The following history report of the NYC Transit Police
Department was compiled by Ret. P.O. Mike
New York City subway system is the largest and most intricate system
of its kind in the entire world. The system consists of 469
stations, 842 miles of track, 6.494 subway cars, (that make 33,000
trips a year) 27 subway service lines, three short shuttles and
serves over 5 million passengers, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365
days a year.
a system this large and the amount of people using it, a Specialized
Police Department was, and still is, necessary.
The following is the story of the birth and the
death of the New York City Transit Police
Rapid transit played an integral part in the lives of New
Yorkers for well over 100 years. The first trains ran at grade
level and on elevated structures. On October 27, 1904, the
Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) opened to the public. It took
four and a half years to complete, because it ran underground.
Since both the IRT and the competing BMT (Brooklyn-Manhattan
Transit) lines were privately financed and built, they had no police
but only their own private security personnel.
1932, the new IND (Independent) lines began operating. It was
owned by New York City and run by the Board of Transportation.
These lines originally had “station supervisors” employed to police
them, their names having been taken from the NYC Police Department’s
November 17, 1933, six men were sworn in as New York State
Railway Police. They were unarmed but were still
responsible for the safety of the passengers on the IND lines as
well as guarding the systems property. In 1935, 20 “station
supervisors, class B” were added for police duty.
June of 1936, Mayor LaGuardia signed a resolution
creating the post of “Special Patrolman” on the subway
system. Responsible for assisting in the opening and closing
of doors and announcing destinations, these 26 “Special Patrolmen”
were soon given powers of arrests, but only on the IND line.
And thus the New York City Transit Police
Department was born.
1937, 160 more men were added to the police force.
Additionally, 3 Lieutenants, 1 Captain, and 1 Inspector from the
NYPD were assigned as supervisors. When the privately-run IRT
and BMT lines were taken over by New York City in 1940, the small
patrol force on the IND line nearly doubled in size. Now part
of the Civil Service system, more Transit supervisors were
1942, the first promotional examination was given for the title of
“Special Patrolman Grade 2” or what is now known as
Sergeant. In 1947 the Code of Criminal Procedure was changed
granting Transit Patrolmen Peace Officer Status.
1949 the question as to who should supervise the Transit Police
Department was one that was carefully scrutinized over the next five
years by various city officials. The issue that was considered
was, “Should the Transit Police be taken over by NYPD?"
1950 the number of Special Patrolman reached 563. In 1951
examinations were held for Transit Sergeants and Lieutenants.
1953, the New York City Transit Authority came into being and
assumed control over all the subway lines from the old Board of
1954, Dorothy Uhnak became the first woman to join the
Transit Police Department.
1955, the decision was made that the Transit Police Department would
become a separate and distinctly different Department, ending almost
two decades of rule by the NYPD. The Civil Service Commission
established a new test for Transit Patrolman and on April 4, the
first appointments from the list were made.
NYPD Lieutenant Thomas O’Rourke was
designated the first commanding officer of the Transit Police
Department. Soon after, Lieutenant O’Rourke along with 9
others passed the Captain’s examination.
1955, Captain O’Rourke was then appointed as the first
Chief of the Transit Police Department.
In 1964 New York City Transit Patrolmen were granted the
same powers as the Patrolmen of the City of New York Police
1965 crime on the subway system began to rise and, at the Mayor’s
direction, the Transit Police Department began a recruitment drive
to rapidly increase their size.
In 1966 legislation was enacted that gave members of
police departments across New York State including the New York City
Transit Police Department “Police Officer” status with broad powers
1966, the Department had grown to 2,272 Police Officers. That
same year Robert H. Rapp was appointed Chief of the New
York City Transit Police Department. Under Chief Rapp, an
under the Mayor’s direction, an ambitious new anti-crime program got
underway. The program had a goal of assigning an officer to
each of New York City’s subway trains and stations between the hours
of 8:00PM and 4:00AM.
early 1975, the Transit Police Department had grown to 3,600 Police
Later in 1975 a former NYPD Chief Inspector and
sometimes City Council President Sanford D. Garelik, was
appointed Chief of the Transit Police Department. Determined
to reorganize the Transit Police Department, he eliminated all the
ranks between Deputy Inspector and Assistant Chief. All
ranking officers were asked to either retire or be reduced back to
the rank of Captain. The Chief felt that the Transit Police
Department was only an ancillary force, and that everything other
than patrol was done by New York City Police Officers. After
observing the Transit Police Officers doing their job, he realized
that the Transit Police Department was not an ancillary force and
that all the work, patrol and otherwise, was done by the Transit
Police Officers. Chief Garelik was also successful in
instilling a new sense of pride and professionalism among the
ranks. However, the fiscal crisis that began that year was an
unexpected blow especially to Transit Police Officers. Over
the next five years, layoffs and attrition would reduce the number
of Transit Police Officers to fewer than 2,800. New Officers
would not be hired until 1980.
December 29, 1977, during the fiscal crisis, a new medical unit came
General Order #6.9 established the Transit Police
Emergency Medical Rescue Unit. Under the direction of
Deputy Inspector Valentine, ten (10) highly motivated police
officers volunteered to become the best of the best in the Transit
Police. They underwent additional medical training and
operated primarily in midtown Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn.
Their duties also included bomb and terrorists threats.
1980 the Vandal Squad was formed. Their mission was to
protect the subway system from hardcore criminal acts of destruction
like graffiti, kicking out windows and throwing seats out of train
cars. By the end of the 1980’s the Transit Police had
effectively solved the problem of graffiti in the subway
December 15, 1980 the Canine Unit (K-9) performed its first
day of patrol. The unit proved time and time again to be an
effective tool in the prevention of crime and the apprehension of
criminal within the transit system.
1982, the first police “sweep of the subways was conducted” with
During the 1990’s the Transit Police Department had
regained all of its former strength and had increased even
In 1991 the Transit Police Department gained
national accreditation under Chief William Bratton. The
Department became one of only 175 law enforcement agencies in the
country and only the second in New York State to achieve this
distinction. The following year it was also accredited
by the State of New York. Chief Bratton also made significant
changes, especially in the areas of the firearms, and the
police-radio system. Under his command, all Transit
Police Officers were authorized to carry a 9 millimeter
weapon. With reference to the police-radio system, the Chief
had invited reporters to check out the radio system and see for
themselves how easy it was for a cop’s cry for help to go
unheard. The story annoyed the people who hired him but they
also helped produce, in short order, money for a new police-radio
On October 13, 1994, the Transit Police Department had
4,327 Police Officers making it the sixth largest police force in
the United States.
time, however, the separation between the NYPD and NYC Transit
Police Department created more and more problems. Redundancy
of units, difficulty in communications and differences in procedures
all created frustration and inefficiency.
part of his mayoral campaign candidate Rudolph Guiliani
pledged to end the long unresolved discussion and merge all three
Police Department, NYPD, NYC Transit Police and the NYC Housing
Authority Police into a single coordinated force.
almost fifty years the Transit Police had functioned very
well. All of a sudden there were problems? There was no
separation between the NYPD and the Transit Police. Each
department was a separate and unique entity. Each police
department in New York City was authorized , by law, to have
different units within their structure. These units did differ
because of the specialty of the department, so redundancy of units
was a myth. There has always been difficulty in communications
with the different departments in New York City especially as
witnessed by the 9-11 disaster. Differences in procedures is
also common within different departments. But, in the final
analysis these differences were negligible.
The only place where frustration and inefficiency existed
was in the mind of Mayor Guiliani.
During these proceedings it was disclosed that the Mayor
appointed individuals who were in charge of the Transit Police and
who reported on policy to the Police Commissioner and on personnel
to the Transit Authority President.
system, even if understood, which it was not, was totally
absurd. Why was the Mayor appointing these people to the
Transit Authority had turned a deaf ear to crimes committed on the
system whether an apprehension was made or not.
wanted to down play crime on the system and if a crime was reported
in the press it would be viewed a failure to protect the riding
public. The stated reason for these failures were that
the Transit Police had neither a clearly defined purpose nor
accountable chain of command?
Another question that was asked was “Why did Transit
Police management fail”? Once again there was no answer
because there was no failure on the part of Transit Police
These statements demanded an in-dept investigation, as
did every new disclosure about the Transit Police.
Unfortunately, no further investigations were ever conducted.
The following were the duties of a Transit Police
Transit Police Officer had a uniquely different policing
responsibility which consisted of patrolling subway trains at
dangerous high-crime hours, foot patrol of subway stations alone,
rush hours, school conditions, and specialized patrol
services. A Transit Police Officer’s responsibilities included
responding to subway crimes, re: booth robbery, passenger robbery,
assaults, pick-pocketing, sexual assaults, homicides, fires, smoke
conditions, persons under train, multiple aided cases including
E.D.P’s, bomb and terrorists threats, issuing summonses and making
police officer did his job, the police supervisors did their jobs,
crime on the system was decreasing and the police management
function to plan, direct, organize, staff and evaluate operations
was performed well.
clearly defined purpose, and an accountable chain of command.
No Transit Police management failure here!!!!
January 1, 1994, Mayor Guiliani took office and immediately
undertook to fulfill his promise and end a problem that had defied
final solution for almost half a century?.
Once again, the only problem was in the mind of Mayor
MTA Board of Director’s had initially opposed the merger, but
finally went along with it in January 1995, because Mayor
Guiliani threatened to pull all funding for the Transit Police which
was estimated to be $315 million dollars for the year.
Discussions between the City of New York and the NYC
Transit Authority produced a memorandum of understanding, which
guaranteed patrol strength (two thousand officers) would be
unchanged for three years, except in cases of emergencies or if the
city’s overall strength decreases. This was a massive cut in
the number of officers assigned to the subway, because the Transit
Police Department employed over four thousand Police Officers
regardless of emergencies or whether the strength of the New York
Police Department increased or decreased.
average of 1,023 Transit Bureau Officers would patrol the subway on
a daily basis. This strength was only guaranteed until April
And so on April 2, 1995, the New York City Transit
Police Department was merged (“Hostile Takeover“) with the
New York City Police Department to become the new Transit Bureau
within the NYPD.
A Dedicated, Proud and
Proficient New York City Transit Police Department ceased to
exist with the swipe of a pen.
short years later it appeared that the NYPD did not know what to do
with the added responsibility of policing the transit system.
The following are changes and statistics after the April 2,1995,
“Hostile Takeover” merger:
February of 1997, after a reorganization of the Department the
Transit Bureau became the Transit Division within the
newly formed Transportation Bureau.
the spring of 1998 the Transportation Bureau dissolved.
July 1999 the Transit Division once again became the Transit Bureau,
and as such continues to provide police protection to the nation’s
largest rapid transit system. There are only 12 NYPD Transit Bureau
(Police) Districts. There is only a small detail of NYPD Transit
Bureau Officers that patrol the trains on the 8PM to 4AM tour. An
average of 1,023 NYPD Transit Bureau Officers patrol the system 24
hours a day as of April 2, 1995.
This strength was guaranteed for
only three years dating to April 2, 1998.
twenty seven lines, four hundred and sixty nine stations and
numerous trains to cover the Transit Bureau Officers must be spread
How many Transit Bureau Officers
actually patrol the system as of April 2, 2008?
These are the statistics before the “Hostile Takeover”
Before the Merger there were 18 Transit Police Districts
plus five/seven additional smaller “districts” where the officers
assigned to the 8P Program would report for duty. There were
approximately 1,000 Transit Police Officers assigned to train
patrol and station patrol, between the hours of 8PM and 4AM.
Included were area coordinators that would have the responsibility
of making sure that a train or station was covered in the event of
an arrest, etc., by that particular officer. You could always
find a Transit Police Officer quickly because even during the day
and early afternoon they were assigned to train patrol, station
patrol, rush hours, school conditions and special patrol
TRANSIT COPS ARE TOPS -
Even though this “Hostile
Takeover” merger was definitely not in the best interest of the
riding public, the citizens of New York, or the New York City
Transit Authority, the Transit Police Officers and the Transit
Police Department should always be remembered for who they are, what
they were and what they