From scrapping with Mother Russia to booking street punks in the Bronx, Joe Thompson has been fighting the bad guy for over half a century.
He’s even taken a bullet for it.
“My history’s always been a cop,” said Thompson, a retired Bronx detective showing the scars on his right wrist.
He was accidentally shot by a man aiming for a suspect Thompson had just subdued.
The days as a south Bronx officer long over, Thompson’s lived a safer lifestyle.
Now head of the White Plains Road Business Improvement District, Thompson serves the interests of 88 stores in bustling Pelham Parkway.
Pelham Parkway’s also his home for the past 47 years, residing with his wife Gladys and two children.
“The BID promotes cleanliness, the variety of the stores, puts up holiday lights and offers promotions,” he said. “It’s all for the good of the merchants and the community.”
But promoting the BID is just one aspect of Thompson’s often busy schedule. He’s also a member of local Community Board 11 and head of the 49th Precinct Community Council.
“I can’t stand on the sideline,” said Thompson, 74. “I have to be a part of it.”
Thompson, who has nine siblings, remembered his first taste as an authority figure – serving as hall monitor in Morris High School.
He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1958, serving as as a radar tracking operator at a site in New Foundland, Canada, with Soviet planes the prime target of U.S. missiles. Honorably discharged, Thompson joined the NYPD in 1962, getting shot a year later.
After recovering from his shooting incident, Thompson moved up the ranks, first as a plainclothes officer then as a detective, serving various precincts and squads in the Bronx.
His aggravated wrist injury persisting, Thompson retired from the force after 15 years.
He found work as the first African-American insurance agent for the Northwestern Mutual company in New York, taking him all over the state. But he kept his roots to the Bronx, becoming manager for the Pelham Parkway Little League.
This led to his first encounter with the late Dominic Castore, a seasoned community leader who convinced Thompson to get more involved.
“I learned a lot watching him,” said Thompson, admiring Castore’s approach in getting things done.
He soon joined Community Board 11, followed by the Allerton Pelham Parkway Mobil Patrol Unit after his two kids were the victims of crime.
“I said, ‘I just can’t sit back anymore,’” said Thompson, later revamping the 49th Precinct Community Council.
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383