BY JOE MARVILLI
While the NYPD has an essential role in the day-to-day life of New York City, not many people know how it got started. One NYPD lieutenant is looking to change that with his latest book.
NYPD Lt. Bernard Whalen released “The NYPD’s First Fifty Years: Politicians, Police Commissioners and Patrolmen” on Jan. 15, going over the early days of the department, starting with its official formation in 1898. Written alongside his father Jon Whalen, the College Point lieutenant not only goes into the details of how the organization came together, but looks at the heroism of everyday cops, the forward march of technology and struggles with corruption.
Given Bernard’s time at the NYPD, he is one of the agency’s authorities on its history. He has been on the force for 33 years so far, earning 16 departmental recognitions and two commendations.
Although Bernard did not have much trouble finding information for the book, dedicating his time was difficult, as he works on the force full-time. He did receive assistance, though, from people throughout the NYPD.
“There was a lot of cooperation within the agency, people I know from being here a long time, they were helpful. Nobody could write a book like this alone,” he said. “It was challenging to get a focus on what to write about.”
While researching and writing the book, Bernard said he learned that as much as the NYPD has changed, several basic components of the job have remained the same. He said similar social and criminal issues existed both then and now. Even the political process is not too different.
“We looked at the politician’s platform to get elected,” he said. “The police commissioner has to filter that message down to the officers.”
On the other hand, the invention and spread of the automobile greatly changed the NYPD in the early 20th century. At the time, police officers preferred to be on foot, as they knew every aspect of the beat they walked and knew places where they could dock in. The cars at the time did not have heaters and were not that popular. The NYPD had to make the switch though as criminals had cars of their own and were using them to escape from the police.
Another example he mentioned was a deadly bombing at the 1939-40 World’s Fair. In this incident, the cops were forced to carry the bomb out by hand and it exploded in their presence, killing two officers. The attack led to the addition of protective gear and a bomb truck, a vital part of the NYPD today.
Besides all of this fascinating history, the book also features a foreword written by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, before he started his current term.
“He reacted very favorably to the story and the way it was being told and he agreed to write the forward,” Bernard said. “I’m thrilled his name is on the front cover.”
“The NYPD’s First Fifty Years” is available at major retailers, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. There will be a book signing on Feb. 11 at the Mysterious Bookshop, located at 58 Warren St., from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. There will also be an appearance at the Barnes & Noble in Bay Terrace on Feb. 18 from 7 to 9 p.m.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joe Marvilli.