Post 13 Trivia

May 2023
Origins of the PBA (Part II)

John Young, Patrolman

It was also in 1894 that allegations of police corruption were made by both commercial and political reform organizations and reported in the daily newspapers, with such head-lines as “A Police Outrage” or Brutal Clubbing Affair.” Proving the adage that the more things change, the more they remain the same, these so-called brutality scandals—which more often than not turned out to be baseless —led the New York State Senate to launch an investigation of the police department.

The Senate’s Lexow Committee conducted hearings that eventually led to the indictments of a few patrolmen but almost all of them were dismissed by the courts.

But because of a controversy, a new Police Board was appointed, with Teddy Roosevelt at its head, and progress was made in establishing civil service practices. Prior to the new board headed by Roosevelt, a member of the force wrote some years later, “Civil Service in the Police department was practically nix.”

The next year, the Lexow Bills introduced in the legislative session of 1895 would give the board the power to dismiss members of the force without due-process guarantees of hearings and trial. In one of the earliest efforts in what would be a long history of such battles to preserve the rights of police officers, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association actively opposed the unjust measures.

These are the recollections of John Mc Glion: “The Police Department was then in a turmoil. There didn’t seem to be a person able to combat the charges made….the organization (PBA) however, knew that they were clear of any of these charges… Your humble servant, John W. Mc Gloin, knew himself that he was not guilty of any of the crimes that others were accused of. Mc Gloin appealed to the Honorable Thoams C. Platt, then state leader, and a audience was granted. I was assured we would be given s hearing before the Senate Committee. The Senate failed to pass the Lexow Bills and peace was again restored to the Police Department.

The PBA had won its first big, political battle. There were many more to come. And they would come soon. Altogether, 1894 was an eventful year, That autumn, the Consolidation Act approved by referendum, provided for the establishment of Greater New York.

As the salary scales of the various communities being incorporated into the city were lower than those established for Manhattan and the Bronx, the PBA fought to maintain the existing pay schedules of the Charter of 1897 but only partially succeeded. Five-year service for advancement to first-grade patrolman was kept, as was the $14 00 maximum, but the minimum salary was reduced to $8 00 annually.

Efforts to restore the $1 000 minimum went on for the next 15 years until finally in 1913, with the approach of the municipal election and with the future Tammany Hall’s fortunes in doubt, the Board of Estimate acceded to the PBA’s demands.

This long struggle was accompanied by a 5 0 percent increase in the cost of living and a study by the Bureau of Municipal Research in March of 1913 reported on the economic difficulties of patrolmen. The study also made pointed mention of the excessive amount of extra duty demanded of patrolmen, and the PBA salary demand for shorter hours that they sought for years. From 1857 to 19 01, duty was divided into two shifts of 12 hours each, otherwise known as the two-platoon system. In 19 01, the PBA made a demand for a three-platoon system of eight hour shifts (tours), and this schedule was indeed started in August, again on the eve of an election. But when Seth Low, head of the Fusion Party took office as mayor five months later, the two-platoon system was reinstated and would remain in effect until 1911.

The PBA successfully lobbed the State Legislative to enact a law mandating the three-platoon rotation, there was a special provision 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 do away with Reserve Duty

R&P 253 (194 0) When on reserve duty, a member of the force shall remain in the station house, unless otherwise directed by competent authority. When summoned for duty he shall report to the desk officer, properly equipped, within a period of five minutes. Those in dormitories shall be called by an attendant or by means of the electric call-bell, which shall be used for this purpose. Three rings of five seconds each.

In 1914, several PBA officers were accused of misallocating pension funds and that, along with new reform administration’s creation of an Employees Conference Committee to represent both police and fire in grievance proceedings, created a crisis that pushed the PBA to adopt a new constitution in 1914. Joseph Moran was elected PBA president and would remain president until his retirement in 1938.

Last month’s Guess who?

Patrick V. Murphy, P.C. 1970-73

Previous Trivia

Click on previous individual articles below :