April 2016, Post 13 Trivia – Crash Course, Police 101

April 2016
Post 13 Trivia – Crash Course, Police 101
John Young, Patrolman

In my previous column, I wrote that the 17th Precinct was the old Station House built in 1877. John Elio informed me that he was assigned to the 17th Precinct and it was housed in a modern office building located at 165-67 East 51 Street (between Lexington & Third Avenue). The 17th Precinct occupies the building along with FDNY units – Engine 8, Ladder 2 and Battalion 8. Parking must be a problem!

April, 1968: The rookies saw some action during the Columbia University protests. They were assigned to reserve duty, sitting in city buses on Broadway, for eight days while Columbia and Barnard students took over buildings (4/23/68) in protest over the construction of a new gym in Morningside Park. After negotiations failed with the protestors, NYPD cops were called in to make arrests. Columbia never built the gym, but the protests and riots led to the start of political correctness and liberalism on college campuses.

Cops made about 700 arrests. A dozen cops were injured, but Patrolman Frank Gucciardi (Quentin Tarantino’s cousin) was permanently disabled when a student jumped onto him from a second story window, breaking his back. It should be noted that police participation at Columbia led to the PBA obtaining a contractual clause requiring the city to provide safety helmets and equipment for each patrolman. Bullet proof vests would come in 1978.

Elio returned to the 17th Precinct, where he and the other rookies were assigned to eight hour fixers. Remember waiting for your relief on a fixer? One that John remembers was the Russian Airline Aeroflot on East 53 Street. It was a store-front travel agency that was manned 24/7 during the Cold War.

The US Postal Service issued a six-cent postage stamp commemorating law and order. The stamp depicts a policeman on his school-crossing post, escorting a young school boy across the street. The purpose of the stamp was to publicize the policeman as protector and friend and to encourage respect for law and order.

June 1968: Most of John Elio’s company was reassigned to the 43rd Precinct where they performed foot patrol in the “Parkchester” section during the summer. Old timers (those cops not assigned to regular RMP duty) flew to Yankee Stadium or Orchard Beach on weekends. There was no portal-to-portal (travel time) until February 1969.

The April ’68 class returned to the Police Academy in December or January, to learn the job! There were so many cops in the Academy from other new classes (June, August, October & November) that there was no room in the gym. They used the garage, the down ramp and numbered spaces for gym classes. Just love the smell of gasoline in the morning!

Elio clearly recalls doing calisthenics in the Academy basement on Super Bowl Sunday. Being a Jet fan he clearly remembers that the instructors would not let them watch the game. Jet quarterback “Broadway Joe” Namath beat the Baltimore Colts (16-7) on January 12, 1969, in Super Bowl III in Florida.

The April class finished the Police Academy and they were scheduled to have graduation ceremonies at the Lexington Avenue Armory. The blizzard (February 8-10, 1969) cancelled their graduation and almost brought down the Lindsay Administration because of the lack of snow removal in Queens. The cops were assigned to precincts by telephone. I wish to thank retired Detective John Elio for bringing us down memory lane.

Social Security for Policemen: In August 1957, President Eisenhower signed a bill amending Social Security law so that policemen in New York State could be covered by the program. In a special meeting (9/12/57) the city’s Board of Estimate voted to make it available to cops and firemen with retroactive coverage to March 16, 1956. Coverage would not take effect until after a referendum was voted upon by the group (cops & firemen) and coverage would begin as of January 1, 1958. Any member who originally declined to join the system and changed their mind before the referendum vote (12/18/57) had to notify the City Comptroller to be included under Social Security. (Note: Source from Spring 3100, October 1957.) As a result, the referendum provided that a majority “yes” vote for Social Security coverage included all appointees to the Police Department after January 1, 1958.

The federal insurance program (SSI) originally provided an income for retirees at age 65 (62 for women), or his family in the event of his death or for totally disabled workers at age 50. Each payday, every person in the system pays a percentage of their wages, up to $4,200, as a social security tax. The contribution is deducted from his pay by the employer and the employer pays an equal amount. Back then (1958) the FICA rate for both employee and employer was 2 1/4%.

The FICA rate was increased to 2 3/4% in 1960, and increased at five year intervals. The rate increased until 1975, when the FICA rate increased to 4 1/4%. My paycheck dated January 3, 1975, shows a $36.58 payment to Social Security. I stopped making contributions in September.

During 1976/1977 PBA contract negotiations, the city discussed getting out of Social Security. However, that was only a smoke screen to get more give-backs from the unions. While originally in favor, I’m probably glad they never did because I’ve been collecting Social Security benefits since 2002, and probably got back most of my contributions.

Today, thanks to Governor Patterson, new cops (Tier III) hired after July 1, 2009, can retire at half-pay after 22 years of service. Their pensions will be reduced by 50% because of the city’s contributions to Social Security. Pension reform for state workers took away benefits previously awarded to NYPD cops and firemen. It will probably take many years to change Tier II, as it took over 20 years to make right the difference between Article 2 (last year salary) and Article 2A members (average last 3 years).