New York City Badges
by P. Olvey March 19, 2000
While going back through some correspondence I found two letters. One was written to me by Retired Captain Herb Blumenthal and is dated May 1, 1984. The second was written by Retired Sergeant Vince Sheehan and is dated November 30, 1982. Both Herb and Vince are retired from the New York City Police Department.
So what is the big deal about letters. The important thing to me was that I had already started to collect some of the upper rank NYC Badges and I was out looking for information. I will share all the information I have with you in this article.
NEW YORK CITY BADGES-LIEUTENANT AND HIGHER
The Department is controlled by the COMMISSIONER OF POLICE. Under the COMMISSIONER is a number of DEPUTY COMMISSIONERS. I was lucky enough to acquire the badge pictured here at this years MADONNA UNIVERSITY SHOW. It is a solid gold badge, made from 14-karat gold. It has 4 stars on it. The COMMISSIONERS BADGE has 5 stars on it. Other DEPUTY COMMISSIONERS BADGES, 2ND, 3RD 4TH and so on would have whatever amount of stars that the COMMISIONER would give them. Older issues of THE DEPUTY COMMISSIONERS BADGES have only 1 star.
Here is what I found in my reference material : THE POLICE COMMISSIONER is a civilian who serves at the pleasure of the MAYOR. He is a member of the DEPARTMENT But not a member of the FORCE. THE DEPUTY COMMISSIONERS are no longer numbered, but many badges indicate their functions. For example, DCCA-DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF COMMUNITY AFFAIRS, DCLM-DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF LEGAL MATERS, ETC. SPECIAL DEPUTY COMMISSIONERS are usually political people or special friends of the POLICE COMMISSIONER or MAYOR.
The CHIEF OF OPERATIONS is a gold plated badge with lug back construction
The CHIEF OF PERSONNEL shown here is in the 3 STAR RANK. This person would have been one of the group answering to the POLICE CHIEF. As we go through this article you must keep in mind that as assignments were reclassified the amount of stars could change, or the title could become obsolete. Also take note of the titles. This badge is of the lug back configuration
The CHIEF OF DETECTIVES is a 3 STAR RANK. This Badge is made out of 10-KARAT Gold and is of the lug back style. Imagine the prestige of being "THE CHIEF OF DETECTIVES OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT". Besides the prestige consider the worries. Could you be paid enough for this job? How long would your marriage last? How long could or would you last before you suffered from a severe case of burn out?
THE SUPERVISING ASSISTANT CHIEF INSPECTOR is a 3 STAR RANK. It is marked GOLD FILLED. This badge was used by the CHIEF OF PLANNING. The rank was discontinued in the 1960'S
I am not sure what tasks the ASSISTANT CHIEF performed. This badge is gold plated and has 2 stars. It is also has the lug back construction. It is hard to think of the ASSISTANT CHIEF being directly under the chief. Each bureau has a commander (Chief of Detectives for example) and the ASSISTANT CHIEF'S should have served under them. You must remember that THE NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT has approximately 31,000 officers (during 1996)
THE DIRECTOR OF POLICE PERSONNEL is a gold plated badge with a pin and catch. It is of the 1 STAR variety. The terms or titles CHIEF OF PERSONNEL and DIRECTOR OF POLICE PERSONNEL are interesting ranks. One A 3 STAR and the other a 1 star. Could they have been in the same bureau or division? Or is the DIRECTOR a newer or older term? Interesting enough the badge configuration is different. On THE DIRECTORS BADGE the eagle is part of the die. On every other badge we have discussed so far the eagle is separately applied. All of the other badges started out as a lieutenant's badge. The rank panel was added and the number of stars needed were added. Then the lug backs were attached. This badge however is very different
FIRST ASSISTANT CHIEF SURGEON. This badges is marked 10 KARAT GOLD and made by DIEGES and CLUST. It has a pin and catch. To find a badge with this rank we have to assume that at one time the doctor's (DISTRICT SURGEON'S) answered to THE CHIEF SURGEON through a chain of command. The badge is of two piece construction, in that it has a solid back with the inside hollow. This style is also known as a sandwich badge. I wonder if THE CHIEF SURGEON'S BADGE had stars on it. Was there a 2ND ASSISTANT CHIEF SURGEON? Why were these made out of gold instead of GOLD FILL? A lot of questions about some badges from New York City. Some may never be answered. If collectors share information we will know the answers
HONORARY SURGEON. This badge is marked SOLID GOLD and was made by DIEGES and CLUST. It also has a pin and catch. Again it has the solid back with a hollow area between the front and back. It is made from the LIEUTENANT'S style. The tab that has the word HONORARY on it is applied. It is possible that this was a regular style for surgeons
This is the earliest of the SURGEON BADGES in my collection. It is marked GOLD FILLED - DIEGES and CLUST. It also has a pin and catch. I have no idea where the design originated. Interestingly enough the belt around the badge resembles the THE FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE SYMBOL
SURGEON. This is a GOLD-FILLED BADGE with a pin and catch. IF NEW YORK CITY follows tradition, this is the current SURGEON'S BADGE. Here are some notes from the letters I mentioned at the start of the article. CHIEF SURGEON, the head medical man in the department, in charge of all the DISTRICT SURGEONS. (EACH TIME A COP WENT SICK, HE WOULD HAVE TO REPORT TO HIS SURGEON WHO WOULD DETERMINE IF THE GUY WAS ABLE TO GO BACK TO WORK OR STAY OUT SICK)
THE INSPECTOR'S BADGE does not have a star. It is a beautiful badge and is the rank that starts this style. It is gold plated and has lug backs. It as most of the others, is made from THE LIEUTENANT'S BADGE BLANK. The eagle is added, the rank panel is added and the badge is complete
THE DEPUTY INSPECTOR'S BADGE shown here is GOLD PLATED STERLING with a pin and catch. THE City of New York Seal is rivited to the badge. (I SUSPECT THAT THIS WAS MADE AND ISSUED DURING ONE OF THE WARS. DURING WARTIME IT WAS NOT UNUSUAL FOR POLICE BADGES TO BE MADE FROM STERLING. THE NORMAL BADGE METAL WAS BEING USED TO MAKE ITEMS FOR THE WAR EFFORT). I have another DEPUTY INSPECTOR in my collection that is GOLD FILLED and marked JOHNSON NATIONAL. The JOHNSON NATIONAL BADGE has lug backs. The exposure that I have had to the current ranking New York City Badges leads me to believe that the new badges may no longer be gold filled but may now be gold plated. There is an obvious cost savings involved. The second item to think about is that badges makers and jewelers can put a much heavier gold plate on badges than in the past. In the past some badges were gold washed. The gold wash wore off pretty easily. It looked nice for awhile but then it wore off. Then HEAVY GOLD ELECTROPLATE was introduced as was another term called KARATCLAD. KARATCLAD is another from of gold plating. Both of these are much heavier than the old gold wash. A local plater told me that his gold plate was almost as heavy as the old gold fill. Modern technology has changed the way badges are made
CAPTAIN. This is a lug back style badge. It is gold plated. The newer badges have applied numbers on the back. These numbers are referred to as control numbers. This badge has a solid back
LIEUTENANT. This is the badge that I have referred to so much in this article. This badge is the basic badge shape for all of the upper rank badges except for the Captain and the Deputy Inspector. The Lieutenant's Badge is gold plated and has lug backs.
A note about lug backs. The lug back construction permits a large safety pin to be put through the lugs. The lugs are placed near the top and bottom of the badge. The large safety pin in put through the holes in the lugs. This permits the badge to be securely fastened to the shirt or coat of the uniformed officer. It is much sturdier than any pin and catch could ever be. I do not know the earliest date that the lug back configuration was used. It was used however on the patrolman's badges made for the New York City Police Department in 1898.
Here is an overview of the ranking badges of the NYPD, I will have missed some of the newer rank designations caused by the merger of the New York Transit and Housing Police, these are 3 star badges, as of this date March 19, 2000 there have been 3 badges made for the Transit Chief. As more duties are shifted from Bureau to Bureau during reorganizations the rank panels will continue to change. At one point the Chief of Operations was known as the Chief of Field Services. The Field Services designation lasted approximately 2 years from 1972 to 1974. It is also important to note that the Chief Inspector was at one time the Chief of Police or Chief of Department.
1) COMMISSIONER - a 5 STAR BADGE
2) FIRST DEPUTY COMMISSIONER - a 4 STAR BADGE
3) CHIEF OF DEPARTMENT- a 4 STAR BADGE
4) CHIEF OF PATROL - a 3 STAR BADGE
5) CHIEF OF OPERATIONS - a 3 STAR BADGE
6) CHIEF OF ORGANIZED CRIME CONTROL - a 3 STAR BADGE
7) CHIEF INSPECTIONAL SERVICES - a 3 STAR BADGE
8) CHIEF OF PERSONNEL - a 3 STAR BADGE
9) ASSISTANT CHIEF - a 2 STAR BADGE
10) DEPUTY CHIEF - a 1 STAR BADGE
11) INSPECTOR - NO STARS
12) DEPUTY INSPECTOR - NO STARS
How many other ranks or titles have existed over the years is unknown. Hopefully this article will give the reader an insight into the rank structure and badge configuration of the past and present.
I wish to thank Pat Olvey for this great help on NYC badges.