This article originally appeared in The Compass Fall/Winter 2019 issue.
When danger arises, most of us will run away from the scene, fearful for our safety. Most of us would try to stay out of harm’s way and seek to protect ourselves, our friends, and our family. But then there are always those that run towards the danger, rushing to aid those in need and confronting the threat, whether that be a terrorist attack or a raging fire. There are always those who put themselves at risk to protect everyone around them, irregardless of any harm they may personally face. Matthew Gullo, in his career as a law enforcement officer and emergency services professional, has been that person you see running towards danger. Why? To help people, to save lives, and to serve the greater community.
Matthew has been a New York City Police Department officer since 2008, but his most recent assignment has been with the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau Canine Unit. This new counterterrorism unit was established in 2016, and Matthew was selected to be one of the first canine trainers of electronic storage detection canines. As there are only 19 of these canine specialists in the world, with four in New York, Matthew became an instructor for other canine handlers in the emerging electronic storage detection discipline. What types of police work can these uniquely trained canines do? “If it stores memory, Louie can find it,” Matthew said proudly. Along with K9 Louie, Matthew is accompanied by K9 Maddy, a vapor wake explosive detection canine, making him the first NYPD canine handler to work concurrently with two active police canines in different scent disciplines.
Prior to the canine unit, Matthew was assigned to the World Trade Center, where he focused on counterterrorism operations and infrastructure and personal force dignitary protection. This followed his first post in the Bronx with the Transit Bureau, where he monitored the subway system.
“I graduated from the police academy in December 2008, so my first night out on the job was December 31. Being on duty on New Year’s Eve is a rite of passage for every NYPD officer, but I checked that milestone off right away,” joked Matthew.
While he was advancing in his career with the NYPD, Matthew was simultaneously volunteering with the Briarcliff Manor Fire Department. As lieutenant, he is responsible for communications strategic planning and implementation as well as incident command systems. Matthew also is a certified national and state fire instructor, so he has developed lesson plans and curriculum to train future firefighters. He reached his 20-year milestone with the fire service this past July, having joined his first fire company when he was in high school.
Matthew never dreamed he would have had the self-professed “storybook career” in law enforcement and emergency services when he was studying for his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and police science or pursuing his paramedic certification.
“Back then, I thought I might want to be a cop, fireman, or maybe a member of the FBI or Secret Service,” said Matt. “I was in high school when 9/11 happened, and the world really changed. I was interested in learning more about how emergency services worked and understanding what I could do in any of those jobs to help people.”
Although his line of work certainly is unpredictable and has its inherent dangerous aspects, serving the people of New York City and Briarcliff Manor has been tremendously rewarding for Matthew.
“As a dyslexic who has ADHD, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without learning how to learn at Windward,” said Matthew. “In every job I’ve had I needed to learn quickly and communicate clearly. I attended Windward for nine years, from kindergarten to eighth grade [when Windward had a kindergarten class], and my education gave me the foundation I needed to understand how to learn things in my own way and at my own pace.”
To current Windward students, Matthew shared the advice, “The biggest reward in life you’ll have is to be able to do something that you thought you couldn’t do. You’ll be able to learn how to do anything you want to do if you’re dedicated and you ask questions. Never let anyone, including yourself, tell you that you can’t do something. Prove them wrong.”
Matthew plans to continue training other NYPD officers and firefighters at the police academy and fire instructor school in the years ahead. He also hopes to serve as a mentor to young up and comers, “to help someone along in their own storybook career. I just want to pay it forward and give the opportunities that were afforded to me to someone else.”
No matter if you’re a rookie cop on a first assignment, a first-time volunteer with a fire company, or simply a stranger passing by, if Matthew Gullo is there, you can count on him to lend a helping hand.