Post 13 Trivia 125 Years Ago (con’t) John Young, Patrolman
Efforts to restore the $1,000 minimum salary of patrolmen went on for the next 15 years until finally, in 1913, with the approach of the municipal election and with the future of Tammany Hall’s fortunes in doubt, the Board of Estimate acceded to the PBA demands.
However, this long struggle was accompanied by a 50% increase in cost of living. A study by the Bureau of Municipal Research (March 1913) reported on the economic difficulties of patrolmen. The study also pointed out the excessive amount of extra duty demanded of patrolmen. Additionally, salary demands by the PBA had long been accompanied by a campaign for shorter hours.
From 1897 to 1901, duty was divided into two shifts of twelve hours each, otherwise known as the two-platoon system. In 1901, the PBA made a demand for a three-platoon system of eight hour shifts. This schedule was implemented that August, again on the eve of an election. When Seth Low, head of the Fusion Party, took office as mayor five months later, the two-platoon system was reinstated and remained in force until 1913.
Note: In June 1911, in a crime-riden section of northern Manhattan, Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo unveiled a pilot program titled Stationary Post Plan. A series of fixed posts (known as “fixers) were spaced at intersections every four blocks along the avenues. Half of the patrolmen on duty in the precinct between 11:00 PM and 7:00 AM were assigned to fixed posts. They were required to remain in the middle of the intersections so that they could be seen at all times under the glare of the electric street lights. If they needed help from fellow patrolmen, they could either rap their nightsticks on the pavement three times or blow their whistles three times. The other half of the platoon walked intersecting beats and changed places with their counterparts every two hours.
Finally, the PBA successfully lobbied the State Legislature to enact a law mandating three-platoon rotation. There were special provisions for a reserve-duty system requiring every member of the force to sleep in the station house every third day and be available for emergency duty. It took 24 years and more legislation to get reserve-duty dropped.
In 1914, several PBA officers were accused of misappropriation of pension funds. This controversy (along with a new reform administration’s creation of an Employee Conference Committee that was to represent both police and firefighters in grievance proceedings) created a crisis that pushed the PBA to adopt a new constitution.
This was the same year that Joseph Moran took office as PBA president, remaining in power until 1938. He was re-elected without opposition every year until 1935.
After Moran’s retirement, there were four different PBA presidents over the next four years. This reflected the dissatisfaction of new members of the force. They felt the association was acting to preserve the old guard who were afraid to make waves by questioning department policies. The newer police recruits threatened to leave the organization. However. a compromise was reached allowing members to vote directly for their union representatives rather than for delegate assemblies.
After World War II, with the force again at full strength, the stage was set for a more democratically-run association due to less cooperation between department administrators and PBA leaders. Instead of asking favors of city officials, strategies became more adversarial and confrontational. Increasingly in the 1940’s and 1950’s, police officers, like other American workers, began to make more demands for more pay and a say in their working conditions.
During more recent history, with a virtual 100% membership rate and democratic decision-making procedures firmly in place, active rank-and-file participation became a long and proud tradition of the PBA. Or, as Officer John J. Hickory wrote in his 1925 book, Our Police Guardians, “When making references to all organizations within the Police Department, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is the guarding star of them all.”
The History of Women in the NYPD: In 1891, in response to lobbying of various women’s groups, the NYPD hired its first four women, known as “Police Matrons.” The job of the matrons was to search and otherwise attend to an increasing number of females being arrested. After four years, there were 30 matrons on the job, one for each day and night tour in each of the city’s fifteen precincts. One of them, Isabella Goodwin (a police widow) got into undercover work and made first-grade detective.
Women’s NYPD roles and titles, evolved during the next three decades with “matrons” giving way to “patrolwomen” and “policewomen” in 1918. By 1937, all women were called “policewomen” and served in a separate Policewomen’s Bureau. They wore different uniforms and different shields.
By the 1960’s, times changed. In 1963, Policewoman Felicia Shipritzer sued for and won the right to take promotion exams. By1965, she and Gertrude Schimmel became the department’s first female sergeants. In 1967, they became lieutenants. That same year, 180 women were assigned to precinct desk jobs, ending their separate but unequal status.
The most significant changes came during the 1970’s. In 1972, 15 women volunteered for experimental patrol duty. The next year, NYPD abolished the title of “policewomen” and established the new rank of “police officer” with both sexes wearing the same uniform. Today, there are nearly 6,000 female officers.
To be continued….