BY JOE MARVILLI
Assistant Chief Diana Pizzuti of the NYPD is not just notable for a long and storied career that has seen her rise through the ranks, but also for using her own life to mentor others.
Pizzuti is the Commanding Officer of Patrol Borough Queens North, the latest step in a career full of highlights. Learning from new challenges, Pizzuti imparts her wisdom on younger officers, creating the next generation of leaders.
Although Pizzuti is first-generation police in her family, she is the second generation to go into public service. Her father spent 40 years with a fire department in New Jersey. Originally, Pizzuti was on the path to become a reporter at Northwestern University. However, her time covering crime during internships opened up a different road.
“I had internships in college where I covered the police beat. It was there that I thought I would respond to the action in a different capacity,” she said.
Once she got through the Police Academy, Pizzuti was assigned to the Bronx, followed by Patrol Borough Queens South. These early years on the force gave her a foundation that she could always look back to as her career moved forward.
“You revert back to your training and your experience and you continue to develop as a police officer,” she said. “Every rank, we’re challenged by new assignments and new circumstances.”
One of those challenges came when Pizzuti became the first female commanding officer of the Police Academy in 2002. She had just earned a Master’s in Education from Seton Hall University when she threw herself into a rapidly changing landscape. Pizzuti was in charge of the first class after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The academy assembled a counter-terrorism factor into the NYPD. Pizzuti refocused the academy on team teaching, assessments and created a more connected coursework.
“We tried to do a more integrated approach to training. We took the entire curriculum and put it back together as one curriculum,” she said. “It was nice to go back after 15 years, to go back in another role.”
Pizzuti’s time transforming and mentoring at the academy wound up helping to ease her transition into her next and current assignment, which she started in 2007. As the Commanding Officer of Patrol Borough Queens North, Pizzuti presides over a 50-square mile area with an estimated population of 1.3 million residents.
During her time at the academy, 12,000 recruits graduated. As a result, many of the police officers on the street in her district knew her from their time at the academy. Her time as a precinct commander in Manhattan helped as well.
“It’s nice to be back dealing with cops, community and crime,” she said. “At the Borough level, you’re dealing with those three components.”
While she had to overcome an established procedure, Pizzuti’s expertise and strength as a leader helped her to fit her ideas into Queens North. One of her goals was to continue to cultivate a good relationship with the community, particularly with the young people of Queens.
“Every year, I’ve done initiatives with the youth in this community. Last year, we did an anti-bullying project,” she said. “I think a lot of the mark is left with the youth of the community.”
Besides her work within the NYPD, Pizzuti is a part of New York Women in Law Enforcement, an organization dedicated to strengthening the law enforcement community through education, diversity and the development of leaders.
Even with many years on the job, Pizzuti said she is still learning with every new challenge she faces. She continues to mentor others as well. At one point, she said a quote that applies as much to her as it does to those who have learned from her.
“Even with the commanding officers, I use the expression ‘good leaders develop new leaders.’ We have some good leaders here in the precinct,” she said.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.