The following history report of the NYC Transit Police
Department was compiled by Ret. P.O. Mike Minghillo
The 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.
With 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 Department.
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.
In 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 hiring list.
On 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.
In 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
In 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 needed.
In 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.
In 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
By 1950 the number of Special Patrolman reached 563. In
1951 examinations were held for Transit Sergeants and Lieutenants.
In 1953, the New York City Transit Authority came
into being and assumed control over all the subway lines from the old
Board of Transportation.
In 1954, Dorothy Uhnak became the first woman to join
the Transit Police Department.
In 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.
In 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 Department.
In 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 of arrest.
By 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.
By early 1975, the Transit Police Department had grown to
3,600 Police Officers.
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.
On December 29, 1977, during the fiscal crisis, a new medical
unit came into being.
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.
In 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 system.
On 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.
In 1982, the first police “sweep of the subways was
conducted” with great results.
During the 1990’s the Transit Police Department had regained
all of its former strength and had increased even further.
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
On October 13, 1994, the Transit Police Department had 4,327
Police Officers making it the sixth largest police force in the United
Over 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.
As 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.
For 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.
This system, even if understood, which it was not, was
totally absurd. Why was the Mayor appointing these people to the
The Transit Authority had turned a deaf ear to crimes
committed on the system whether an apprehension was made or not.
They 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 Officer:
A 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 arrests.
The 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.
A clearly defined purpose, and an accountable chain of
command. No Transit Police management failure here!!!!
On 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
The 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
An average of 1,023 Transit Bureau Officers would patrol the
subway on a daily basis. This strength was only guaranteed until
April 2, 1998.
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
A Dedicated, Proud and
Proficient New York City Transit Police Department ceased to
exist with the swipe of a pen.
Two 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:
In February of 1997, after a reorganization of the Department
the Transit Bureau became the Transit Division within
the newly formed Transportation Bureau.
In the spring of 1998 the Transportation Bureau
In 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,
With twenty seven lines, four hundred and sixty nine
stations and numerous trains to cover the Transit Bureau Officers must
be spread really thin?
How many Transit Bureau Officers actually patrol the
system as of April 2, 2008?
These are the statistics before the “Hostile Takeover” merger:
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 services.
TRANSIT COPS ARE TOPS -
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