WATERTOWN (CBS) – Watertown Police Sergeant Jeff Pugliese still loves his job as much as he did when he joined the military 41 years ago.
“I look forward to going to work,” he told WBZ-TV. “It’s exciting and you get to help so many people … it’s incredible.”
He calls policing “the best profession in the world”.
This is a career that Pugliese would never want to give up. Unfortunately, he has no choice. In Massachusetts, police officers must retire at the end of the month in which they turn 65.
The Pugliese celebrated his birthday ten days earlier – his last roll call on 31 May.
“He can no longer work as a police officer. This is compulsory retirement. So that’s it, “his wife Connie explained. “It would be great to have him at home more often. It’s important that he be happy. “
Working with people makes Puglis happy. From his first assignment on the walkway, to which he knew the people of the East End region, he knew he was in the right career. He says it taught him how to interact with people. The Pugliese grew up in Watertown and knew the streets like the back of their hand. The special thing is that his father was a detective of the Watertown police.
“I knew I wanted to do this when I was about 16 years old. I decided that I wanted to be a police officer.”
Pugliese enlisted in the US Army at age 17, went into service at age 18, and became a military police officer. He was stationed in Germany where he met Connie.
They moved to Massachusetts as a couple in 1978.
The Pugliese described the most exciting day of his career, the day he received a call that he would be employed as a police officer. He became a national hero nearly 34 years later when he killed Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev on the night of the Watertown shootout.
“We had no idea who or what we were dealing with,” he recalls. “We thought it was a carjacking.”
Shortly after breaking into Watertown in an SUV stolen by the Tsarnaev brothers (and following the murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier), the Pugliese find themselves face-to-face with Tamerlan.
“We were just xix feet, maybe seven feet apart. The only thing separating us was the four-foot chain link fence. We were exchanging gunfire and his gun, now we know the ammunition is over. It was done, but at the time we didn’t know if it was jammed or not. He stopped. He literally took the gun, looked at me, we made eye contact, and then he threw the gun at me and hit me in the shoulder I stood up and followed him and followed him.”
Seconds later, when Dzhokhar Zarnev pugliese and two other officers, holding his brother on the ground, Pugliese catches Tamerlan with a belt to get him out of the SUV’s way.
“I felt the wind in that car going through my face. It missed my face by inches.”
Jokhar ran over his elder brother, who was pronounced dead at the hospital. Never before in his career – or since – has Pugli had to fire with his weapon.
“It has an effect on you,” he reflected, “you think how lucky you were to avoid it. It’s very difficult to describe it in words.”
He says policing has changed dramatically during his career. More social work at work, more domestic violence situations (physical and verbal) and a younger Watertown PD employee.
But what hasn’t changed is the Pugliese’s sense of duty, his pride and his connection to the community. He says he will miss driving to Watertown PD and talking with people and camaraderie.
“We have a lot of laughs. Because of the stuff you have to deal with, there’s an intimacy and it brings everyone together.”
When asked what advice he would give to young officers, the Pugliese do not hesitate, “Proud of the profession. Do not insult the uniform. You are there to help people, not to hurt people. “
On his final roll call, Puglis was surrounded by a room full of family members (nephews and cousins also serving in law enforcement) and fellow officers. Actor JK Simmons (who played Pugli in the 2016 film Patriots Day) videotaped a greeting. But this celebration was very sweet.
“I’m not ready to retire yet,” he said softly.
Connie half-joked that he could do yard work and help his son with household projects, and Pugliese was recently certified as a security officer for work on construction sites. But there is no doubt that the job he will enjoy the most is the one he has enjoyed for 41 years.
“I love this profession. I really do.”
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