PROSPECT PARK, NJ - On Thursday afternoon, Police Chief Charlie Atie ended 29 years of police service with a public celebration that could be described as nothing less than an outpouring of community love. Atie, who attended school in the borough he has served almost three decades with the police, the last ten years as chief, was honored in the parking lot of the municipal building by members of the community, local, county, and state officials, as well as law enforcement colleagues from neighboring boroughs and from all sectors and levels. A vast list of officials, dignitaries, and representatives from the public and private realms joined for what was coined a "walkout ceremony."
Flanked by officers who formed a column outside the station door, Atie stepped out joined by his wife Gigi, escorted by the Passaic County Sheriff's pipe and drum band. The officers saluted the departing chief, who returned the gesture in kind, before assembling alongside a podium set up for the occasion.
Atie's niece Antoinette sang the national anthem during the ceremony which was begun by Detective Arthur Canastrino and carried on by Captain Ammen Matari, the officer-in-charge with Atie's departure from the force.
Pastor AJ Santino of the Unity Church led the gathering in a prayer, reading from Ecclesiastes chapter 3.
Captain Matari expressed gratitude for his "G.Q. Chief" - as Atie is characteristically known for cutting a sharp figure in both regular attire and in uniform - saying he was "dedicated to what he does best, which is public service... congratulations on your retirement, you will definitely be missed."
Mayor Mohamed Khairullah said, "These are big shoes to be filled. We wish him an enjoyable retirement. He has demonstrated great leadership and ability to bring people together and lead the department in a positive way, where we can maintain our quality of life. He will be greatly missed."
Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes said, "You did it with grace, dignity, and honor."
"You leave the department in good hands," Sheriff Richard Berdnik said.
"He’s a hard-working person and his dedication will be sorely missed," Councilman Anand Shah said. "This is a person who was always on standby for us 24/7, even if he was at home or on vacation, he got the problems resolved one way or the other. I had a great working relationship with the chief, and he delivered everything above and beyond for the borough. He started in Prospect Park, his roots are here, and we want to congratulate him on his retirement."
Atie was visibly moved during the course of the ceremony and delivered his remarks in a short speech. "I'm truly humbled and honored," he said, describing serving the community he grew up in as "the most rewarding experience of my life." He called for a round of applause for all the law enforcement officers present, thanking them for their dedication and service. "I will cherish our friendship for life." He described the PBA as his "second family," saying, "without you, I couldn't have achieved this today."
The chief called up his family to join him, introducing them in turn. His son Elias is a police officer with the Maywood Police Department.
The Reverend Randall Lassiter delivered a closing prayer, after which the chief stepped into a squad car to deliver his final radio call.
The weight of the moment was apparent and emotion carried through his voice as he delivered his last message. His son, over the radio, expressed his love and said, "Thank you for being the best role model a son could ask for."
TAPinto Hawthorne asked Chief Atie what his plans were for the future. "I'm going to take a small break and spend it with my family first," Atie said. "But most likely I will be pursuing a law enforcement career once again."
With the ending of the ceremony, Atie received dozens of guests to wish him well. Afterwards, the celebration moved to Bottagra's Restaurant in Hawthorne for outdoor dining and cocktails.
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