Ryan Stickno’s work as a police officer has certainly stood out over the time since he was sworn into office. But last year, especially, his work was nothing short of extraordinary — and because of that, his peers on the Kearny Police Department’s Valor Committee selected him the 2022 John P. Dowie Police Officer of the Year.
This is the first year the award is so-named, though many other noted cops have preceded him in winning the top honor.
Sgt. Neil Nelson is the chairman of the department’s valor committee. In choosing him, Nelson says there were numerous reasons, but several specific reasons stood out.
“Officer Stickno received the Exception Duty Medal for his actions during an armed barricade and a Life Saving Award for providing lifesaving aid to an individual who attempted to commit suicide with a knife,” Nelson said. “Officer Stickno was also honored for his actions involving a distressed woman sitting on a Route 7 overpass wall as well as the arrest of a car thief following a foot pursuit.”
The son of Robert and Kelly Stickno, Stickno is a lifelong Kearny resident. He attended St. Peter’s Prep and graduated from St. Joseph’s University — both Jesuit institutes — with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. After being hired by the Kearny Police Department, he graduated the Bergen County Police Academy in December 2017.
Following graduation, Stickno joined his brother, Alan Stickno, also a Kearny police officer since 2015. Following the completion of the field-training program, Stickno was assigned to the midnight tour under the command of Capt. David Feldhan. Since 2020, he has been assigned to the day tour under the command of Capt. John View.
Stickno is also a Hudson County Regional SWAT Team operator and serves as a firearms instructor and field-training officer.
Since Stickno is an alumnus of St. Peter’s Prep, we had to ask him about the credo “Men for Others” and whether it led to his becoming a police officer.
“While Prep wasn’t the sole reason for me pursuing a career in law enforcement, it definitely played a factor and helped to solidify my decision to become a police officer,” Stickno said. “I believe ‘Men for Others’ has been very influential in both my career choice as well as how I perform my duties as an officer.
“Father Tony Azzarto, S.J., (Prep’s retired chaplain) spoke often of finding a path that will be life-giving and rewarding and that has always remained true for me with my career choice. ‘Men for Others’ and many of the Prep values always remain in the back of my mind while working and and interacting with the public.
“Throughout my time at St. Peter’s, a great deal of it was spent volunteering with different organizations and helping those in need quite often and that has translated into my career now where I am able to help people and be there for others on a daily basis.”
As a police officer, Stickno is often called upon to make split-second decisions. It’s a facet of policing that creates immense pressure — but it is something he has handled with great grace since the day he finished the academy — and when he was called upon to deal with a barricaded subject last year.
“Any time we respond to a call where there is potential of a firearm or weapon being involved, the intensity of that call increases. There is more for us as officers to have to handle and be aware of in responding and that can cause the stress levels to rise as well,” he said. “However, through my trainings with the Hudson County Regional SWAT Team and the real-world operations I have been a part of from being on the team, I definitely felt I was prepared for responding to the call for the armed barricaded person.
“Those trainings and real-world experiences gave me the knowledge and skills I needed in order to help as best I could to bring the situation to a peaceful resolution. What I remember most about that incident was the way in which my fellow officers responded to and carried themselves during the long incident. Everyone pulled together to work amazingly as a team to achieve the best outcome we could.”
And that was hardly the only time Stickno was called to exceptional duty.
“For the incident involving the suicidal female on the Route 7 overpass, I would have to say the most memorable thing from that incident for me was seeing the compassion from each of the officers on scene as turns were taken to try to speak to the woman and make a connection with her in order to prevent any injuries to anyone involved,” Stickno said.
“This question overlaps with the incidents for Officer of the Year. The most rewarding has been when I am able to be a part of bringing a stressful and dangerous situation to a peaceful resolution, which also tend to be the most difficult situations as well to respond to.”
We also asked Stickno what it was like to be the inaugural recipient of an award named for former Chief John P. Dowie. Stickno never hesitated answering, even though the two just missed getting to serve together.
“While Chief John Dowie retired before I graduated from the police academy, he was the chief of police at the time I was hired,” Stickno said. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity he gave me at the beginning of my career as well as the opportunities I continue to have from Chief (George) King and the Kearny Police Department.”
Meanwhile, Mina Ekladious, the president of the Kearny PBA, had nothing but immense praise for his colleague and friend upon his selection as Cop of the Year. To say Ekladious believes Stickno was the right choice would be a huge understatement.
“It comes as no surprise to me Ryan Stickno was selected by his peers as the 2022 recipient of the Chief John Dowie Police Officer of the Year Award,” Ekladious said. “Ryan comes from a great supportive family and a family of successful law enforcement professionals. He has established himself as an invaluable asset and resource to not only the Kearny Police Department but to the law enforcement profession as a whole. Last year Ryan was involved in a multitude of notable calls for service that required quick thinking, critical thinking and athleticism, amongst other things, in order to achieve the best possible outcome.
“Ryan is an excellent communicator, team builder and motivator which goes to show his leadership skills. Congratulations Police Officer Ryan Stickno on a job well done and I look forward to watching your continued success.”
Ekladious pointed to horrors of 2022 as examples of how Stickno was able to rise above law enforcement’s challenges.
“Over 330 police officers were shot in the line of duty in the United States in 2022. Every day, police officers go off to work into the unknown with only one thing in mind — and that’s making it back home after their shift. Police officers are put under immeasurable pressure to often make quick decisions to protect life. One of the biggest motivators for law enforcement is knowing that the community supports them. The Kearny PBA is grateful that our residents support the work that we do.
“With that I’ll leave you with a quote from retired NYPD Chief of Department Kenneth Corey, who said ‘police officers are expected to think like lawyers, speak like psychologists and perform like athletes.”
Have a look at Stickno. He definitely fits the mold and fits it well.
Learn more about the writer ...
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.