JIM SHARPE

‘New York Joe,’ the drunk cop who became an inspiration for a Valley community

Aug 21, 2023, 2:00 PM

Monday morning, I was talking about a woman who drove a car into a canal near 35th Avenue and Durango Street after refusing to pull over for DPS troopers. 

As firefighters were setting up to help, the woman performed her own rescue: Climbing out of her partially submerged car only to be taken into custody, accused of … 

…wait for it… 

…driving under the influence! 

Shocking, right?!? 

I guess, because nobody was hurt, we can laugh about it. 

In the years since I got sober, I’ve laughed about plenty of situations like this one. And laughed about them with the people who were behind the wheel in those situations. 

That’s what recovery has brought me — and millions of others: the ability to look back (and laugh at) the insane we used to live — because we aren’t those pathetic people anymore. 

You know, I was thinking that maybe the only way this “woman drives herself into a canal and rescues herself“ story gets funnier (at least in my sick sense of humor) is if one of the cops chasing her had been drunk. 

Not that outlandish. Because I know a guy who was a drunk cop. Drunk on duty. 

He’s spoken in meetings about firing his service weapon drunk, in a bar, in a New York City police uniform. 

A misfiring weapon finally brought him to sobriety. He came out of a blackout to the sound of a rifle, lodged in his mouth, clicking — but not firing. 

I’m grateful that “New York Joe” (as we call him), was unsuccessful in ending his then–miserable existence — and then was successful in ending his misery by utilizing the 12 Steps to have a decent existence. 

Otherwise, I never would’ve gotten to be friends with Joe, who has taught me so much about staying sober. 

He never shoved his decades of sobriety in my face to tell me what to do, never flouted his friendship with classic New York Mayor Ed Koch — or anything else — to explain what an important guy he was.

Because Joe never thought he was important. 

But he was — because he was an example to so many in the Valley recovery community of how to stay sober one day at a time: with humility. 

Last week, “New York Joe” was taken out by cancer, passing away with more than 54 years of sobriety

By most accounts, that’s 54 years longer than he should’ve lived. Years that added about 54 million laughs to this Earth.  

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Jim Sharpe

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‘New York Joe,’ the drunk cop who became an inspiration for a Valley community