By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
When members elected Donique Berry president of Local 3778 New York City Police Department Civilian Unit in July, the 23-year-old scientist became the youngest local president in District Council 37.
“This is my first job out of college,” Berry said. “All I knew is that having a union means they can’t fire me. Now I realize there is much more.”
Local 3778 launched in 2018 to represent 15 science and engineering titles at NYPD. A coworker nominated Berry for secretary and she did not shy away from the challenge to get involved in her union. “I learned it takes patience and dedication,” she said. “My responsibility as secretary was to assure that things get done.”
Now the initial one-year president’s term set by the local’s constitution has Berry’s “clock ticking” to make a difference. Her shift was changed to days which allows her to reach more veteran analysts. “With 75 percent of our members in the same building,” Berry said “it’s easier to handle labor-management issues as they arise.”
Berry’s interest in science sparked around age of 11 watching episodes of NCIS. As a high school student in Poughkeepsie, NY, she shadowed scientists at the local police department. After graduating with a bachelor’s in forensic science from Long Island University-Post, she joined the NYPD crime lab in 2017. As a Criminalist, Berry analyzes samples from hundreds of cases for the presence or absence of alleged controlled substances.
“My priorities are to build members’ trust and faith in the union and in the local,” Berry said. “It was the right decision to become a local. I see and speak to members daily. I’m a happy person and I smile a lot. I invite members to union meetings — and they come. Attendance and union participation is up.”
“What’s most challenging,” Berry said, “is not being able to tell everyone yes. I try to make the best decisions to insure that members are informed, have their say and are heard. I try to operate from a place of good intentions.”
“She’s inspiring,” said Chris Wilgenkamp, DC 37 director of membership services and technology. “Donique has increased union membership by over 10 percent to 279 members, up from 249, and is very close to achieving 100 percent membership.”
“I have a very good support team, an awesome rep, Samantha Rappa-Giovagnoli, and we have a great team-dynamic,” Berry added. “We work together so we don’t not fall behind. We want members to know the union is here for them.”