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McCabes: A family of thoroughbreds

Professor James McCabe, (no relation), is a scion of an exceptionally accomplished family with an extraordinary tradition of service to the nation and the City of New York. While epitomizing the Long Blue Line, the McCabe Clann also exemplifies the finest immigrant custom of embracing America while honoring their ancient heritage.

This thoroughbred family of cops actually began its American odyssey with the aspirations of a young jockey, Owen McCabe from Dundalk. Owen would become McCabe's grandfather, but in 1914 he emigrated to Philadelphia at the age of 14 to ride the horses his brother Peter trained. By the age of 16, he grew too large to jockey and helped his brother as a hostler and assistant trainer. On a trip to New York, he made the acquaintance of McCabe's future paternal grandmother, Belinda Orme from County Mayo.

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The couple married and settled on East 53rd Street in Manhattan. They had six children, one of whom was McCabe's father. Owen McCabe commenced the tradition of service when, at the age of 16, he was inspired by the sight of a military parade marching down Broadway. Although too young to enlist, he lied about his age and entered the U.S. Army. He was to both meet a future brother-in-law and gain his American citizenship in the trenches of World War I France. Four of the couple's sons would see service in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II and the Korean Conflict.

James McCabe's father John, an historic figure in the NYPD, served for 42 years, rising to the position of Chief of Patrol. Following his retirement from the NYPD, the Chief became a Professor at St. John's University. McCabe is the youngest of five, with three brothers and a sister. To see the tall and broad-shouldered brothers together, one would never think they were descended from a prospective horse jockey. Two of McCabe's brothers preceded him on the NYPD, and still serve. Bill is in his 32nd year on the job, and is a Lieutenant in the Intelligence Division, and Bob, with 30 years, is a Detective in the Harbor Unit. Another brother, John, is a chief business executive, and his sister Jane is a personal trainer. The NYPD, and the City of New York, have been the beneficiaries of McCabe family service for 65 consecutive years and counting. The cumulative service is 170 years. A Long Blue Line indeed.

McCabe is currently a Professor of Criminal Justice at Sacred Heart University. His professional and academic achievements are impressive. McCabe retired from the NYPD four years ago, after 21 years of service, with the rank of Inspector. During his career, McCabe occupied many command positions, including Commanding Officer of Labor Relations, Commanding Officer of the Training Bureau, and Commanding Officer of the Police Academy. He also commanded the 110th Police Precinct and was the Executive Officer of the Police Commissioner's Office.

McCabe is a Ph.D., having earned his doctorate from the CUNY Graduate Center. He also holds a B.A. in Psychology, an M.A. in Labor Studies, and an M.A. in Criminal Justice. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, Columbia University's Police Management Institute, and Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. On top of these credentials, McCabe has published many scholarly articles and has contributed to many books, and is a sought-after lecturer and consultant in leadership, organizational behavior, and the impact of police operations on public safety and community satisfaction.

McCabe met his wife, Karen, née Barna, while both were young cops on the West Side of Manhattan. Her dad also served with the NYPD. The McCabes have three daughters: Jennifer entering her third year at Sacred Heart University; Margaret, who will be joining her in the fall, and Kathryn, who is entering high school at Archbishop Molloy.

The origin of the Clann McCabe was with the gallowglasses, sea borne warriors. Your brother Bob in the Harbor Unit may come closest, but do you see any other parallels with Irish history and the history of your family?

In addition to the NYPD, the McCabes have another family tradition: swimming! My father, my siblings, and my daughters are all phenomenal swimmers. My dad told us stories of how he won swimming races at the Kips Bay Boys Club, and spent his summers swimming back and forth to Roosevelt Island in the East River. My brother John started us off in 1970 in the Jones Beach Lifeguards Corps. My daughters just took their rehire test for the same positions and this summer will represent the McCabe family at the beach for the fifth decade. My father and brothers also represented the NYPD at the N.Y. State Police Olympics and won medals in numerous events. The McCabe family crest has three fish emblazoned on it and we have undoubtedly lived up to that heritage.

How did you first come to realize a distinct Irish identity?

Did it come through that immigrant apartment on the East Side? Yes, the apartment has always been a source of our immigrant roots and our Irish identity. When my family finally moved out, my brother Bill took a picture of the front entrance. All of us have that picture framed and mounted in our homes today.

Do you have a particularly fond memory from your childhood of visiting your grandparent's apartment?

My grandparents had an Irish Setter named Patrick -- a big, beautiful show-dog that appeared all over the country in competitions. Walking Patrick was always an experience. One, he usually walked you because of his size, and two, he was a gorgeous animal that caught the eye of everyone in the neighborhood. Walking Patrick along Second Avenue was a treat.

Your father was certainly a precursor of the modern police professional and academic, having achieved one of the highest ranks and subsequently becoming a professor. Were you inspired by his achievements?

Absolutely. My father always urged us to continue with our education. He stressed that education was not just a means to an ends but a process of self-enrichment and enjoyment. I was fortunate to learn from his experiences and have now turned that into a fulfilling second career.

You are the youngest brother, yet achieved the highest rank. How has that affected how you relate to your older siblings? Despite your achievements, are you still the kid brother in some family situations?

No, I am not the kid brother in some family situations. I am the kid brother in ALL family situations. My brothers and I made a trip to Virginia to attend a funeral. We booked the trip last minute and could only get one hotel room. I slept on the roll-away-bed and rode in the back seat of the car from N.Y. to Virginia and back. No discussion, little brother in the back seat!

I understand you and your wife and children are soon making your first trip to Ireland? Where do you intend to go?

We are going to Wicklow this summer to celebrate our friend's 50th birthday. My brother John is meeting us there and we plan on heading to our grandparents' birthplaces, and maybe hit a pub or two . . . or more.