In a complicated, challenging time for policing, a New York Police Department officer reeling from a colleague’s killing and a Prior Lake High School student aspiring to the same career stumbled across each other.

Two years later, the NYPD officer traveled 1,000 miles to watch that student graduate.

“She’s one special person,” Nancy Castro, a counterterrorism officer, said of graduating senior Emmanuelle Boschee, who’s been keeping in touch and taking advice from Castro since they met. “I would do it all over again.”

Boschee said she was grateful for Castro’s time, patience and perspective as she’s peppered the officer with questions over the years.

Boschee’s grandfather and uncle were both longtime officers and showed her officers need to be like counselors, helpers and protectors all at once, “so many roles all wrapped up in that one,” she said.

The relationship began in summer 2017, when Boschee and her mother, Danielle, traveled to Washington, D.C., for a student conference and swung by New York to see the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and maybe meet a woman police officer in person.

A few days beforehand, a man had murdered NYPD Officer Miosotis Familia with a bullet through her vehicle window before officers shot him dead, according to The New York Times.

Castro said she had been friends with Familia for several years; Familia had just transferred command posts and was excited to get started. Familia’s role was supposed to mostly be answering phones, but Castro said she wanted to be outside and see the July 4 fireworks. Alexander Bonds walked up and killed her.

“At that point, I just wanted to stay away from the general public,” Castro said, referring to when the Boschees came by. But then she heard around the office that a young woman had asked to meet a woman in the department.

It had been a long search without success until then, Boschee and her mom said, and they were about to leave for Minnesota. So Boschee met Castro with a big smile and, a moment later, tears in her eyes. Castro apologized, confused, then became emotional herself. They and Boschee’s mom were soon all crying.

“She reminded me that there’s another generation of law enforcement that’s coming,” a generation that needs support and guidance, Castro said.

Danielle Boschee in the next several days worked to reach Castro again before sending her a package with a framed photo from their meeting; Castro joked that she shook the box and listened for ticking before opening it. She and Emmanuelle Boschee connected on Facebook and have spoken since.

“This is a gift you simply cannot put a price tag on,” Danielle Boschee said. “It’s just too incredible for it to be coincidental.”

The pair’s mentorship is a microcosm of multiple challenges facing American policing today, including women and minorities in the field and on-the-job violence.

Police killings of black men and women around the country in recent years, including around Minneapolis and New York, have spurred protests and movements against racism and excessive use of force.

An officer shot Philando Castile in his car during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights in 2016, for example. Castile informed the officer he had a firearm and said he wasn’t pulling it out, but the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, nonetheless shot him several times, according to the police dashcam footage.

Meanwhile, attacks like that on Familia have claimed several officers’ lives. Emmanuelle Boschee recalled seeing news reports of the Dallas sniper shooting in 2016 that killed five officers, including one helping a woman taking part in a peaceful march against police violence.

“I saw that and went, I want to be as selfless as that,” Boschee said.

Castro said her department and others have increased training to maintain patience and compassion while serving the public and have added things like body cameras for accountability. She tells Boschee that every call will be different and to be careful and aware that she has options other than weapons.

“Most of all, communication, communication is the key,” Castro said.

Boschee and her mother also said the public needs more understanding and respect for police, especially in dangerous situations.

“People need to put themselves in police officers’ shoes,” Emmanuelle Boschee said.

As for being a woman on the job, Castro said she had to grow a thick skin and was repeatedly challenged by men when she started. Boschee said a man recently doubted if she could manage the job, but that and support from women officers around the region made her more determined.

About one in eight officers around the country were women in 2013, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.

“You put that strength there and give it what you got,” Castro said. “We can do any job out there.”

Boschee hasn’t decided whether to go into local or federal policing, saying she trusts God will make her path clearer. She’s set to take a gap year in France with Rotary International before college.

“Keep your options open and see what falls,” Castro told her.

Community editor

Dan Holtmeyer is the community editor for the Prior Lake and Savage papers. He grew up in Nebraska and worked as a journalist in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas before coming to Minnesota in 2018.

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