following history report of the NYC Transit Police Department was
compiled by Ret. P.O. Mike Minghillo
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.
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 Department.
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.
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.
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
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 needed.
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.
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?"
the number of Special Patrolman reached 563. In 1951
examinations were held for Transit Sergeants and Lieutenants.
the New York City Transit Authority came into being and
assumed control over all the subway lines from the old Board of
Dorothy Uhnak became the first woman to join the Transit
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.
Captain O’Rourke was then appointed as the first Chief of
the Transit Police Department.
1964 New York City Transit Patrolmen were granted the same powers as
the Patrolmen of the City of New York Police Department.
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.
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 of
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.
1975, the Transit Police Department had grown to 3,600 Police
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
December 29, 1977, during the fiscal crisis, a new medical unit came
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.
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.
the first police “sweep of the subways was conducted” with great
the 1990’s the Transit Police Department had regained all of its
former strength and had increased even further.
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 system.
October 13, 1994, the Transit Police Department had 4,327 Police
Officers making it the sixth largest police force in the United
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.
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.
only place where frustration and inefficiency existed was in the
mind of Mayor Guiliani.
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?
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
statements demanded an in-dept investigation, as did every new
disclosure about the Transit Police. Unfortunately, no further
investigations were ever conducted.
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?.
again, the only problem was in the mind of Mayor Guiliani.
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
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
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.
spring of 1998 the Transportation Bureau dissolved.
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”
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 services.
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