NYPD Counterterrorism Officer honored at MSG for 15 years of service

Police Officer Sean Haas is a 15-year veteran of the NYPD and currently works in the department’s Counterterrorism Division was honored in the Middle of Madison Square Garden.
Photo by Dean Moses

One of the New York City Police Department’s most vital jobs ensures the protection of millions. Yet, despite all those who rely on the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Division, a top official says it can be one of the department’s loneliest.

To help, Police Officer Sean Haas not only spends his time protecting New Yorkers, but also aiding in the mental health of his fellow officers.

Haas — a 15-year veteran of the NYPD who was honored at Madison Square Garden on March 10 — currently serves as a senior instructor of the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Division, teaching counterterrorism tactics to law enforcement within New York City and in other states across America. The educator likewise bequeaths his knowledge of protecting the Port of New York and New Jersey to military personnel, due to the area’s high value.

“The port in New York and New Jersey is one of the most sought-after terrorism sites. You shut down the port which happened during Hurricane Sandy, a lot of issues can arise from it,” Haas told amNewYork Metro. “If you have to shut down the harbor it affects from Canada, to Ohio, down to Delaware.”

Police Officer Sean Haas, a 15-year veteran of the NYPD who currently works in the department’s Counterterrorism Division, was honored in the middle of Madison Square Garden on Friday, March 10. Photo by Dean Moses

In addition to his vast knowledge in counterterrorism tactics, Haas is also the only law enforcement member in the country who uses a maritime simulator — a state-of-the-art boat simulator that helps instruct water rescues.

However, Haas deals in more than just water security. The top NYPD officer gathers intel from any potential attack to ensure safety and protection measures are constantly evolving. Using the 2017 subway Port Authority Bus Terminal bombing as an example in which a pipe bomb partially exploded, Haas explained that incidents like these are utilized to help new officers develop their skills to prevent attacks like them from occurring again.

“We use events like that to update, build and instruct and assist officers on how better to handle the situation. We’re not saying we didn’t handle it right or wrong, but, you know, nothing is 100% perfect. So how do we get better?” Haas asked. “We constantly have to evolve, because everybody else is evolving. The public evolves. So, we have to make sure they’re safe. Terrorists evolve as well. We have to make sure we try to stay ahead.”

By its very nature, counterterrorism is a solitary profession. Although Haas has a loving wife and children, he cannot share any information regarding his work due to its high-security essence. This, coupled with long work hours and constant high stakes, leads to quite the burden on his shoulders.

Haas freely admits that the life he leads is not an easy one.

“It’s difficult,” he said, adding that his father is disabled after serving in the military and that, after working 10-12-hour shifts most of the week, it can be hard to make time for his wife and three kids.

Police Officer Sean Haas thanking the crowd. Photo by Dean Moses

While this could well serve as the officer’s own personal albatross, Haas instead turned his struggles into positive action. When he’s not working on counterterrorism initiatives, Haas is helping his colleagues with their mental health. As president of the NYPD Golf Team — a team of roughly 200 members — he takes officers onto a golf course, where he encourages them to decompress and speak about issues plaguing their minds.

Haas says the golf team is instrumental in aiding the mental health of fellow officers. The burden of the badge has been weighing heavy as of late, with three officers dying by suicide in 2021, along with three more in 2022.

“If anything happens to anybody in our department, we all feel it. You know, we’ve had the three suicides this year already,” he said. “Maybe I didn’t know them, but maybe one of my members did, so we have to step up and help them with whatever they need.”

“Sometimes they don’t need much, sometimes just a handshake, sometimes just a pat on the shoulder,” he went on. “But sometimes, it’s just going out onto the course, into the driving range and just hitting some balls and just talking about some fun times.”

Bill Murray with the Haas family. Photo courtesy of NYPD

Despite the isolated and secretive nature of his profession, Haas was finally able to be recognized by his family and thousands of people whom he serves on March 10 inside of Madison Square Garden during the Big East Tournament.

During the game, Haas was taken onto  the court in front of thousands of roaring fans who greeted him with a standing ovation. Famed actor Bill Murray was reportedly so inspired by the officer that he sought Haas out in the stands to treat him and his family to popcorn — and take a quick selfie.

Haas hopes his work can inspire others to do good, and to make change.

“One person can’t really change everything, but if you can make some small changes and help, hopefully it gradually influences other changes,” he said.