The Majority Caucus of the Nassau County Legislature held a press conference on July 30th, to announce the naming of the Nassau County Police Department headquarters building after former Police Commissioner William J. Willett. Commissioner Willett, who served in the position between 2000 and 2002, was the first African American to hold the title of Police Commissioner in Nassau County and on Long Island.
The bill, which still has to go before the Legislature in September, was welcomed with enthusiastic support from other elected officials, including County Executive Laura Curran and Hempstead Town Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, as well as from Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, who served with Commissioner Willet.
William Willett was born May 4th, 1931 in Glen Cove. As an adult he joined the US Navy and served for four years during the Korean Conflict. When he returned home, he expressed an interest in joining the Nassau County Police Department and succeeded in doing so in 1953. At the time, there were 15 African American police officers in Nassau County. Mr. Willett started as a beat cop, patrolling the neighborhoods of Garden City Park. In the 1960s and 1970s he worked in the Nassau County Police Department’s Community Relations Bureau. In 1957, he married his wife Floretta, and they started a family in Westbury.
In his time with the Department, he moved up the ranks, becoming the first African American to reach those milestones. In 1981 he became Deputy Chief of Patrol. In 1994 he was named First Deputy Commissioner. In 2000, County Executive Tom Gulotta appointed Willett to the position of Police Commissioner. Seeing his hard work and lengthy career, the Nassau County Legislature unanimously approved the appointment. After a 48-year career with the Police Department, Commissioner Willett retired in 2002. He passed away on April 12, 2003 at age 71 from Lung Cancer.
“I had the opportunity to work with Commissioner Willett in my early days with the Legislature,” Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello said. “Commissioner Willett was highly respected among his peers and was one of the best Police Commissioners Nassau County has ever had. His professionalism and integrity made this decision to name the Police Headquarters after him easy. Now, he will live on in the history books and with him name on the building that houses the police force he helped shape.”
The Majority Caucus of the Legislature was joined at the press conference by County Executive Laura Curran, Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, Hempstead Town Councilman Dorothy Goosby, friend of Commissioner Willett and Westbury Trustee William Wise and members of the Willet family. After the legislation passes the full Legislature, a renaming ceremony is planned with the entire Willett family