Former NYPD Officer Finds His Niche in Yorktown Police Department

A benevolent man, officer by day, Paniccia protects all.


Being a police officer comes with many challenges, but being a police officer in a high school is a whole different ball game.

School Resource Officer with the Yorktown Heights Police Department, Lawrence “Larry” Paniccia, has seen it all. With more than 20 years under his belt, two departments, and many skills, he protects a school of over 1200 students at Lakeland High School daily, and more importantly, in these trying times.

He has seen a lot during his tenure at the high school and on patrol. It has definitely helped him grow as a person and officer. 

Paniccia began his journey as an officer in the NYPD starting in 1999.

“It was the first place that had an opening. I had just finished college so it was an exciting time,” he shared.

He’d known for some time that this was the career path for him.

“I decided that I wanted to be a police officer while in high school. I always had an interest in helping others and I enjoyed being involved.” 

With law enforcement not running in his family, he set out on his own personal journey to make a difference in the world. 

Because he’d joined the force before 9/11, he was there to experience it and its after-effects first hand.

“I was working with the NYPD during 9/11. I was assigned to ground zero. The events of 911 changed my life in several ways,” he disclosed. “I observed first hand how members of my department and other departments gave without question; how members worked to save lives and put themselves in harm’s way without question. Unfortunately, many of us will suffer health issues in the future.”

No matter the fight or danger, he is always ready to put his life on the line to serve. 

After the NYPD, he transferred to a much quieter department, though it came with its own challenges.

“Some of the challenges in NYPD were time spent with the reporting person. Also, limited time with a heavy volume of calls. It’s a large community; less personal. A very diverse population made up of several different cultures. However, in Yorktown, I’m able to spend more time with situations and assist further. Community-based departments get to know the public.”

When it came down to actually making the move to YPD, Paniccia had to weigh the pros and cons.

“At first, when I was called, I was unsure if I wanted to make the switch from NYC to a town department. I was very proud to be part of the NYPD family, but after thinking it over, I realized that I would be in the community that I grew up in. I felt that the differences I would make there would really impact the community and my family. I realized that I could do the career I loved and see results.”

After making the switch and settling into his new job, he made a decision that he knew would change his career and possibly his life, forever.

“I had never anticipated becoming an SRO. Several members of the department had received promotions and a spot had opened up in LHS. The SGT of the SRO program asked me if I would be interested in the position. He believed that with my personality and my gift of always talking, I would be perfect for the position. Coming from Sgt. Tropiano this was very meaningful because prior to being hired by YPD, he was a high school football coach when I was in school.”

The opportunity to work in the high school he attended was a huge motivating factor for him. He says that taking the position was one of the best decisions he’s ever made for his career.

Most officers say they love what they do because it’s rewarding. Those in positions similar to Pannicia’s can see daily the impact they make. He gets to experience police work from a whole new perspective at the school.

“My current position is unique because I get to know the students and parents. By being with the students all day, I am involved with their lives all year long. Sometimes this is difficult because as a police officer, I am required to act on certain situations that wouldn’t have otherwise been brought to my attention if I was not in the school. After several years doing a job like this, I feel that you become part of a family.”

Comfortability in the job has also been a perk for Paniccia, as he isn’t generally out on patrol most of the time. He takes overtime regularly and backs his department, though he and his family still get to enjoy a bit of stability.

The job of an SRO is always changing and adapting to new generations, fads, social media, and sadly, new crimes. Paniccia, at all times, needs to keep an ear on the ground in his school to keep track of what’s going on with the students.

Young generations are constantly using their phones, so problems arise at all hours and days of the week. Posts have to be investigated often, and this is very time-consuming for Paniccia.

Not only does he have to keep the students safe from online threats, but unfortunately, from physical threats as well. It’s no secret that domestic acts of terrorism have plagued school systems and public places for decades now, and that is something Paniccia must prepare for.

“We create plans, lockdowns, and drills for safety. I also handle internal dispute mediation; school fights between students; sometimes detention and arrest, if needed, for weapons or drugs. Personal and property searches include locker and vehicle checks. My job also includes checking the grounds for interior and exterior potential threats,” he said.

Paniccia enjoys his position very much, even with all the hard work that comes with it. He began the Law Enforcement club at Lakeland and oversees events with the student members. His police chief is very proud of the club. 

Working with youth, especially a diverse bunch, and during the current political climate, is something to take pride in.

BLM has impacted the youth around me. They have forced others to look at their needs and concerns.”

The BLM movement and other political issues have also affected Paniccia personally, as well as his relationships at school since he wears a police uniform.

“I feel that I have developed relationships with the community and students. I have always treated all people with dignity and respect. I feel that some overlook the fact that we help people and that we accomplish that every day. Unfortunately, some are promoting hatred for the uniform.”

Paniccia really doesn’t let anything bother him. As long as he is doing the right thing and helping others, he feels fulfilled. He is a humble and light-hearted man, which is admirable considering his high-stress job.

I am known as a funny guy. This job and life can be heavy and stressful. I like to laugh and make others laugh to brighten their day. You have to enjoy each moment in life. You never know when you won’t be able to. Being professional doesn’t stop one from laughing.”

Paniccia never thinks twice about helping others, even at his own personal expense. It’s a tough job, and it can take a toll on many aspects of one’s life.

“My personal life has definitely been impacted by my career. I have seen people at their worst and at their best. I think this gives me a great perspective on life.”

Being an officer for over 20 years comes with great experience and lots of memories. Sometimes those memories are ghosts. It comes with the job. No matter how much an officer prepares, they are bound to be affected by the people they interact with.

“One of the most memorable moments was responding to a call for a 14-year-old female that wasn’t breathing. I arrived on location and immediately started CPR. I continued CPR for what felt like a lifetime and continued even when other EMS staff arrived. Her parents were on the scene and waited for her to respond. Unfortunately, that never happened. It’s a constant reminder to me of how life goes by so fast and that we have to value our time here.” 

The finite realization of life can be hard to swallow for some, but as an officer, Paniccia has had to see it happen many times. He tries to be the best example he can be as a husband and father, as the world shifts against him daily. While in his position at the school, Paniccia has watched many generations of young people grow and be molded around him, and possibly even because of him.

“I believe that my position at the school helps me bridge students and the community to the police department. I have seen many of the students grow and find careers in policing and law enforcement.”

With a positive outlook on life, not tainted by the evil he’s seen, Paniccia hopes his students learn one thing.

“I hope that my impact on students is to live every day with dignity and respect for others. I hope that I have shown them to value laughter in their lives and to enjoy every day, good and bad. Just treat others how you want to be treated. Find your niche in the world’s workforce and love doing it every day.”