You’ll hear it said many times in regards to Brothers Before Others, but we are only able to do the things that we do because we are surrounded by some amazing people. Few within our walls are as infamously benevolent as BBO Trustee/Broward County Sheriff’s Officer Don Huneke.
NYPD Detective Steven McDonald used to speak about ‘God-incidence’s’. Basically: there is no such thing as a coincidence. God has a plan and what we normally refer to as coincidence is simply God’s plan in action. If BBO Founder/President Michael Burke ever needed any affirmation that he is where he needs to be, doing what he needs to be doing and surrounded by the people he needs to be surrounded by: Don Huneke is at the heart of one such God-incidence.
Having both graduated the NYPD Police Academy in July of 1987, Don and Michael’s careers took each of them in different directions; not a rarity in a department that large. Only some 25 years later would they realize how ‘joined’ their roads were. After forming BBO, Michael immediately began surrounding himself with like-minded people. While nothing is 100%, Don is as close to it as you can get. Having strong ties still in the Tri-State area, combined with the irony of them being classmates, there was a lot in common. At one point, while comparing pictures and reminiscing about their academy and police careers in the NYPD, they discovered that the two were on the steps of the New York City Post Office, at the same moment, taking pictures following their graduation (a moment they recreated some 30 years later, naturally).
While it’s not uncommon for family pictures or group pictures to be taken after a police academy graduation, when you are talking about classes as large as the NYPD turns out, it’s pretty neat that two close friends who have come together over the simple notion of helping police officers and their families would unknowingly be snapping the same photo at the same time some 32 years ago. The proof is in the photos: While Michael was posing for a picture for the New York Times, Don was posing for his own. The common denominator is the police officer in the bottom left of the NY Times photo, who is the same officer posing moments earlier with his family in the background of Don’s. Well, we would call this neat. Detective McDonald would call it a ‘God-incidence’.
After graduation, Michael was assigned to NSU-3 while Don was assigned to NSU-7. ‘NSU’ is short for Neighborhood Stabilization Unit, which essentially serves as six months of street training before being assigned to your permanent precinct. Michael went to Mid-Town South. Don went to the 42 PCT in the Bronx.
In only four short years with the NYPD, Don was awarded 21 Excellent Police Duty (EPD) Medals, a Meritorious Police Duty Medal and a Commendation. As often happens, change comes quickly in life. In January of 1991, Don transferred to the Hollywood Police Department, located in Hollywood Florida, where he’d spend the bulk of his police career.
Over his 22 years spent with Hollywood PD, Don served as patrol, SWAT, training officer, School Resource Officer, Detective, Acting Supervisor and Field Force. He amassed over 250 Commendations and 27 Medals, which included 5 life saving medals and 4 Officer of the Year awards.
In 2013, Don transferred to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, where he serves today, most recently as a Traffic Homicide/Detective.
From arson investigation to riot control training, the list of training that Don has received from the Broward County Sheriff’s Department is extensive. However, ask anyone who knows Don and who has been lucky enough to receive his guidance in times of turmoil or personal stress, none is more fitting than his training in peer counseling for PTSD and stress relief/debriefing.
Both inside and outside of BBO, Don has earned the nickname of ‘The Mayor’. Normally, you’d think that his fame is a direct result of the path his career took him on. I guess you could say that helped. But, ask any cop on any job and they’ll all tell you that there’s always one person you can trust, no matter what. To our members, to his friends and, most importantly, to his daughters, Don is that guy.
Don has been old school union before there even was such a thing. I can personally testify to the fact that there is literally nothing that you can’t bring to him. When trust, discretion and swift action are desperately needed, Don is the guy you go to. Plain and simple. He has been a judge-free problem solver for more of our members than we’ll probably ever know about, which is fitting for how he handles things. He’s been around this life long enough to not be shocked anymore. He’s seen most of it and mitigated all of it.
At 32 years in, you’d think he’d be slowing down. Currently sitting at #14 on the promotional list and still participating in the Police Unity Tour, Don is doing the exact opposite; which, quite frankly, is a great thing for this profession and this group.
It’s been said that no one is liked by everyone and no one is hated by everyone. No matter who a person is, you’ll always find someone who has something nice to say and someone else who has something bad to say. However, do your own research and throw the name around in certain circles: you will NEVER find another name that, when bought up in the law enforcement communities he’s served in, get’s the response, “I love that guy” more than Don’s. The respect and adoration that Don has earned over the years is a direct result of the quality of his character.
It’s not BBO that’s great, it’s the members. It’s blindly benevolent members like Don Huneke that make this thing what it is. Detective McDonald was right then and he is right now: there are no such things as coincidences. God meant for Don and Michael to come together at this place in time, just as he did 32 years ago on the steps of that post office. And we are all better because of it.