About Derek Powers
City Room - Blogging From the Five Boroughs
In a Father’s Footsteps, Into the Police Force and on the Track
By LIZ ROBBINS
Derek Powers will not be passing the baton to his son Erek on Friday. He already passed his shield to him years ago — the same badge Derek’s grandfather wore a half-century ago in the New York Police Department.
On Friday night, at the 104th annual Millrose Games, the legendary indoor track meet held at Madison Square Garden, father and son will be wearing different numbers, but both will represent the New York City Police Department for the four-lap relay competition against the Fire Department of New York.
For the first time at the meet, there will be two teams for the Fire and Police Departments battling to be “New York’s Fastest.” Erek Powers, 24, will be running in Lane 3 for the Police Department’s “A” team, and Derek Powers, 56, will be running in Lane 3 for the “B” team.
They are the department’s youngest and oldest runners, bookends from a family built on speed and service.
“We’re going to come in first place,” Derek said in an interview this week. “The only question is if the B team can nose out the other two fire teams.”
Erek laughed when he heard his father talk a little trash. “That’s typical,” he said.
If they get the baton at the same time, Erek said, he had a promise: “I’m not going to take it easy on him,” he said.
Derek Powers served in the N.Y.P.D. for 27 years, and his longest and most satisfying role in the department, he said, was as a lieutenant commander in Detective Services for the Brooklyn Special Victims Unit. Now he is a vice president of protective services for the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
In high school in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Derek Powers ran the mile relay for Sheepshead Bay High School. He attended Brooklyn College and worked for the post office. But he kept thinking about his grandfather, Beresford Lewis, who had been a New York City police officer in the 1950s and 1960s.
So Derek went to the academy — at the same time that his mother, Joan Powers, was attending to become a civilian administrator. One day she brought him his lunch. “I got some ribbing about that,” Derek said, laughing.
When Erek was born, Erek’s mother and Derek did not get married. Although Erek lived with his mother, he and his father stayed close, playing basketball in the summers and frequently going to Knicks games. They shared a love of running, as Erek, too, ran track at Moore Catholic High School. He ran sprints like his father — from the 100 meters to the half-mile.
But police work would be their bond. “When Erek was 3 years old, he walked around with a little toy gun and shield — he always wanted to be a cop,” Derek said.
In 2007, more than a year after Erek had joined the force, Derek decided that it was time for him to retire.
“When I was younger, he would take me to work with him,” Erek said. “I was always interested — I wasn’t really thinking about my future until I took the test. I just remembered how he took me to the precinct and how cool it was.”
Erek was assigned to the 69th Precinct in Canarsie, where his grandmother had worked for 24 years. Today, wherever he goes to Brooklyn, he said, people compliment the work his father did for the police force.
“My father was always a giver,” Erek said. “He always gave back to people, anybody needed help, a place to stay, door is never closed. Always a hard worker, that’s what he instilled in me; reap the benefits. He put everything he had to his job.”
Now Derek enjoys his new job and works out four to five times a week with a personal trainer. He ran the New York City Marathon twice — in 2001 and 2007 — and said he needed to get his fast-twitch muscles firing again.
Both father and son have compact running frames — Erek is 5-foot-8, 150 pounds, while his father is 5-foot-9, 190 pounds. “But he’s very fit,” Erek said.
The concept of the new race was developed by U.S.A. Track and Field and Millrose officials to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It will also be an informal warm-up for the World Police and Fire Games in New York, this August and September.
Derek said he was ready to compete, having participated in the 2009 world games in British Columbia. Erek said he had not decided yet whether he would run.
The F.D.N.Y. has owned the marathon competition between the teams in the last two decades, but the Powers pair wants to change that in the sprints. “We can’t lose to firemen in running,” Erek said. “We’ve got to chase down criminals every day.”
Derek echoed his son’s boast: “We’re going to burn the track,” he said. “They’re going to put out the fire once we win.”
Al Baker, the usual author of 1 Police Plaza, is not feeling well. His colleague Liz Robbins is filling in.