At the funeral mass for slain Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago the following eulogy was said by Jersey City’s Mayor Steve Fulop.
Archbishop Hebda, members of the clergy, to Kathy and Al McBride, Melvin’s brother Alex, all of his family and friends that are here today. On behalf of the City of Jersey City and the Jersey City Police Department, I offer to you our deepest condolences.
Melvin Santiago was everything we would want in a police officer. He was hard working and conscientious, good and courageous, strong and considerate. To quote the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C., “It was not how these officers died that made them heroes; it is how they lived.”
Melvin had always wanted to be a police officer. I’ve been told that as a boy he’d travel with his uncle to the precinct to learn about the JC Police Department.
From family and friends, we’ve learned that Melvin kept that dream alive in his heart and worked diligently in high school and his years in college to qualify as a police officer. And, when the time came to serve, he repeatedly requested to serve in the West District so that he could guard the community which was his home, which was his family.
He was assigned to the West. Captain Mike Kelly describes Melvin as squared away in his work and manner, intent upon learning, and always trying to be better. Mike told me how Melvin would just watch the older guys, watch and learn, that he wanted to bring pride to the West, an bring honor the profession of law enforcement. Kelly would try to encourage Melvin to relax and smile. I personally think that the “Eagles” cap that Melvin wore to work put Mike a bit off.
In the year since Melvin came on the West, he participated in patrols and police work, he chased down perpetrators and arrested them, he was on the front lines of the district and handled everything that came his way.
And whether it was neighbors’ yelling, domestic disputes, or the threat of gun violence, Melvin was intent upon good prevailing over evil, protecting the vulnerable, and order maintained in or community.
Melvin represented the best of that thin blue line which protects and defends civilized society from the indiscriminate violence which human beings are capable of.
Melvin understood that serving as a police officer is dangerous, but he also knew that it was the highest calling of service.
And as Melvin’s family knows, it was not only his willingness to make the supreme sacrifice, but his daily commitment to service, his quiet, dogged determination to be a force for good, and to give the protection of the law to the entire community — including those who would tear it down.
Melvin never excused himself from the standards that he was commanded to enforce. The self-discipline and principled behavior, which Melvin always showed, is what makes a police officer so unique, and it is also what makes the brother and sisterhood that is law enforcement so sacred.
While we ask you to protect and serve us all, we also ask you to hold yourselves to the highest standards, on the job and also in your private lives. This was a part of his service which Melvin approached with a determination which was exceptional even among police officers.
This morning, in this sacred place, we as a community express our eternal gratitude for the life and legacy of Melvin Santiago, and that of all law enforcement.
Last week when Alex wrote an essay about his brother, he expressed his gratitude in the title, “my hero.” Well Alex, Melvin is also my hero and I’m quite certain he’s also the hero of quite a few people in this church
As every police officer will honor his memory each time they don the uniform, let all of us take a moment deepen our appreciation for Melvin’s life and sacrifice.
Let us also consider our larger struggle to carve out a space of order and security in this world for ourselves and our families.
Melvin’s service and sacrifice are a special part of that struggle, and in light of his courage, let us return to it with a renewed determination and commitment which meets his high standards.
May eternal rest grant unto Melvin, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May his soul and all of the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.