MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Nassau County’s first Black police commissioner died two decades ago, but Tuesday, his family and the force he helped shape gathered for an emotional ceremony to honor William Willett.

As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reports, emotions bubbled over with the stirring sounds of honor at the ceremony.

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Nassau County has renamed its police headquarters after its very first Africa-American police commissioner. William Willett would have been 90 years old.

“Dad, you have come home,” said Blake Willett, William’s oldest son and a retired MTA detective.

“We are retiring his shield number. It will never be worn by another law enforcement officer in this county, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said.

Back in the ’50s, Officer Willet drove a squad car. His quiet example fostered change.

The Willets raised their seven children in Westbury.

When the commissioner first joined the Nassau force, he was one of 15 Black men. Today, there are more than 350 minorities.

“So humbled and overwhelmed at how we’re still family, and they all came today,” said Floretta Willett, William’s widow.

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Immediate family and police family attended the ceremony.

“His kindness and his fairness I honestly think was the reason why he was able to succeed and have the service that he did over 48 years,” said Daniel Willett, William’s youngest son.

“And helped enshrine our strong culture of community policing here in Nassau,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.

William Willett got to know the neighborhoods, a new commitment of police reform today.

“We need both sides to connect with each other. You need empathy and understanding,” said Blake Willett.

There was a salute with a flyover.

“Really cool to learn things about my grandfather,” William’s grandchild said.

Dedicated to making policing better, Willett’s legacy will now live on.

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The police headquarters is the first governmental building in Nassau County’s 121-year history to be named after a Black person.

Jennifer McLogan