From the Big Apple to the Sunshine State

For more than a decade, Edward Lutz’s everyday tasks consisted of stopping attempted suicides, rescuing trapped accident victims and taking control of barricaded perpetrators.

Lutz spent 11 years with the New York City Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit (ESU), essentially New York’s version of the SWAT Team.

“On a summer night up in the Bronx, we would have to put our tactical gear on three or four times a night – heavy vests and helmets – and break out the rifles and shotguns,” said Lutz, now with the University of South Florida Police Department.

Lutz planned to stay with NYPD for 25 years, but everything changed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when the ESU lost 14 officers – three from Lutz’s squad.

“That’s something I’m never going to forget, and I think about it quite often,” said Lutz, 42. “I try actually not to talk about it because it is an experience that I wish I can forget, but it’s something I think that’s going to be with me for the rest of my life.”

Lutz carpooled with co-workers regularly to save money on a bridge toll. On 9/11, he drove in with Walter Weaver, a young officer who lived in Lutz’s basement, and Jerome Dominguez. Weaver and Dominguez responded to the initial crash into the World Trade Center building but neither made it out alive.

“There wasn’t a cloud in the sky; it was 70 degrees. It was just beautiful,” Lutz said of the morning of Sept. 11. “It was a great day, and it just turned to hell.”

The next six months were a recovery effort for NYPD. It was also a time when Myriam Lutz realized how much the tragedy had affected her husband.

“He changed,” Myriam said. “He didn’t want to go to work anymore. He has his family at home, and he had his family at work. He lost three of the guys – that was his family.

“It wasn’t the same anymore. He would come home (from work) and he was very quiet. He had to train new guys and that was hard for him. He didn’t want to do it anymore. He wanted to leave.”

Edward did want to leave New York, but in order to receive a retirement pension, he had to wait until July 2005, when his 20 years of service was complete.

Myriam wanted Edward to be done with law enforcement after he retired as a detective, and at first, that was his plan. However, she knew better, and in Oct. 2006, Edward began working at USF.

“I told my family ‘I give Eddie two months’ because he can’t sit still,” Myriam said. “And of course, two months came, and USF came.”

‘Experience is an asset’UP is often an agency where young officers go to get their first law enforcement job. Tom Bobrowski, Lutz’s sergeant for six months, said that at one point his entire squad was on probation for being either new hires or up for a promotion.

As someone who spent 18 years in police work before coming to USF, Bobrowski knew what kind of addition Lutz would be to his squad and to the younger officers on the force.

“Anybody that comes to the table with 20-plus years of law enforcement experience is an asset,” he said. “Having the experience (Lutz has) and also the seasoning that a police officer gets after being involved in this job for a long time was a benefit to everybody.”

Every UP officer goes on probation for a year after completing a field-training course, which takes four to six months. Lutz’s experience paid off when he was offered a position as a field-training officer immediately after completing his probation. Bobrowski said it normally takes several years for an officer to receive such an offer.

“For somebody to take a new officer under their wing and teach them the ropes and make sure they have the tools they need to get out there and function on their own, you really need to be careful,” Bobrowski said. “There was no concern with Eddie.”

Lutz laughed while pointing out how he was walking a beat as a patrol cop in Harlem when some of his colleagues were in kindergarten. But in all seriousness, Lt. Meg Ross appreciates the influence Lutz has on younger officers.

“I know he’s a great example as far as leadership,” said Ross, UP’s public information officer. “It’s all part of a learning experience, and people like Ed provide a good opportunity to see a motivated and mature officer working through things.”

No special treatmentLutz came to USF as a veteran officer who has been involved in multiple tactical situations, but he gladly went through all the normal training procedures. He also started as an officer despite spending 13 years as a detective.

“I came here with 20 years experience as a New York City cop, not a Florida cop, not a USF cop,” said Lutz, who graduated from the New York City Police Academy in 1985. “I can’t come here and push the New York City way – it wouldn’t be right. I came here and wanted to learn their way.”

Bobrowski admits he sometimes assumed Lutz didn’t need a full explanation of procedures during training, but Lutz was quick to remind him otherwise.

“I remember on several occasions saying to Ed ‘Well, you know how to do that. That’s not that big of a deal,'” Bobrowski said. “And he would remind me ‘Well, I knew how to do that in New York.’

“Eddie was always the first to point out that he wanted to learn how to do it the right way so that he wasn’t making any mistakes.”

Lutz plans to complete a 15-year career at USF. He would like to move up in rank eventually, but at the same rate as any other officer.

“I’ll take the tests just like everybody else,” Lutz said. “Florida is a whole new experience for me.”

Safer, but you never knowGrowing up, Myriam liked watching cop shows on television, especially S.W.A.T. So when her sister set her up on a blind date with an NYPD detective, she welcomed the idea.

Myriam and Edward got married in 1998, and until 9/11, she never worried about his safety while at work. However, after the terrorist attacks, she anxiously awaited Edward’s retirement.

“It was scary for me because I started thinking ‘Here I am, I’m going to get a phone call,'” she said.

Myriam sleeps fine now, while Edward is on campus working the night shift. She said she’ll always worry about him, but she feels like he’s a lot safer at USF.

Lutz describes being a UP officer as service-oriented, community policing. He said his job often consists of dealing with property thefts, answering calls for underage drinking and illegal drug use and occasionally responding to fights.

His favorite part of his job is late at night when he parks his patrol car and walks around campus looking for unusual activity, something he used to do in New York before he worked with the ESU.

“Like I explain to my family – because my family likes to know what I do here – it’s just old-fashion police work,” Lutz said. “It’s patrol, (and) it’s meeting with the University community.”

But while the average day on campus is far from one in the ESU, Lutz has learned that anything can happen at any time.

“This is a much more relaxed atmosphere here, but you always have to be on guard because things could change in a second,” Lutz said. “In any police department you can never let your guard down.”