Greek NYPD commander John Pappas celebrated his retirement after a distibguished career as a police officer with Greek songs and dance outside his Transit K9 Unit on Thursday.
It was a fitting farewell for a man who wore many hats – Transit cop, canine handler, and proud American of Greek heritage. After a vaunted 26 years of service to New York, colleagues, friends, and family were there to wish him the very best in retirement.
Greek NYPD Commander shares traumatic moments
Fueled by his experiences with 9/11, Lieutenant John Pappas, Canine Commanding Officer with New York City Police Department turned the ravages of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks into his unwavering motivation for attaining expertise in advanced counter terrorism tactics and deployments.
“When September 11th happened, we were very busy. We were caught up in the adrenaline rush, so it was a mix of emotions. There was anger, there was fear, there was ignorance and that gave birth to hatred on my part,” he told the Widows, Orphans and Disabled Firefighter’s Fund (WODFF) recently. “It affected me in a profound way.”
Lieutenant Pappas says he realized those negative feelings needed to be addressed and along with many police officers, he sought treatment. He and others chose to get therapy away from the job.
“If you told the job that you had an issue, the way they reacted 21 years ago, they would take your guns away. They would put you on modified assignment and there was almost like a punishment.”
After being tasked with creating a specialized Transit Bureau Canine Unit, the largest canine unit in the NYPD, Lieutenant Pappas became the commander of a highly-trained team of 54 handlers, each paired with their own K9.
The unit performs a proactive, pedestrian and rail-based patrol, in order to deter, detect, respond and mitigate an attack in the most dense urban environment in the Western Hemisphere, the New York City Transit System.
That means, “policing the busiest ferry in America….the busiest train service in America…the busiest bus service, and the often-overlooked busiest tram in America. So, anything that moves people is my specialty,” he told WODFF.
One of the more traumatic moments in his illustrious career was when Greek American NYPD Officer Anastasios Tsakos, was killed in the line of duty in 2021.
“We will miss him immensely,” said Pappas, who was close friends with Tsakos, whom he called Tasos, for 14 years.
They met through the St. Paul Society, an Hellenic and Eastern Orthodox Christian Society made up of mostly Greek officers.
“He was a very loving man to his friends, his family, his children,” Pappas said in an interview with CBS. “And he gave of himself, and he wanted no recognition in return. That’s the kind of guy he was.”