Joseph Rivera was born and raised in the Bronx. He joined the New York City Transit Police Department in 1984, and was assigned to the elite Transit Vandal Squad in 1987. Rivera became the lead investigator of the Graffiti Habitual Offender Suppression Team (G.H.O.S.T.) within the Vandal Squad in 1998. The recipient of many commendations for outstanding merit throughout a 20-year law enforcement career, Rivera retired in 2004.