By Briana Vannozzi
Tears and prayers as the family of slain Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago helped unveil a new precinct named in his honor.
“When I said goodnight to Melvin that night he left for work a year ago today, I had no idea it would be the last time he would walk through that door,” said mother Cathy McBride.
The 23-year-old rookie was killed in the line of duty last July, ambushed by a gunman while responding to a call.
“We know we stand on the backs of all the police officers who have given their lives in protection of the people of Jersey City, but today I tell you the new West District will stand on the shoulders of Det. Melvin Santiago for generations to come,” said West District Commander Capt. Michael Kelly.
“His whole life he wanted to serve Jersey City in the West District. When you think of role models and heroes, someone who wants to do that from a young age and follows through his dream of just servive is really an inspiration,” said Mayor Steve Fulop.
The 30,000-square-foot building features a bronze statue of Santiago. It was given a special blessing today.
“Father, as they go forth from the doors, send your angels to watch over them and protect them,” said Jersey City Police Chaplain Father Victor Kennedy.
The building will have a detective bureau, bullet proof glass throughout and dozens of windows to allow for a constant stream of sunlight, a stark contrast to the often gritty streets these officers patrol.
“Crime continues to decline in Jersey City. If you look at homicides and shootings, we’re heading in the right direction, but we still have a lot of work to do. Sometimes there’s a disconnect between what’s happening statistically and what people feel, and really what people feel is important,” Fulop said.
“I wish he was here to see it, but I know he’s smiling down. He’s happy,” McBride said.
The city has hired more than 120 officers in the last year. Forty will enter the academy this fall. Santiago’s mother praised the city and department for their support. She only hopes no other family will need it.
“I have to carry his memory so nobody forgets. I don’t every want anybody to forget the sacrifice he made,” she said.
“This building is a place of honor. It’s a place to remember Melvin and all the other officers we’ve lost in the line of duty,” said Jersey City Police Chief Philip Zacche.
This new building will house more than 150 police officers once it’s fully functional in a few weeks, and will act as a reminder of this ultimate sacrifice.