 Precinct Commanding Officer, Captain Paul Piekarski, in the precinct stationhouse.
Auxiliary Lieutenant Henry Mehrtens, holding his Longevity Award, stands with 100 Precinct Commanding Officer, Captain Paul Piekarski, in the precinct stationhouse.

  • Patrol, observe, report. Those are the duties of an NYPD Auxiliary Police Officer, and for the last two decades they are the words that Henry Mehrtens has lived by.
  • Mehrtens, 100 Precinct Auxiliary Lieutenant Mehrtens to we civilians, was recently honored with a Longevity Service Award for his 20-year volunteer effort to reduce crime and enhance police-community relations in Rockaway’s west end.

    In 1984, Mehrtens was a 38-year-old city employee working for the Health and Hospitals Corporation, but the part of him that as a kid delighted in watching “M Squad,” “Hawaii Five-O” and “Kojak” was unsatisfied. He wanted to be a cop, but didn’t meet the educational requirements.

    “I always wanted to be a police officer but I couldn’t do it,” Mehrtens rekim called. “This was the next best thing for me.”

    The requirements for the city’s 4,000 men and women Auxiliary Officers – there are about 30 in the 100 Precinct – are less restrictive. Officers can be as young as 17 or older than 60 (limited duty); must live or work in the city; be in good health and character; be able to read and write English; and never have been convicted of a felony or “serious crime.” Mehrtens applied and after 12 weeks of training at the 100 Precinct stationhouse, he hit the streets in 1985.

    “I was so proud to put that uniform on and walk the streets,” he said. In his first month patrolling Beach 116 Street Mehrtens and two fellow auxiliary patrollers led police to a potentially dangerous suspect carrying a knife.

    “We heard the job come over the radio, got a description, spotted him and made the collar,” Mehrtens says matter-of-factly, naturally substituting police jargon for the word “arrest.” He received an Award of Valor for his efforts that day. Mehrtens made sergeant in 1987, and was promoted to lieutenant just three months later.

    Along the way he’s assisted the Auxiliary in its three routine functions: providing an additional uniform presence at community events and in places such as the subway system, directing pedestrian and vehicle traffic when necessary and staffing the precinct identification program aimed at reducing bicycle and auto-theft and other property-related crime. He’s been at beach rallies, street re-naming ceremonies and National Night Out Against Crime.

    Mehrtens suffered a heart attack in 2001 and was out of commission for three months, holed up in his apartment at 8400 Shore Front Parkway, which he shares with this mother. His dedication to the Auxiliary apparently helped him get back on his feet.

    “I was getting bored staying home,” he said. Mehrtens returned in time to direct traffic at the barricaded 100 Precinct on September 11 and again in Belle Harbor after the crash of Flight 587.

    “It makes me feel like I’m doing something for my community. People know that we’re out there protecting them,” said Mehrtens, who has already worked four community events this year.

    These days the 58-year-old, a “diehard” New York Mets and Jets fan, who can be spotted this time of year decked in a Jets cap, jacket and jersey, works the Thursday night shift. He’s also teaching the incoming Auxiliary class along with an Auxiliary captain and a police observer.

    Auxiliary Officers are unarmed and carry only a nightstick for their defense, but Mehrtens says the two-way radio is truly their best friend. “Get on the radio and call for assistance right away,” he teaches. “The response time is unbelievable.

    “Safety. Always safety, man. I don’t want anyone to get hurt,” Mehrtens said.

    For Auxiliary members, the 20-year milestone doesn’t have the same significance as it does for full-fledged NYPD officers, but it represents thousands of volunteer hours for which the annual compensation is a $250 per year uniform allowance that barely covers the dry-cleaning tab. Yet, Mehrtens says the only thing he’s ready to “hang up” is his longevity award. “I don’t want to get out yet, man. I don’t want to leave,” he said.

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