Photograph: Lenny Savino.
Police lieutenants often make news; Lenny Savino is writing it.
Last Wednesday the Nassau County police officer graduated from Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism into a second career "on the other side."
"I enjoy reporting," he said in a recent interview, "especially investigative reporting."
Savino, 43, first became interested in becoming a reporter in 1982 when, as an instructor at the Police Academy, he learned of the "Diner Gang," a group of men who took over a diner in Westbury, L.I., forced the customers to undress and robbed and sexually assaulted them.
As the case developed, he found that male victims were having a harder time recovering psychologically than the females--"because they lost control of an emergency and of their male role as protectors," he said.
A year later, the Sunday magazine of Newsday published Savino's account of "The Victims of the Diner Gang" as its cover story, and his career as a journalist was launched.
His career with the Nassau County police began 22 years ago "as a grunt in a patrol car" and progressed through the Police Academy, promotion to sergeant and lieutenant and for the past year as an investigator in the department's internal affairs office.
He did other freelance writing for Newsday and the Long Island section of The New York Times. Last summer he was an intern at The Miami Herald.
"I covered a lot of stories for the metro section, many about crime," he said. "It was interesting seeing it from the other side. I actually had a hard time sometimes with public relations cops. It was a little like turning yourself inside out."
During his two years as a part-time student in Columbia's Journalism School, he worked around the clock, alternating the 8 to 4 and 4 to midnight shifts. "I went to school somewhere in the middle," he said.
He graduated Wednesday with honors and received a Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship, awarded to the school's top few students.
"Lenny is motivated like few people I've seen," said his faculty adviser, Professor Wayne Svoboda. "He's dynamite, head down, charge forward. He's been around, seen a lot and learned a lot from what he's seen."
"Columbia was something like a life-changing experience," he said. He will add his new master's degree in journalism to his B.A. and M.A. in American history from St. John's University.
Savino lives in Syosset, N.Y., with his wife, Dolores, and three young children.