UNDOCUMENTED TO DETECTIVE

March 16, 2018 at 7:00 pm

When Luke Waters was in his 20s, he traveled from Ireland to the U.S. and remained in the country after his visa expired. He worked as a bartender before joining the NYPD where he would spend two decades rising up the ranks to become a leading homicide detective. Now retired, Waters joins us to talk about his career and experience as an undocumented Irish immigrant in his new book.

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Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

Aired on March 16, 2018.

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>>> AS PART OF THE ONGOING
SERIES CHASING THE DREAM,
POVERTY AND OPPORTUNITY IN
AMERICA, WE HAVE AN INSPIRING
STORY THAT TRULY ILLUSTRATES THE
LUCK OF THE IRISH.
LUKE WATERS WILL MAKE YOU THINK
TWICE ABOUT UNDOCUMENTED
IMMIGRANTS LIVING AMONG US.
AS A YOUNG MAN IN DUBLIN LUKE
DREAMT OF COMING TO NEW YORK FOR
A CAREER IN LAW ENFORCEMENT.
BUT AS HAPPENS OUR COMPLEX
IMMIGRATION SYSTEM GOT IN THE
WAY OF HIS AMERICAN DREAM.
IN HIS MEMOIR ACTION "NYPD
GREEN," IRISH BORN DETECTIVE 25
YEARS ON THE MEAN STREETS OF NEW
YORK, WATERS DESCRIBES HIS LIVE
FROM THE DAYS OF LIVING ILLEGAL
TO THE NIGHTS FIGHTING CRIME.
HE JOINS ME NOW WELCOME, LUKE.
>> THANKS FOR HAVING ME.
>> FIRST, I WANT TO TALK ABOUT
SINCE WE MENTIONED YOUR
IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE, WHAT WAS
YOUR EXPERIENCE COMING TO NEW
YORK?
>> LISTEN, IT WAS A GREAT
EXPERIENCE, JENNA.
YOU KNOW, I CAME FROM IRELAND AS
AN IMMIGRANT, AS YOU KNOW, IN
THE 1980s.
AND JUST -- LEAVING IRELAND
WHERE YOU KNOW WE HAD NOTHING.
>> UM-HUM.
>> I MEAN, UNEMPLOYMENT WAS 25%.
THERE WAS NO HOPE, NO PROSPECTS
FOR A YOUNG PERSON IN IRELAND
BACK THEN.
BUT COMING TO NEW YORK AND
GETTING OFF THE AIRPLANE AND
COMING INTO NEW YORK CITY, I
MEAN, IT WAS JUST A FANTASTIC
FEELING WITHIN YOU.
YOU WALK OUT OF JFK AND SEE THE
HUGE BIG CARS.
AS AN IMMIGRANT, LIKE, THIS IS
FANTASTIC.
AND THEN YOU GO INTO NEW YORK
CITY AND YOU JUST LOOKING UP AT
HAD THIS HUGE BIG CITY.
AND YOU CAME FROM IRELAND.
IT'S LIKE A HUGE BIG CHRISTMAS
TREE FULL OF LIGHTS.
THAT'S THE WAY I DESCRIBE IT.
>> UM-HUM.
>> IT WAS A POSITIVE FEELING IN
NEW YORK BACK THEN BECAUSE OF
WHERE WE CAME FROM.
WHEN I GOT INTO NEW YORK CITY
THAT DAY, I REMEMBER THE PILOT
HAD SAID EARLIER ON THE PLANE,
YOU KNOW, PUT YOUR WATCHES BACK
FIVE HOURS TO LOCAL TIME.
I REMEMBER SAYING TO MYSELF HE
SHOULD HAVE SAID PUT IT FORWARD
20 YEARS.
THAT'S WHAT IT FELT LIKE.
>> WOW.
>> THAT WAS A GREAT FEELING.
WHEN YOU GOT TO THE NEW YORK AS
AN IMMIGRANT BE, YOU KNEW THIS
WAS YOUR HOME AND YOU WERE
WELCOME HERE AND ACCEPTED HERE.
AND I SUPPOSE AS IMMIGRANTS BACK
THEN YOU KNOW, WE ALL WORKED.
>> UM-HUM.
>> WE WORKED VERY HARD BECAUSE
WE WANTED TO WORK.
AND WE PAID OUR TAXES AND WE
LIVED WHAT'S KNOWN AS THE
AMERICAN DREAM.
THAT'S WHAT I DID.
>> SPEAKING OF THE AMERICAN
DREAM, FOR A LOT OF IMMIGRANTS
THAT STARTS WORKING AT THE
BOTTOM YOU DIDN'T STEP OFF THE
PLANE INTO THE NYPD.
THERE WAS JOBS IN BETWEEN.
>> I THINK MOST IRISH BACK IN
THE 80s EITHER WORKED IN BARS,
RESTAURANTS RESTAURANTS OR
CONSTRUCTION.
EVENTUALLY YOU PROGRESSED ON TO
YOU KNOW THE POLICE DEPARTMENT
OR THE FIRE DEPARTMENT OR THE
MILITARY.
BUT I ENDED UP WEATHER IN THE
BARS.
AND YOU KNOW, I -- A COUPLE OF
FUNNY STORIES ACTUALLY AS AN
IMMIGRANT BACK THEN I WORKED IN
ONE CAR CALLED BREWS ON 34th
STREET, RIGHT OFF LEXINGTON
AVENUE.
AND I WAS IN THE BAR ONE
PARTICULAR DAY.
AND MY IDOL GROWING UP WAS TELLY
SAVALAS, KOJAK.
FROM CHILDHOOD I WANTED TO BE A
COP IN IRELAND.
NEVER DREAMT OF BEING A COP IN
AMERICA.
BUT I'M SITTING IN THE BAR ONE
DAY.
AND IN WALKS TELLY SAVALAS.
I'M LIKE, THIS IS -- THIS IS MY
IDOL HERE.
AND HE SITS UP AT THE BAR AND
SAYS TO ME, KID, GIVE ME A
MARTINI STRAIGHT UP WITH A
TWIST.
AND I SAYS DO YOU MIND IF I
SHAKE YOUR HAND?
I SAYS, I WAS A BIG FAN GROWING
UP.
AND HE GOES, YOU'RE A FAN, HE
SAYS WELL WHO WAS MY CAPTAIN.
>> VERY QUICKLY I SAYS CAPTAIN
McNEIL.
>> HE SAYS WHAT DO YOU KNOW KID,
YOU ARE A FAN.
NOW GIVE ME A MARTINI STRAIGHT
UP WITH A TWIST.
>> I GIVE HIM HIS DRINK.
FOR ME AS AN IMMIGRANT, JENNA
COMING FROM IRELAND THIS WAS
HUGE FOR ME.
IT WAS HUGE.
AND I HAD A BRIEF CONVERSATION
WITH HIM.
AND HE STARTED TO TELL ME THAT
YOU KNOW HE WAS THE SON OF GREEK
IMMIGRANTS.
AND HE STARTED TELLING ME HOW HE
GREW UP.
HE HAD TO SELL NEWSPAPERS AND
SHINE SHOES MAKING A LIVING.
>> UM-HUM.
>> AND WHAT STRUCK ME THE MOST
ABOUT HIM WAS HE TOLD ME HE WAS
JUST AN ORDINARY KID WHO LED AN
EXTRAORDINARY LIFE.
BUT ON THE BIG SCREEN.
>> WOW!
>> MANY YEARS LATER WHEN I
ACHIEVED MY DREAM OF WHAT HE DID
WHERE I SAW ON THE BIG SCREEN
THAT WAS MY DREAM.
I REMEMBER SAYING TO MYSELF, YOU
KNOW, I WAS JUST AN ORDINARY KID
TOO WHO ENDED UP IN AN
EXTRAORDINARY JOB.
>> SPEAKING OF YOUR
EXTRAORDINARY JOB, YOU
EVENTUALLY DID GET TO JOIN THE
NYPD.
FIRST OF ALL, I MEAN THAT WAS A
LIFELONG DREAM OF YOURS.
HOW DID YOU GET TO JOIN THE
POLICE DEPARTMENT?
>> WELL HOW DID I GET TO JOIN
IT?
I HAD TO WAIT UNTIL I WAS A
UNITED STATES CITIZEN BEFORE I
COULD APPLY.
>> UM-HUM.
>> I DID APPLY.
AND LUCKILY ENOUGH BACK IN 1993
I GOT CALLED TO GO FOR THE
POLICE ACADEMY, WHICH WAS THAT
WAS MY DREAM FROM CHILDHOOD
THAT'S ALL I WANTED, NOTHING
ZBLEELS WAS THAT THE HAPPIEST
DAY FOR YOU.
>> I'LL NEVER FORGET THE DAY
WALKING IN THE DOORS OF THE
POLICE ACADEMY, HEAD SHAVED,
NICE AND TRIM, SLIM, A LOT MORE
HAIR THEN THAN I HAVE NOW.
AND I'LL NEVER FORGET THE DAY.
IT WAS A DREAM.
I EVEN LOOK BACK OVER MY 20-YEAR
CAREER, THERE WASN'T ONE DAY I

COULDN'T HAVE WORKED WITHOUT
EVEN GETTING PAID FOR IT.
IT WAS THAT EXCITING.
I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF IT.
IT WAS A FANTASTIC CAREER.
AND I ENCOURAGE ALL YOUNG IRISH
IMMIGRANTS, IMMIGRANTS FROM
EVERYWHERE TO JOIN THE NYPD.
>> WOW!
PUP ONE OF THE THINGS I THOUGHT
IT WAS INTERESTING TAKING AWAY
FROM YOUR BOOK AND CONVERSATIONS
WITH YOU WAS YOUR VIEW ON THE
BEST PRACTICES FOR POLICING.
BECAUSE SOMETIMES THE NYPD CAN
GET A NEGATIVE RAP.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE SOME OF
THE BEST WAY HE IS FOR THE
POLICE DEPARTMENT TO CONNECT?
>> POLICE OFFICERS ALL AROUND
THE WORLD, THEY ALWAYS GET THE
WORST RAP.
EVERYBODY LIKES TO BLAME THE
POLICE ON EVERYTHING.
AND THAT'S THE WRONG THING TO
DO.
BUT I FEEL THAT FIRST OF ALL THE
POLICE DEPARTMENT -- DSH THE
NYPD FIRST OF ALL JENNA IT'S ONE
OF THE BEST POLICE DEPARTMENTS
IN THE WORLD.
IT'S THE MOST DIVERSE AND IT HAS
THE BEST LEADERSHIP RIGHT NOW
THAN IT'S EVER HAD.
WHAT THE POLICE DEPARTMENT NEEDS
TO DO MORE IS COMMUNITY
POLICING.
WE NEED A LOT MORE COMMUNITY
POLICING.
TIFRPG IT'S VERY, VERY IMPORTANT
FOR BOTH THE COMMUNITY AND THE
POLICE TO GET CLOSER TOGETHER.
TODAY MORE THAN -- THIS IS THE
MOST IMPORTANT THING I FEEL THEY
SHOULD DO.
LIKE, WHAT THEY DO WITH THE
COMMUNITY POLICING WHEN I WAS A
COP WAS THEY WOULD SEND THE
COMMANDERS IN THE PRECINCTS TO
GO AND MEET WITH THE COMMUNITY
LEADERS.
AND TO ME I THINK YOU SHOULD BE
SENDING THE COPS AND THE
DETECTIVES WHO ARE ON THE STREET
EVERY HOUR OF THE DAY DEALING
WITH THE COMMUNITY, NOT THE
COMMANDERS.
>> UM-HUM.
>> THERE SHOULD BE MORE OF A
BUILDING A BETTER BRIDGE THERE.
BECAUSE WHEN I WAS A DETECTIVE I
FELT IT WAS VERY IMPORTANT FOR
ME -- I ASPEN MOST OF MY CAREER
AS A DETECTIVE IN HOMICIDE AND
DEALT A LOT WITH THE COMMUNITY.
BUT I FELT IT WAS EXTREMELY FOR
ME TO DO MY JOB TO GET NO KNOW
ALL THE LEADERS OF THE
COMMUNITY, REGARDLESS OF WHO THE
LEADERS WERE.
REVEREN
REVERENDS, RABBAIS, THE
TEACHERS.
THE CHILDREN LOOK UP TO THE
LEADERS.
WHENEVER I HAD A PROBLEM I
RECALL GOING TO LIKE REVEREND
DIAMOND ONE OF THE REVERENDS IN
THE SOUTH BRONX WHEN A COUPLE OF
KIDS GOT KILLED IN THE
NEIGHBORHOOD.
I WOULD GO TO HIM AND HE WOULD
GO TALK WITH THE COMMUNITY.
AND THEY WOULD COME BACK AND
WE'D ALL TALK TOGETHER.
THAT'S HOW YOU WORK.
THAT'S HOW YOU GET TO KNOW THE
PEOPLE OF THE COMMUNITY.
AND THAT'S HOW YOU SOLVE CRIME,
WORKING TOGETHER.
IT'S THE ONLY WAY FORWARD.
>> THAT -- THAT IS REALLY
POWERFUL.
AND I THINK WE'D ALL LIKE TO SEE
MORE OF THAT IN NEW YORK AND
CITY HE IS AROUND THE COUNTRY
PHILLIP LUKE, THANK YOU FOR
JOINING ME MP THE BOOK "NYPD
GREEN" IS AMAZING AND GIVES A
UNIQUE AND DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
ON BEING AN GRIPT ESPECIALLY IN
NEW YORK CITY THANK YOU.
>> THANK YOU.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

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