An NYPD highway patrolman and three canine handlers were honored Friday in front of thousands of screaming basketball fans at Madison Square Garden during the Big East tournament.
The slick, shiny court within New York City’s most iconic sports arena is usually solely reserved for the squeaking sneakers of basketball players, yet on March 11 both NYPD boots and paws stepped onto the playing field.
Officer Jason Milman was all smiles as he joked with his family backstage inside the walls that have housed some of sports greatest legends, however, he admitted to amNewYork Metro that he was nervous at the prospect of greeting a stadium full of college basketball fans. Decked out in his uniform, he was anxious when looking at the sea of humanity but never felt the jitters when saving lives.
Milman was set to be recognized for going above and beyond the line of duty, both while on and off the clock. With his cap in his gloved hands, he waited in the bowels of the arena, listening to the cheering audience, and reflecting on what led him to this moment.
During a snowstorm in January, Milman was patrolling the Staten Island Expressway when he made a routine car stop, but from there on out the incident would be anything but routine. Amidst the falling flurry, the driver revealed a grim plan.
As Milman conversed with the man, the individual admitted he was making his way to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge to commit suicide.
“It was very… very forward. So, I was kind of stunned at the moment. But you know, as a police officer, your number one goal is to preserve human life,” Milman explained.
Milman spent time speaking with the driver, listening to his life, reassuring him until he allowed the officer to call him medical aid. This wasn’t the highway patrolman’s only lifesaving escapade, however. In 2021, Milman and a fellow off duty officer were driving by a Home Depot when they observed a patron fall to the ground.
“We just looked at each other and said: ‘hey, let’s go.’ We pulled a U-turn and assessed the gentleman and saw he was in cardiac arrest. Training just kicked in and we started performing CPR and thankfully he survived. He went back home to his wife and three kids,” Milman said.
Milman was greeted and brought onto the court by Commissioner of the Big East Conference Val Ackerman. Stepping into the very center of Madison Square Garden, Milman received a standing ovation and offered a salute in response.
“It was an absolutely surreal experience. The crowd was so loud, there were so many people, and everyone was standing and applauding. Honestly, it was hard to not have an ear-to-ear smile. It was very touching, a blessing,” Milman said, who professed that he didn’t quite understand why he was being honored since in his mind, “It was just another day of work for me. It was just something that any normal person should have done.”
Milman wasn’t the only member of law enforcement being honored that night. Detective Efrain Hernandez and his furry, four-legged partner Jenny were joined by Detective Ronald Thomas with canine Piper, and Police Officer Theresa Mahon with pup Glory.
The unit were received like rock stars, with cheerleaders fawning over Piper, who appeared to love the attention. Dealing with this kind of treatment is not out of the ordinary for the dogs, in fact it is their job. As a therapy unit, they are responsible for helping those suffering through traumatic events.
“Over the weekend, we had an officer that unfortunately died of COVID. So, we went up to the hospital and we were able to console the family members in the family room just to give them, you know, a little bit of a break and the cops that were there that used to work with the officer a break,” Mahon said.
Like Milman, the unit stepped into center court and received a reverberating roar of approval.
“It’s an amazing experience and it’s just getting more and more people to see what we do,” Mahon said.