If you’ve been to the city’s National Night Out, or if you’re part of La Fuerza Unida, which connects Spanish speakers to the community, you’ve probably seen Deputy Police Chief Chris Ortiz. The 49-year-old is the first Hispanic Glen Cove police chief, and has made it his personal mission to better connect the Police Department with the community.
Although Ortiz was born and raised in the city, the first steps of his career path didn’t point toward criminal justice. After he graduated from Glen Cove High School, he attended John Jay College, and like many freshmen, he was uncertain about his future. Luckily for Glen Cove, Ortiz had a friend who was majoring in criminal justice. The friend spoke enthusiastically about the virtues of policing, and inspired Ortiz to want make a difference in people’s lives.
Chris’s father, Jose Ortiz, didn’t take the
news well. The elder Ortiz is an immigrant who worked in factories near Garvies Point with other immigrants looking to better the lives of their families in the 1980s. Ortiz remembers the conversation he had with his father who said, “I didn’t come over here for you to become a police officer.”
Despite his father’s disappointment, Ortiz knew that criminal justice was his calling and persevered through his career.
He had to make a decision that would affect the rest of his life.
Since police exams vary in their employment response time, he had to take police exams for both the NYPD and Glen Cove. Although the later was his preferred choice, the NYPD accepted him first. Two weeks after graduating from the NYPD police academy’s rigorous six-month training program, he received a call that he was accepted as an officer for Glen Cove.
Ortiz had to go through the Nassau County Police Academy to begin his career in the city as a patrol officer. Immediately after graduating from the police academy, Ortiz was accepted to C.W. Post Long Island University’s graduate program. He earned his master’s degree in 2001.
Working as an officer for the city was an eye-opening experience for Ortiz. Growing up in the city, he didn’t have much interaction with the department. He always felt safe in the community.
“Seeing how much the police are involved with people, whether it be handling domestic violence calls, helping people who are lost, whatever, whatever it is, there are a lot of officers in this city that do have involvement,” Ortiz said. “When you actually become a police officer here, you try to really make an impression on people’s lives.”
Glen Cove Police Chief William Whitton, who was Ortiz’s field training officer, said he’s always been proud of Ortiz’s accomplishments throughout his career.
In 2006, Ortiz became a sergeant and received his Ph.D. in criminal justice from John Jay College. He was so inspired by criminal justice that he became an adjunct professor at New York Institute of Technology and taught courses in police conduct and psychology.
In 2012, he rose through the ranks becoming a lieutenant. Advancing his career further, Ortiz was selected to attend the FBI National Academy for law enforcement officers, one of the most prestigious programs of police leadership training. The program was rigorous and being away from his wife and children was a difficult experience.
He attended the training program with Det. Lt. John Nagle, who has always been impressed by Ortiz’s accomplishments.
“I’d describe the deputy chief as a very capable and conscientious officer,” Nagle said. “He has motivation and fire to be the best at what he does.”
In 2015, Ortiz was promoted to deputy chief.
Although Ortiz was involved in many programs as a student and teacher throughout his career, he also became heavily involved with the community outside of policing. When his son was old enough to play football, he became president of the city’s football and cheerleading organization. He also established a mentoring program with the city’s Youth Bureau, where officers have the opportunity to connect with Glen Cove teenagers.
Ortiz’s knowledge and influence gained international attention as well. Two years ago, he was asked to assist the Armenian National Police Department to help westernize their police force and deviate from a Soviet structure.
While he was training police at Yerevan, Armenia’s capitol city, he was moved by carvings he saw on a park bench, which listed the names of victims of police brutality, Breonna Taylor and Renisha McBride.
“Sometimes police violence and police misconduct can have repercussions and ripples around the world,” Ortiz said.