A recently deployed Corona soldier dreaming of life as one of New York’s Finest may find his biggest challenge won’t be battling Taliban insurgents, but NYPD regulations.
Despite a recent pardon from Gov. David Paterson and support from a slew of law enforcement officials, the brass at 1 Police Plaza remain silent on whether Spc. Osvaldo Hernandez has cleared the regulatory hurdles barring him from wearing a badge.
Hernandez was convicted on weapons possession charges in 2002 after police discovered an unlicensed handgun in his car. He served one year in prison.
But rather than repeating his mistakes, Hernandez repented. He joined the Army shortly after his release and received accolades during a 2007 deployment to Afghanistan. Now the veteran has enlisted the support of his own army of influential officials, including an Army vice chief of staff, a former federal judge, former prosecutors and even Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
“His rehabilitation has been complete,” Brown said after a judge granted Hernandez a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities, a 2009 decision which restored his pre-conviction rights.
Paterson joined the movement last week, issuing a full pardon as the 27-year-old prepared for his second deployment to Afghanistan.
“Osvaldo Hernandez has demonstrated that individuals can turn their lives around and that we need not let our mistakes define us,” the governor said. “In certain exceptional and compelling circumstances, an individual’s sincere efforts to repay his or her debt to society warrant a grant of this extraordinary relief. I commend Mr. Hernandez for his exemplary military career and am proud to assist him in attempting to further his career in law enforcement.”
Hernandez first applied to the force in 2008, scoring a 98.235 on the NYPD’s entrance exam, placing him at 25th among hundreds of prospective officers. But the application was suspended because of police regulations prohibiting those with felony convictions from wearing the uniform.
Hernandez was also denied employment as a U.S. Immigration and Customs officer as a result of his criminal history.
Despite the slew of setbacks, the NYPD hopeful remains optimistic that his dream will eventually be fulfilled. But for now, he is simply focused on his new mission.
Hernandez was recalled to service with the Army earlier this year after he left active duty in June 2008. He is slated to arrive in Afghanistan for a 15-month deployment within the next few weeks.
“I am no hero. I am just an American soldier,” Hernandez said. “This is the beginning for me — not the end. I will try to live up to the faith placed in me in all that I do as an infantryman when my unit deploys to Afghanistan — and when I return home.”
NYPD officials declined to comment on any potential changes in the status of Hernandez’s application.