A top NYPD chief took his life on the verge of mandatory retirement.
Chief Steven Silks, a 62-year-old deputy chief in charge of Patrol Borough Queens North and a resident of Allerton died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound as he sat in his vehicle in Forest Hills, Queens on Wednesday, June 5.
Silks began his 39-year career in the 52nd Precinct and he was a commanding officer of the Rodman’s Neck pistol range and training center in the late 1990s, friends said.
A number of people who were close with Silks described him as a personable cop who was also a dedicated athlete who once climbed to the basecamp of Mount Everest, rowed crew at SUNY Stony Brook, cycled from California to New York and was an excellent marksman.
Friend and ex-cop Bill Stanton, from City Island, said that Silks grew up in the Bronx and worked in multiple commands in the borough.
Stanton, a safety and security expert, said that he drew on Silk’s knowledge to write a chapter in a book he recently published.
“He cleaned out his locker, drove two blocks, and put a gun to his head, which is tragic,” said Stanton, adding “His whole life was wrapped up in the NYPD.”
Tom Fahey, a retired assistant chief and former commanding officer of Manhattan detectives, said he met Silks about 20 years ago, and said he was impressed by how much he cared about the cops under his command.
“He was always watchful to keep his cops out of trouble, and anything he did was he did with a great deal of energy and seriousness,” said Fahey, adding that when Silks ran the Rodman’s Neck facility he was always advocating for better equipment for to keep police officers safe.
Fahey said that the cause of the chief’s action remains “a tragedy and a mystery.”
He said he spoke to him about a week earlier because friends told him he had sounded depressed, and at that point Silks indicated that he felt he had things he still wanted to do.
“I didn’t realize the separation anxiety was as deep as it was,” said Fahey.
“If you ever called him and needed him he would be there in a heartbeat, said Fahey, adding “We would have loved if he had always called someone up and said ‘look, I’m having a problem.’”
Stephen Albanese, a second grade detective in the NYPD’s firearms unit and the former department gunsmith, said that when Silks arrived to command the Rodman’s Neck range he immersed himself in learning about firearms, holsters, vests, and training in order to make police officers safer by providing them with the best equipment possible and pushing manufactures to correct defects.
“He was really concerned with cops as far as training went,” said Albanese. “He was really interested in what was good for the police officer.”
He immersed himself so much, recalled Albanese, that manufacturers of weapons and safety gear would seek out his advice.
He was dedicated to making sure that if a police officer was involved in a situation, his or her firearm worked 100 percent of the time, said Albanese.
Albanese said that he was devastated by the news.
Both Silk’s friend Lou Palumbo and Stanton said they would invite the chief over their homes on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas because they knew he would be alone.
Palumbo described Silks as smart and highly evolved.
“He was highly intelligent and probably would have been successful in any career he had chosen,” said Palumbo. “He was just a good soul.”
Palumbo said there were none of the warning signs that can sometimes lead to cops taking their lives: no problems with marriages or finances, no kids with drug habits, and no scandals.
“He said he was having separation anxiety and I said why don’t you talk to someone,” said Palumbo, adding he believes that the chief, who lived alone and didn’t have a wife, children or family who lived nearby, may have lost perspective with his life.