Letter: An apology from Officer Sisco

To the LBGTQ+ community, the town and village of New Paltz residents and elected officials: I would like to begin by saying my apology may be lengthy, but this is my first opportunity to publicly address the community about my actions. I am a much better writer than I am a speaker, and I feel to be transparent and genuine. The quality of my words would suffer if cut short, so please bear with me, as this letter is truly coming from my heart.

Related: New Paltz police officer’s rap video leads to accusations of transphobia 

To the New Paltz Police Department and all law enforcement. I apologize if my actions have made the difficult job we already do, that much more so. I have been a faithful servant of the law for much of my adult life and more than a third of my life in general.

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I took an oath, and right, wrong or indifferent, I should have considered if my actions would affect us all. I make no excuses but understand that I am human and I am fallible. One of the most important values that is drilled into you in the police academy was that “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

We are strong because we are together. My desire to be an individual weakened the bonds that bind us, and for that I am truly sorry. My actions were mine and mine alone. My brothers and sisters in blue should not have had to suffer for it.

To the town and village of New Paltz residents and the greater New Paltz community, I have many words. First, I have always put you before me! I remember the day I was sworn in. and I genuinely believed that I had found a home here. As I worked more and got to know the people of this town, I found it harder and harder to not be emotionally vested in your lives. I’ve watched your children grow up. I’ve been there for life altering moments, both good and bad. I’ve performed CPR on you, I’ve held your hand while in an ambulance, I’ve caught bats in your living room, I’ve helped you get into rehab, I’ve had beers with you downtown, I’ve taken pictures with you, I’ve embraced you when you’ve lost loved ones.

This is still who I am. This is officer Bob Sisco. But I have grown and changed in other ways through this experience. My lack of judgment and ignorance hurt many in our community and made people feel unsafe. And I even attracted national attention to our quiet town, and not in the way I had hoped. Again, for that, I am truly sorry. Just know that I am still that same cop who will still be there for you, as I always have. However, I have been humbled by this experience which has increased my understanding of the marginalized members of our community.

Finally, and most importantly, to the LGBTQ community I would like to say that your words did not fall on deaf ears. I listened. I would like to specifically address the transgender community, because although I understand the importance of the movement, I feel an apology would not be as sincere if not specifically to the group intended.

Sometimes, there comes a time in a person’s life where something so drastic and life-changing happens that it literally overloads their senses. I felt your senses overload. I watched as you all commented and posted. I deserved it. “Ignorance is no excuse.” A popular quote by my father growing up, but the lesson would not truly be learned until it was too late.

What struck me the most was how unsafe people in our community felt after hearing my words. As a marginalized person in this country, I should have been more sensitive to others who are also going through the struggle.

Unfortunately, I was ignorant and hurtful. My blackness does not define me, nor give me insight into the lives of other marginalized people, but it is who I am. I did not choose it. This was how it was explained to me by a transgender associate of mine whom I’d worked with for years. I’m hesitant to say friend because he too was extremely hurt by my actions and words. He said that he always knew he was a “he.”

But then he said. “Imagine looking in the mirror and seeing someone else. Someone who at times it disgusted you to be.” I have thought long and hard about that. I have never consciously discriminated or treated anyone differently because of their race or gender identity.

I realized that while I was not being discriminatory I was not learning or understanding. I was actually ashamed when I found out about the horrors that transgender men and women had suffered because of people who didn’t understand them. But I am not one of those people.

I have spent a good portion of my time away from patrol to learn and understand not only why my words were so hurtful, but also what I can do to repair your trust in me. Twenty hours of community service may have been part of the agreement, but I know it cannot make up for what I have done. I have already begun my own dialogue with the LGBTQ+ community and will continue to work on repairing the damage long after the 20 hours has been completed.

I have committed myself to being a better friend, neighbor and police officer. Maybe I don’t deserve it, but I am asking for your help. Help me be better, for you and for me. Give me the opportunity to learn and hear your voices and opinions. My goal with the video was to open a dialogue so we can start talking. It was ignorant, misguided, insensitive, hurtful and delegitimizing to many in our community. It cost me friends and family. Yet it has also helped me grow, given me a greater understanding of the power I have as an officer and the responsibility that must accompany it.

With your help. I know I will be a better police officer. My apologies mean nothing without actions to back it up. I know moving forward, my actions will speak louder than words, and it will take time to demonstrate my genuine remorse for the hurt I have caused. This apology is my start, and I will work every day to gain your trust. This I can absolutely promise you.

Robert Sisco

New Paltz

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