The Port Authority Police Department is mourning the loss of two officers who died from job-related health issues within several days of each other last month.
Port Authority Police Officer William Leahy, who was battling a World Trade Center-linked cancer, died June 6. He was 49 and is survived by his parents and sister. He joined the PAPD in 1993. At the time of his death, he was a member of the JFK International Airport Police Command.
Lieut. Robert Jones, 55, died June 15 of complications from a surgery that was required as a result of a line-of-duty injury. He had 21 years on the job and is survived by his wife and daughter. He had been a Tour Commander in the JFK Police Command.
Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole, at a ceremony to honor the officers and their immediate family held during the agency’s monthly meeting June 27, said, “I will tell you in the week we lost these two, we had heard from the brothers and sisters of the Port Authority Police Department across the board there was great love, admiration and respect for both.”
Rick Cotton, the Port Authority’s Executive Director, spoke of the officers’ “collegiality, their engagement and dedication. They will be missed profoundly.”
The PAPD lost 37 officers during the World Trade Center rescue attempts. The Port Authority Police Benevolent Association said 10 officers have died since 9/11 from their WTC occupational exposure. In addition to Officer Leahy, that includes active-duty officers Paul Pallas, Steven Tursellino, John Cortazzo, James Kennelly and Sgt. Vincent Oliva.
The officers who died of WTC-related diseases after retiring were Michael Teel, Mark Meier, Charles Barzydlo, and Lieut. John Brant.
Exposed Fewer Cops
In a 2018 interview with this newspaper, PBA President Paul Nunziato said that Port Authority Police Chief Joseph Morris, who assumed command after Chief James Romito was killed the day of the attack, made a command decision out of an abundance of caution to limit the number of Port Authority officers working the WTC site in the months that followed.
He decided at the end of October to keep the same 30 to 40 officers assigned to the pile instead of rotating people in and out as the NYPD did, “which in hindsight, as far as future loss of life due to cancers and other illnesses,” limited the number of officers who were heavily exposed, Mr. Nunziato said.
The bi-state police department’s total number of sworn officers is now approximately 2,200. It was established in 1928 and is responsible for securing the PA’s regional network of aviation, ground, rail, and seaport properties and the 16-acre World Trade Center site.
Throughout their careers, Port Authority Police Officers return to the Academy both for refresher courses and instructional courses in antiterrorism, behavioral assessment, active-shooter responses and dealing with weapons of mass destruction.
We depend on the support of readers like you to help keep our publication strong and independent. Join us.