KINGSTON–As a young child, Tyler Croizer often would go to bed worried about his father heading off to a potentially dangerous call.
“I’d get up in the morning and he still wasn’t home. As a little kid, that would make me worry,” said the 22-year-old.
These days, the tables are turned.
His father, Kingston Police Detective Lt. Thierry Croizer, now worries about his son reporting to work, particularly in a day and age when cops aren’t always viewed favorably.
Tyler, who graduated from the Ulster County Law Enforcement Training Group in July 2016, became an officer at the town of Ulster Police Department this January. He is the latest hire.
“As a parent, I am definitely a lot more concerned,” his father said. “I’m concerned when he leaves home to go to work and I’m always, like any other parent, making sure he gets home safely. There’s always something in the back of my mind, but it’s law enforcement. Our work can sometimes be hazardous.”
So it is for those who have passed the law enforcement torch to their sons. Though a proud moment, the fathers said they can’t help but feel a bit apprehensive.
“There’s a little bit of anxiety associated with it, but at the same time, it’s what he wanted,” said Harry Woltman, a detective at the Kingston Police Department. “No one stood in my way, and I certainly wouldn’t stand in his way either.”
His son, Kevin Woltman, is a town of Ulster policeman–a profession he wanted to pursue since he was 10 years old.
“Clearly, being safe would be (my) first and foremost concern for him,” said his father. “Impacting people’s lives and making a difference also are important. I feel that, hopefully over the years, I’ve done that, and I’d like to see him do that as well.”
The boys in blue–both generations–gathered late last week outside Kingston police headquarters at 1 Garraghan Drive to discuss what it means to follow in their fathers’ footsteps and the impact that has had on the older men.
“I was surprised but proud that he chose to follow in my footsteps,” said John Solian Sr., a part-time deputy with the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office and retired Kingston officer.
His son, John Solian, Jr., has picked up where his father left off, working for the Kingston Police Department as a patrolman.
“It’s nice to be able to talk to him about the same job that I did and see the changes and the progression in the job.
“When he was growing up and I would stop home occasionally, he always wanted to come out and see the car and sit in the car and ask what…happened on this night. I would tell him, and I think the stories really intrigued him and led his interest toward police work.”
His son holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting, but he said he wanted to be like his father and make a difference in his community.
“I wanted a job that I could be proud of and a profession that was noble, and I remember, as a little kid, seeing my father and hearing all the stories he told me and how he actually helped a lot of people,” said the younger Solian.
“It just became something I thought I could do where I could make a difference and, at the end of the day, be proud of what I was doing and not just collect a paycheck.”
State Police Trooper Joseph Alma had a similar experience. His father, whom he is named after, had a 32-year career with the state police before retiring at the age of 60 in 2012 as a senior investigator out of the Troop F Highland barracks.
“Growing up, I remember him coming home for dinner in uniform with a troop car,” said the 38-year-old Alma.
“At 5 or 6 years old, I knew this is what I wanted to do. It just seemed like a cool job, but as I got older, my dad kept a scrap book that had everything in it from helping people to solving homicides and burglaries, and it seemed like a very important job where you could help people.”
Turns out, Alma works at the same barracks his father did–something that unnerved him in the beginning.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to follow his example. He had been here for years, and it was a lot of pressure at first. He would always keep up with what I was doing and he would guide me along.”
Alma has moved in a slightly different direction than his father since he came on board 15 years ago. He is a K-9 handler, a job he loves.
“My dad was a road trooper and became an investigator, so he never did anything quite like that. I’ve also taught at the State Police Academy in Albany
and am a drug recognition expert, so we’ve definitely taken different paths,” Alma said.
Still, he was drawn to the work by the example his father set–something all the young men said they could relate to.
“My father has been in law enforcement since basically I was a child,” said Aaron Fitzgerald, a rookie cop at the town of Ulster Police Department.
“For the majority of my life, I’ve been around law enforcement. It’s basically what I’ve grown up around. I highly admired everything I saw him do and all the stories I had heard.
“He was always somebody I looked up to and somebody who was always there to help me and guide me and now, he’s able to further guide me. He’s walked the walk, and now I’m walking the same path, and it’s definitely created a stronger bond,” he said.
His father, also Aaron Fitzgerald, is a detective with the Kingston Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit.
“I guess I must have been some type of a role model along the way,” he said. “I always had a strong sense of duty to community from the time I was 16 when I joined the volunteer fire department until leaving after high school and volunteering for the military, so it was just an extension of that. I think he’s looking to do the same. I do believe it is a noble profession, or else I wouldn’t be here doing it.
“My son carries such strong values and morals that I think are important to be a law enforcement and police professional, so I believe the torch has been handed off into good hands,” the elder Fitzgerald said.
On top of everything, all the men interviewed said being in the same line of work has deeply strengthened the father-son bond.
Kingston Police Sgt. Barry Rell Jr. said he and his father, a retired patrolman, are able to understand each other when times get tense.
“Being a police officer is a unique experience, so it’s good to have someone in the family who understands the stresses. It’s sometimes hard to open up to other people, so I think our ability to talk and understand some of the stresses that are part of the job has been huge,” Rell said.
“If I’m having a bad day, my father can explain it to my wife why I’m not in the mood to talk, or my mother can relate and explain it, so I think it helps when you can share that.”
The rookie Croizer sees it the same way.
“He knows the amount of stress this job can bring on somebody, and I know he’s there if I need to talk to somebody, and he knows I’m here if he wants to talk to somebody.”
That moment of bonding took on even more meaning for Alma the day he graduated No. 1 in his class at the State Police Academy.
“He was very excited. He even got to present me with my shield when I graduated. It was an especially proud moment for him,” Alma said.
The younger Woltman said he knows he also made his dad proud, but added that he’d like to stand on his own two feet as he moves forward in his career.
“I just don’t want to be known as my father’s son,” he said with a laugh.