By Martie Thompson
Tom Verri has been a St. Johns County resident since 2012. Originally from the Bronx, NY, he is part of a large Italian family and the youngest of seven children, as well as a product of New York City public schools. At an early age, he knew he wanted to be a police officer and became a reserve officer in the 45th Precinct in the Bronx at age 18 and a full time officer at age 21. His childhood career ambition was a good one — he became a shooting instructor at an early age and served in the motorcycle unit, undercover in the vice unit, as a member of the detective unit, and many years in his personal favorite, the patrol division.
After 23 years of service in New York City, which included Sept. 11, 2001, Verri retired from the NYPD. He then worked overseas in Iraq as the bureau chief of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement under the US Department of State, as a law enforcement officer in Washington DC, and now has a private investigation firm to keep him busy. Verri and wife Patty have three daughters, all of whom graduated from Creekside High School and are now in college at the University of North Florida and Florida State College at Jacksonville.
Q: How did you know you wanted to become a police officer?
A: We lived in a building with the Pelham Parkway Block Association offices on the first floor. These volunteers would patrol the neighborhood in teams of two and acted as liaisons with the NYPD. I was always fascinated by what they did and when I was 13 years old, after catching me trying to overhear what they were doing in the office, the president of the association offered to let me volunteer with them. I started out answering the phone, but by age 14 I was allowed to go out on neighborhood patrol with a coveted CB radio. My sense of law enforcement came from a real understanding of what community service was.
Q: How did you get to be a police officer?
A: One night, a lady had her purse stolen. I took off after the guy and was able to get close enough to get a very accurate description of him. Within a few seconds, the police arrived and I gave them this description. They apprehended him and I gave a positive identification. The sergeant asked me how I was able to see all the details so quickly and then said with eyes and a memory like that, I should become a police officer.
Q: How did you meet your wife?
A: Patty and I met in 1991 through mutual friends, but we were just friends. I was a police officer in New York when we bonded over the passing of a mutual friend. One thing led to another and we started dating in 1994. We were married in 1998.
Q: How did you come to live in St. Johns County?
A: My mom eventually lived in Hernando County, north of Tampa. I knew I always wanted to come to Florida when I retired, but I didn’t want to go somewhere extremely hot or extremely populated. North Florida fit the bill. We first moved to Amelia Island, but one day we found St. Johns County by accident. We drove over the Julington Creek Bridge and we were intrigued and started to explore the area. We moved here in 2012. St. Johns County is like heaven on earth to me.
Q: What hobbies do you enjoy?
A: I love riding my Harley. I’ve dabbled in acting and have done a couple of spots on “Days of our Lives” and “Law and Order.” I also made a pitch for a reality show where we would travel around the nation on motorcycles and visit bakeries. I called it “Biker Bakery Tour” and we have actually shot one episode. I’m still trying to pitch it!
Photo courtesy Tom Verri