All Things Crime Blog welcomes back retired NYPD Sergeant and Forensics Investigator John Paolucci. In this post, John describes his death-defying early days in law enforcement when he served on the New York City Housing Police.

by John Paolucci

11:30 at night, South Bronx, NYC, in the basement of a Housing Project, a dozen cops congregate in the back of a dingy room. Some are sitting, some standing, talking, smoking, writing in their memo books. Any sign of shoe polish or even the original black dye have been scuffed from their leather boots and gun belts.  The leather thumb locks on their holsters have been worn to a suede texture from drawing and holstering their revolvers so many times.  The backing plates for their shields are piled high with medals and memorial bars worn to commemorate fallen officers.  A Sergeant walks in:

“Thanks for showing up, guys.  Time for roll call.”

Housing “precincts” were called “PSAs” which stood for “Police Service Areas”.  Each borough had its own PSA, located in the basement of a Housing project.  Lesson Number One was to always look up when walking into a PSA.  Some of the residents liked sending “Air Mail” projectiles which might include frozen water bottles, paint cans or even bed frames thrown from roof tops and apartment windows, aimed at your head.  We joked about saddling up some of the resident “critters” we shared space with — the rats, squirrels and water bugs — and riding them into roll call.  The conditions we worked under were light years from CSI New York, but we were proud of what we did.

Housing I.D. CropAs the roll call continued, vehicles, partners and sectors were assigned, against a backdrop of raucous shop talk from another room where the previous shift was changing into their civilian clothes. They had survived another day and were getting ready to unwind at a local bar.  Nobody walked out the door without their shield, ID card and firearm for the two block trek to the parking lot where their cars were waiting, hopefully none the worse for wear.

The Sergeant finished briefing the “Midnight” or “1st Platoon” roll call and advised us of any extreme conditions to be aware of such as stolen vehicles and perpetrators that we might come across during our tour of duty, then wrapped things up by saying:

“Call me if you REALLY need me.  And be safe out there.”

If you were lucky enough to get in your car without a backlog of calls to respond to, you threaded your way to wherever you could get a decent cup of coffee (no easy task in this neighborhood), and downed your first cup of the night.  No donut shops where we worked and no offense taken when civilians started making with the cop/donut jokes in an attempt to get under our skin.  Generally, by the time I’d be taking the last few sips of that first coffee, my feet would be doing a two-step in one of the puddles of urine that sloshed around on the floor of damned near every elevator in the South Bronx Housing Projects.  Just another day at the office for a Housing cop.  They kept me busy right from my first day on the job.

“Housing Police!  Don’t move!  Don’t Laugh!” Jimmy Barnes, my field training officer stood in a mock combat stance with his hands simulating a firearm.  Then he laughed.  “Don’t worry John, you’re gonna love this job. Just so you know, the first thing everybody’s gonna ask you is ‘Do you guys have guns?’  What do they know?  They wouldn’t drive through here in an armoured car! Now let’s go get a collar.”

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHSummertime 1992, the crack epidemic still in full swing, as Mayor David Dinkins and NYPD Police Commissioner Lee “Out of Town” Brown tried to wrestle with a murder rate that was on track to exceed 2,000 for the year – again.  Making a “collar” wasn’t rocket science, and motivated Housing cops were free to make all the self-initiated arrests they could manage.  We were far from the political spotlight, patrolling areas that the newspapers paid little attention to.  Violence was a part of our daily routine and it would take at least a triple homicide to attract media attention. A Housing cop involved in a shooting was less likely to make the papers than our NYPD counterparts.

Jimmy and I walked through the mean streets amidst death stares and trash talk: “Woop-woop.  It’s the Po-Po, yo”.  We rounded a corner and Jimmy pulled me into the lobby of a building.

“D’jasee that kid with no shirt and the gold teeth?  See that potato chip bag he just tossed, see the way it hit the ground. Somethin’ funny about that bag. Now c’mon.  And keep smiling.” 

I followed Jimmy while he broke into a boisterous fishing story, complete with animated gestures. We walked towards the “posse” who were fronting a playground, loitering in front of the park benches.  I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my legs with each step — ready to pursue, take cover or whatever else the moment called for. This was what I had been waiting for; this was why I’d toughed the training and everything else I’d gone through to get here. With an exaggerated ‘fish this big’ gesture, fast as lightning Jimmy grabbed Gold Teeth’s arm and twisted it up into the small of his back, bending him over the wrought iron fence.

“What’s in the bag Johnny?” I picked up the chip bag and opened it.  Small plastic vials with purple tops containing a white rock like substance where the chips once were. Just like that, we had a felony narcotics arrest.  As I prepared to cuff the perp, a dirty diaper followed by a sea of water bottles began exploding on the sidewalk in front of us.  Jimmy dragged me and Gold Teeth under a convenient overhang and started talking into his radio.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH“Housing 1-3-0 K.  Show us with 1 under, front of 3-1-5 East 1-4-3.  We’ve got air mail here!”  This transmission was answered by two of our Housing brethren in a sector car:

“Housing 9-2-2-5.  Show us responding.  Have that unit eighty-five us in the rear of 3-1-5 East 1-4-3.”  I cuffed Gold Teeth and a short siren blast informed us that we could dash out the back door to safety with our prisoner.  As Jimmy, Gold Teeth and I sat in the back seat, the sector car sped through the project playground, jumped the curb and hit the street. Jimmy and the driver made small talk.  No lights, no sirens, no stopping on red; we were inspired lawmen in a lawless town.

I learned a lot from the old timers, adding my own little twists to their techniques as I became more comfortable in that environment.  We would set up observation posts in vacant project apartments and study the activities of drug dealers, observing where they stashed their drugs and their proceeds. Then we’d set out to take-down the perps who either fought or fled. Sometimes we’d get hurt but more often it was them. Whoever made the collar would walk into the PSA with a pile of crack cocaine, money, and sometimes firearms. It was a great feeling to count it all out in front of the desk officer.  No need to call a Sergeant; we all knew the protocol.

I recall watching a NYPD foot post standing on a corner with a dealer selling crack vials a few feet away.  When I collared the dealer and recovered his stash from the pay phone, I asked the cop, “You guys didn’t know he was selling crack under your noses?”

“We knew.  We’re not allowed to make drug collars.”

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHMany of us carried a bag of tools on patrol to assist with the various situations we’d regularly encounter.  Things like pry bars, lump hammers and bolt cutters could make all the difference when the need arose to gain entry to a location in pursuit of some “Skell”.  Housing cops knew just how and where to kick a project door in when our subjects proved inhospitable.   We resolved family disputes, found missing kids, made arrests for violent assaults with the perpetrator still on the scene, seized large quantities of narcotics and money, all without ever requesting a Sergeant’s response, unless he was the only one available for backup or to give us a ride if we were on foot post. We were treated like grownups, and given a lot of freedom and responsibility which in turn made us feel important, like we made a difference out there in the badlands. The crummy conditions of our PSA and in the Housing Projects, coupled with the violence and danger we faced every day acted as a super-glue, bonding us all together.

Desk OfficerIn 1995, Mayor Giuliani merged the Housing Police and the Transit Police with “City”, which was the term for NYPD when there were three separate agencies.  “Housing” was no more.  Our funny looking orange & blue cars were painted blue & white. We went from one Housing patch on the left shoulder to a NYPD patch on each shoulder.  Supervisors who never worked the projects were suddenly our bosses and they showed up at all of our radio runs.  Roll calls lasted longer and the tone was a lot less friendly.  We had to polish our boots but whoever was urinating in all the elevators didn’t even have the decency to stop leaving puddles out of respect for our new image!

Shortly after the merge or “Hostile Takeover” as we liked to call it, I started working U.C. in Narcotics which was like a three year leave of absence from the Police Department.  It was there that I received my promotion to Detective, and then passed the test and was promoted to Sergeant which meant a return to uniform duties.  I was assigned to the Housing Bureau in Central Harlem, due to my prior experience in the projects.  Now that everyone was “NYPD”, the personnel assigned to the projects were considered to be part of the “Housing Bureau”. We were no longer “Housing Cops.”

Looch on Roof CropI was unaware of all the changes that had transpired in the “Post Merge” era due to the fact that I was undercover while all this was taking place. I had an old Housing cop, Bill Parker, as my driver when I first went out on patrol as a Sergeant in the “NYPD”. I went to backup some young cops chasing a knife-wielding perp who had just carved up his girlfriend before committing the rude gesture of locking himself in an apartment.  The cops pointed out which door and I braced myself against the opposite wall to get the leverage to perform the old Housing mule-kick. The door jumped but it would take more than a single kick to bust it down.

Bill grabbed my arm:  “Sarge, you gotta call the Lieutenant!”

“Really Bill?  He must be a pretty strong SOB?”

“No Sarge.  You can’t do that stuff anymore.  You gotta call the Lieutenant!”

So I did, very reluctantly, and he called the Captain, who called the Duty Inspector, and finally, in a sea of white shirts, the decision was made to call the Emergency Service Unit who have all the official tools to break down a door, just a wee bit more sophisticated than the old Housing tool bags that we had carried on patrol just a few years earlier.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHI watched this trend continue and little by little virtually all decision-making power was removed from the line level responders.  It spread like a virus into the investigative units where a young Captain who never worked crime scenes or homicide investigations would walk around telling Detectives with 20 years experience how to do their jobs.  Units once commanded by a Lieutenant now had a Deputy Inspector as the Commanding Officer and a Captain as the Executive Officer.  Morale declined steadily as seasoned veterans had their wings clipped, and the focus shifted from catching the bad guys to scoring points for the Captain at the next Compstat meeting.

We could argue that the homicide rates are dropping, but that’s illusory because once again shootings are way up. Some of the credit should go to the crackerjack ER Trauma teams and the dramatic advances in the medical field. We original “Housing” cops still congregate now and then and tell war stories of how we handled things when we had nearly total freedom, back during that incredibly violent era in New York City history.  Ironically, many of us old timers do give thanks to the new style of management for one thing: the decision as to whether or not it’s time to retire has been made a whole lot easier.

About the Author:  John Paolucci is a retired Detective Sergeant from NYPD. He worked in the New York City Housing Police in the South Bronx for four years and undercover in Harlem for another three years. After being promoted to Detective Sergeant, he spent his last eight years on the force in the Forensic Investigations Division, four of them as a Crime Scene Unit supervisor.  He was the first ever to command the OCME Liaison Unit where he managed all DNA evidence in NYC and trained thousands of investigators in DNA evidence collection and documentation. He developed a strong alliance between the OCME Forensic Biology Department and NYPD. John is currently the president of Forensics 4 Real Inc., where he provides forensic support to private investigations, international and domestic.  He also trains students and law enforcement in forensic evidence and crime scene investigations and provides consultations with movie and television writers, directors and developers working on real crime shows and dramas.  www.forensics4real.com.

Click here to view Officer Paolucci’s earlier post, Forensic Dispatch From New York City: Searching a House of Horror:

 

 

42 Responses to New York City Housing Police: A Bygone Era Worth Talking About

  1. SB says:

    “Units once commanded by a Lieutenant now had a Deputy Inspector as the Commanding Officer and a Captain as the Executive Officer.”

    I’m curious whether this also reflects a shifting strategy in the way NY law enforcement handled operations and tactics. There must be a reason for merging all the different branches together but what is the larger impact of this transition?

    • Hello SB.

      Your question covers two different eras and strategies. Regarding the merge, by merging all three agencies, the “NYPD” got up to 40,000 strong and some personnel/resources could be redirected to areas where the Giuliani/Bratton crime fighting plan needed them. Bratton was a leader who believed in morale and empowering the street cop. He would randomly show up at roll calls, and when the Sergeant was finished, he would pull a seasoned veteran aside and ask him what changes would make his job easier out there in the street. Cops felt empowered but also, since they were trusted with a large amount of responsibility, the acted accordingly – this is my perspective as a cop, Detective & Sergeant.

      After Giuliani, the Department became very top heavy. I believe that it was important to give executive level managers more accountability, but that morphed into a theory that crimes are solved by Executives. I know this first hand as I was the support for many of these executives when I was in Forensics. There are MANY Detectives who could have passed all the civil service tests to reach higher ranks, but chose to stay in their position because they loved the work they do. They can no longer make their own decisions as to how the investigation will proceed. The NYPD doesn’t have to recruit thinkers – this work could be done by drones.

      As to the larger impact – Morale has been on a steady decline for 12 years. Without making this too negative, if you research Detective Squad case clearance rates, you’ll see another impact. Thanks for such an interesting and astute question.

  2. Gary Randone says:

    “We were treated like grownups, and given a lot of freedom and responsibility which in turn made us feel important, like we made a difference out there in the badlands. The crummy conditions of our PSA and in the Housing Projects, coupled with the violence and danger we faced every day acted as a super-glue, bonding us all together.”

    Amen Brother

  3. Joe Guiney says:

    Bravo John, other then field training and pressure point, I did my twenty in PSA 5. Thank you for summarizing a reality few knew, or will ever know again. Good luck in all of your future endeavors.

  4. Mike Meehan says:

    Although I only spent a couple of years with Mother Housing, I can say that Howzin’ cops were, hands down, THE BEST. I learned a lot in my short time from some great cops and I was glad to take it with me where I landed. I ran in to Keiran O’Halloran, who I worked with in PSA 2, yesterday and finally thanked him for giving me his old partners gun belt 23 years ago. It’s still in use. We hadn’t seen each other in years, but I can attest to the bond we all share.

    • Thanks Mike. It was the most significant time in my career as far as feeling like I made a difference. The crime and the madness were one part, but remember when the seniors would make up some bogus 911 call just so you’d show up & hopefully escort them to the mail box so they could pick up their Social Security checks? We touched a lot of lives in many ways and it was an honor to have the freedom to serve in that capacity.

  5. Jim Paddock says:

    Great article John. Couldn’t be any more accurate. I went on in 82 & made sergeant in 88. I made decisions in the field in the Housing Police that an Inspector or Chief makes in the NYPD. After the merge, I summed it up this way, “I used to be a cop, now I work for the city”. The only good that came out of the merge was the availability of so many specialized units for assignment. Beyond that, the hostile takeover did nothing but handcuff the 2800 who worked the worst areas of the city. I retired right at my 20th anniversary 11 & 1/2 years ago. To all my retired Housing cohorts, retire, stay healthy, live long and collect the city’s money as long as possible and remember the Housing Police days when cops were actually cops with authority.

    • Hi Jim,

      Thanks for reading and it’s an honor that a veteran 10 years my senior could identify with the article. I was around 16 years after the merge, and most often, when one cop would work a little harder, care a little more – at some point he wore a single patch on his left shoulder. I took advantage of those shiny, fancy specialty units, and without a doubt, patrolling in the Housing projects was the best time and the best backup I had my whole career. Be safe, & healthy – keep collecting the pension

  6. JM says:

    Hi John- I never post replies online, but after reading your posting I was compelled to respond. I remember your name somewhat, but that many years ago. Everything to talked about is so true. I worked patrol in PSA-6 for some 10 years, with the same partner for most of those years. It was a zoo, animals behave better then those people. The merge was the worst thing NYC did to save the money. The people lost many services that the housing police provided. The first thing when the precents are short handed on manpower,they pull the cops out of the projects leaving those people fighting for themselves. They no longer had a safety net. A housing cop knew everyone in the projects and the problems in which came with the job. We got paid shit money but we did the best job we could with the tools we had to work with. In all we got the job done, no matter how we did it. The projects were so bad the city cops wouldn’t even come into the projects unless they had to for a radio run. NYPD didn’t learn then and they will never learn. All they wanted was to play the riole of big brother. Many housing cops got hurt bad because of the merge. No Ot, foot posts all the time, couldn’t make drug colliers , housing cops were getting there balls broken for making an arrest, thats what we did every day with housing police. Its very sad to see how bad things really got with the NYPD, when the truly one important thing was not police work anymore, it was “when can i retire”, and get out of here for good. The city will never admit the bad mistake they made getting rid of the housing police. The only ones who really know, how bad it really is, are the people who live there. God speed! to all who wear blue.

    • Hi JM. I remember that shift from “what did I miss while I was on vacation” to “when can I retire”. Housing cops loved the freedom to be cops and they were stripped of a lot of that with the merge. I made the most of things and went on to do things I may not have had the opportunity to do in Housing so there was a bit of a trade off for me. Heard the new Mayor is going to give the feds back their Housing money? Hmmmm….cops are still 4 years without a contract while gas & groceries have doubled in that time. Interesting times!

  7. BC says:

    Well said John! I served with the NYC Housing Police from 1985 to 1990. At first, like most of the highly motivated young Police Officers in my graduating class who were “selected” to be in the Housing Police, I was pretty upset. I could not believe that after finishing so high in my class, I was “sent” to HPD. All of us felt the same way, we felt like we got screwed. We were wrong, very wrong. We were sent to Operation Pressure Point in PSA 4 where we learned how to make arrests quick, a baptism by fire for sure! I then went on to PSA 5 where I spent several wonderful years working hard before I made the pilgrimage to the suburbs. I will always cherish those years in the PSA5, I worked with some amazing cops with whom I shared an unbreakable bond..We truly looked out for each other..Semper Fi…

    • Hi BC. I remember that feeling – why can’t I be NYPD? Throughout the rest of my post-merge career, whenever I went someplace new and got the “FNG” snub from just about everyone, the people who took time out to talk to me would turn out to be former Housing and sometimes Transit cops. We didn’t have that “too legit” stigma to weigh us down. It’s like when I used to go to a fight club on Friday nights. The guy who came in with a loud mouth and tough attitude was usually easy to defeat, while the one who came in, smiled and shook you hand was a formidable opponent! Housing cops had nothing to prove because we’d done it. Unbreakable bond for sure brother.

  8. Neal says:

    Great piece John, I served in PSA 5 and then PSU before leaving for greener pastures in south Florida in 1989. I must have worked with “BC” because I too started in 1985. I remember how depressed I was on finding out I got housing, but of course like everyone who worked there knows, it was a blessing. Be safe!

  9. Sal Alioto says:

    Hi John, Thanks for the stroll down memory lane. I came on the job in 1982 and did 20 years all in Housing, still have my ramp key to prove it… lol. Made sergeant in 1987 and retired in 2002. I felt every word you wrote in your article. Semper Housing my brother!!!

  10. Nick De Stefano says:

    Sorry I did not see your article sooner. It is golden. Throughout my 21 plus years with HPD I was very fortunate to have had some of the best training officers, bosses and dedicated and talented detectives to work for and with. I was also very fortunate to have early on been assigned to a project in the south Bronx for 7 years where the Superintendent was a buff and loved us Housing Cops. He treated us with respect and built us one of the best Record Rooms there was to work out of. During my time on the job I saw as I moved about that many of my brother officers were not as lucky to have worked under the same conditions I did. But it did not effect their dedication, performance or professionalism in the least. I admired their courage, initiative and motivation and I learned from them all and tried to emulate my them as best I could. From what I saw throughout my career with the HPD I could never have had that same experience with the NYPD. I grew up on the HPD and I am forever grateful for it. Thanks for the memories.

  11. Jim Paddock says:

    John, once again, I really enjoyed your article. Everything you write is absolutely true. Your assessment of the responsibility & freedom entrusted to a pre merge Housing Police Officer & Sergeant is dead accurate. I made Sergeant in September 88. One cop who had worked for me in the Sweep Team lateraled over to the NYPD somewhere before the merge, and was assigned to the 70 Precinct in Brooklyn, a fairly busy house. I ran into him at court about a year after he left Housing and asked how he liked the NYPD. I still remember his response. “All I can say it this sarge, I used to be a cop, now I work for the City of New York”. I asked him if it was really that bad, and he replied “yes”. After the merge, I realized that he was correct. I realized that I had been making decisions as a Sergeant with the Housing Police that required the response of a Captain or above in the NYPD. Sad, but true. With diminished authority & comradery all but evaporated, I navigated my last 7 years through a much less friendly NYPD. I consider myself to be lucky in that I found a handful of good Lieutenants to work for and I know I was appreciated by Captains & above that I worked for who were surprised by my work ethic and willingness to get involved. 28 months before my retirement, I was fortunate enough to land myself an assignment in a small unit commanded by a Captain from the former Housing Police, who earlier in my career was a Sergeant in PSA 3, where I was last assigned before my promotion. He ran his office like the days of Housing past, and found Lieutenants who were happy to work in that atmosphere. I was truly blessed to finish my career like that. I appreciate your articles John. They bring back great memories of men & women that I have a profound respect & admiration for, who shared those roach & mouse infested locker rooms and urine puddled elevators with me for 13 happy and proud years. Thanks again for your article. Stay healthy & collect that well earned pension my friend.

  12. Scott grabin says:

    John, just want to thank you for your superb writing. I worked for housing for over 20 years and fortunately retired as a captain for nypd. I was a very active police officer and went traveling all over the world vacationing through overtime. Before pre arraignment we would process our own prisoners. I never understood and maybe you could help me with this, why they didn’t streamline the process sooner. You had cops lying down on wooden benches in the police room in the court. there was so much unnecessary overtime. it was great for us but I never understood why someone didn’t adjust the whole processing system sooner. Anyway I loved the job and I admire your writing. Thank you for opening up a lot of old memories.

  13. Robert Cedor says:

    Started my career in 1982 at PSA 7. Your article is right on the money. The New York City Housing Authority Police Department was truly one of the best departments in the United States. Can remember comming to work every day 2 hours early just to get together with the guys to plan the days activities. What a great bunch of guys that worked at PSA 7. Bosses were great too.

  14. Jimmy Piccione says:

    John, I came on the job in 1981 and was assigned to the South Bronx Pct, aka PSA 7. I remember working a 4×12 in Claremont Village on night with my partner Sal Lentine. We had a “dispute with a gun” job on Webster Avenue. When we arrived we met the complainant who was standing in front of the building. She told us she had a fight with her boyfriend, who was currently in her apartment, and that he threatened her with a gun. We went up to her apartment and instructed her to knock on the door and tell her boyfriend she wanted to talk. We also instructed her that once he opened the door to “move out of the way”. Well she did and when he opened the door Sal and I pushed our way in, threw him on the floor, cuffed him and recovered the gun. We did this without “back-up” and without a supervisor. My point is today, you would need a sergeant, captain, emergency service, hostage negotiation and the building would have to be evacuated. I retired in 2011 from the Manhattan South Homicide Squad as a 1st grade detective. The job was very good to me and I’ll never knock it, but the time I spent in Housing, the cops I worked with and the good and decent people who lived in the projects will always have a special place in my heart and memory.

    • Jimmy Piccione says:

      Oh, I forgot to add aviation.

      • Ramsay Khan says:

        Hey Jimmy, great to read your reminiscences, even if it’s 2 years after you wrote them. I finally made it here, cuz. I knew you were good.
        Petey of the same last name!

    • Sal lentine says:

      Jimmy
      How the hell ru? I appreciate you mentioning me on that gun run. I remember it well. Sadly it’s 30 yrs ago. Email me
      Sal

  15. Rich Citarella says:

    Hey John I loved the article. I have been working in PSA7, my whole career,15 that is. But it has changed in my time. We still had bosses that were originally housing, and they were great. I work with a great cop originally housing, he was known as the hat. I learned a lot from him. Looking forward to more stories.

  16. carlos rodriguez says:

    You guys where the best p.o that new york had.My son Richard Rodriguez was part off housing p.d in brooklyn and i am proud of him thank you for the work that you guys done i hope some day some one will open their eyes and says these young men where brave thank you for all you done may god bless you Mr.Carlos Rodriguez

  17. Baldassare Gerardi says:

    John, I just read your article and thank you. You were able to bring back some of the best memories of being a police officer that I’ve ever had. When I came to PSA 7 in January 1993, (a 20 yr old white kid from “lilly” Long Island) I was petrified. After spending a few months with some of Housing’s greats, it felt like we were light years ahead of our NYPD counterparts. Honestly, if “Housing” would have stayed “Housing”, I would have stayed also. Keep up the good work.

  18. Michael says:

    Is that a pic of Holmes And you?

  19. Peter Cestare says:

    John, great article I really enjoyed reading it. Brings back soooo many memories of great times and the greatest cops I have ever worked with. I came on in 1981 and started out in 9 Rav and 9 Rock, later moved to 8. Worked EVS (Elevator Vandalism Squad) then promoted to Sgt and D/Sgt. Loved every minute of working with the best cops ever. Within 6 months on the street you had a bag of tools and keys to get just about anywhere you needed to go. Things really changed when we went from the old Housing radios to the NYPD frequencies. Thats when they realized how much work we really did, and just how tough the conditions were. Best friends and best times of my life!

  20. […] New York City Housing Police: A Bygone Era Worth Talking About […]

  21. Donny Edwards says:

    An interesting view of a Police department that labored largely in the shadows of the NYPD but produced the most competent, resourceful police officers and police supervisors I have ever seen & worked with.

    I remember one time in 9 Rock in the early 80’s when PC Ward had and exchange program with the NYPD. A Sgt., Lt., & Detective were assigned to each one of the PSA’s. I show up for a 1st plt. shift and there is a missing special case from the 3rd plt.

    The NYPD Lt. arrives and the 7 cops at 9 Rock are getting ready to continue the search. The Lt. asks, “where is the sgt?” I tell him that there is no sgt here or 9 Rav, only at Pomonok. He is incredulous & asks to know who is in charge, who did the roll call. I point to the senior patrolman, who’s name escapes me and tell him PO X. He then looks at the roll call and instructs me to have the 4 foot posts on the roll call to report to 9 Rock. I inform him that those FP’s are at Pomonok & 9 Rav and it will be a while to get them here.

    He shakes his head and gets on the phone to get ESU there for the search as we take our posts. I head out with an veteran 9Rock cop who knows the family, and after about an hour of knocking on doors and talking to residents, we find out the kid is at a friends home in another project and the sector rides over and brings him back.

    The Lt. is absolutely flabbergasted that we run a pct. with no sgt., minimum manning, and everybody shows up on time, perform the job like professionals, and somehow gets the job done with minimum supervision. When I leave the next morning the LT. is on the phone with his boss, saying he cant believe we have just ONE Sgt. for the whole Boro of Queens on a midnite and the nearest LT. is in the BRONX!

  22. Chris Lord says:

    Reading all these great post and your story brought back such Great memories..I got on the Job in 92..Psa 3.The freedom of being a Housing Cop was fantastic.So many heavy Radio Runs and you never called for a boss..I learned so much by the senior Officers.Those were really some of the best years i had on the Job.The conditions were harsh in the psa’s,,but it made us all that much tighter as a command.I remember at the end of a 4-12,Half of the shift would end up at a Irish pub.We were such a close knit family.Really miss those days.

  23. Mauro says:

    Hey John,
    I’m one of the realy, really old timers, came on in 1966 when there were no PSAs, just record rooms. Im in Brownsville about a month out of the Waters Street academy, when I run into a shooting in the street on Blake and Powell. I holler Police and the guy with the gun turns towards me with gun still in his hand. So I let go a couple of rounds in his direction as the crowd that had gathered parts like the Red Sea(It was around 6 PM on a hot night in July. He drops the gun to the ground and I wonder for a moment if it was really a gun and not a shiny bear can. The victim he was shooting at was under a nearby car screaming. Making a long story short, a 10-13 goes in, shots fired, I make the collar, the victim is a 17 year old kid that was trying to rob the bodega of the shooter’s brother, has a twenty cal bullet lodged in his nose sideways, that we didn’t discover until we get everyone to the 73. That was my first collar as a Housing Cop. Where do you go from there???? A year later Mayor John Lindsey at a City hall Ceremony bestows a Medal Of Exceptional Merit on a ribbon around my neck. With the exception of the “Shoe Flys” it was a great job. I had a couple of more shootings in the next 19 years, the last being another kid who I was chasing down Sutter avenue. He had been in a car with four others who the uniform guys had stopped. The last guy to get out of the car was trying to stuff a gun between the cushions of the back seat and one of the cops yells ”
    gun”. The kid I’m standing next to takes off, so I figure I have to chase him. We get a block down sutter ave, and I deciode to throw a shot in the air (illegal as all hell), maybe hell stop. Just as I pull out my off duty he turns on me with a gun in his hand, a big gun, so I fire a shot before he has a chance to shoot me. He panic and drops the gun, and continues running down sutter Ave. Good luck kid, the chase is over for me. PS my vest weas in the trunck of the car. I do believe in Guardian Angels, at least they were there for most of us housing cops. When were were appointed we were told to look at the guy on our left and the guy on our right, that in twenty years one of them will probably be dead. My name is Capobianco, on my left was Jan Brinkers, he was killed in 1981, on my right was Bill Caarragher, he was killed in 1982, both by shootings. I’m 72, had triple by-pass surgery a year ago this past November 2014,and I’m still doing well. So I guess my Guardian Angel is still around.
    Cappy

  24. Tom Sbordone says:

    Great article, 22 years, class of September ’73. Greatest cops ever, especially original PSU, the best of the best. How are you Mauro!

  25. Walter Perez says:

    I came on in the September 1973 class and retired as a Lt.out of PSA6 in 1994. While on a job as a P.O. In PSA5 a city cop once asked me because of the way l had handed a family dis put why l don’t try to get in to the NYPD. I said to him “why” l was fine where l was. He looked at me like l was crazy and didn’t say another word. I’ll never forget, best non move l ever made. Great article, you should thank about a book if u haven’t done so already.

  26. John Doherty says:

    Well written.

  27. MC says:

    It was great reading these and remembering the good days
    . And if that is Lt. Wally Perez, Great Boss!

  28. MC says:

    It was great reading these and remembering the good days. And if that is Lt. Wally Perez, Great Boss!

  29. Wil Medina says:

    Wow how I remember and miss those days! You are right on target. I worked from 83 to 88 in PSA 5, Pressure Point, HQ and EVS with the best bunch of guys ever. We were proud to be Housing despite living in the shadow. I’m still on the job in South Florida and retire in two years from a great career but reminisce of those days when we Loved doing our jobs. Here’s to the best of times!

  30. John,
    It was great reading your article. I came on in January 1984 with the HAPD. I spent the majority of my time in PSA6, with the exception of FT in PSA9 and Operation Pressure Point. I left in November 1990 to head upstate. I am still on the job and Chief of a Village PD. The time spent in the HAPD truly laid the foundation for my career. The life experiences within those first years were amazing. The camaraderie was great. Very proud to say I was a member of the HAPD. P.S. Our guys do foot patrol via a park and walk program.
    Thanks for sharing your article with us.
    Don

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