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Memo to Special and Senior Special Officers of the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) Hospital Police

Part II: HHC Hospital Police and Local 237

Winter: 2013

Twitter Point: The history of the HHC Hospital Police and Local 237 are tangled together. During my career, neither the union nor the HHC Hospital Police membership really knew what it was going to take to make the HHC Hospital Police a top-tier  organization. Perhaps my biggest failure was that I had ideas but I didn't have the ability or drive to make those ideas a reality.

      In the past, I wasn’t a fan of Local 237, especially after one of its' business agents (Nice to read in the Civil Service Chief that he has since been fired.) tried to get me fired on two separate occasions and was mysteriously out of state when my idiot boss at Woodhull, who mistakenly was convinced that I was out for his job, got me fired. [The same director had rehired me after I had left the HHC Hospital Police. He lied when he told me that I had been reinstated as a civil-service  captain when he knew that I had been appointed to a provisional appointment. ]  The day my hospital career ended I was escorted out of the hospital by a special and senior special officer. I was carrying out a garbage bag of some of my things and as to be expected the bag broke open and all of my stuff scattered all over the floor.  What crimes did I commit? I committed the crime of pride. I had just grown tired of letting Directors of Security look good off of my work and ideas. In short, the final straw came after I had created and ran a Hospital Police newsletter called 'Behind the Shield' and I wasn't going to let my director get credit for something he had nothing to do with.  Getting fired and escorted out of the building was one of the lowest points in my life. But if you are at the lowest point in your life there is only one way to go and that is up. I took all the lessons I learned from my Hospital Police experience and moved on. This doesn't mean that my experience in the HHC Hospital Police still doesn't have some emotional hold on my life. If you read my novel, you can see that I haven't completely separated myself from my career in the HHC Hospital Police. Once you spend time in the Hospital Police and experience things the average citizen doesn't the experience always comes back.   

   Yes, I was one of many people who wanted out of Local 237 during the period of my novel.  But, looking at things from a later perspective, I can understand that had we gotten out of Local 237. We not only would not have moved toward a centralized and well respected police force, we probably would have gone backwards. I could explain why I think that, but that would add another 30 pages to this memo. However, I will give one reason: suppose the LIRR Police union succeeded  so many years ago in getting the bargaining certificate from your union. Supposed years went by and the good citizens of New York City elected a my way or the highway type of mayor with plenty of rich friends who needed to milk the city with rich contracting contracts. For argument sake and simplicity let's say that his name is Giuliani. And let's say one of his friends has a contract guard company that he needs to expand to include the HHC and HRA police. Now I'm sure the LIRR police union is a fine union that has done many things for its members, but this union is a long Island union and doesn't have as big of a political power base as your union. Certainly, if someone looked to replace peace officers with guards, all the major unions in NYC would do little to stop the takeover because an outside union stole members away from a sister union. You don't have to be a genius to understand that reality. You just have to know how things work in NYC and probably everywhere else.

   Of course, the above example actually happened, and your current president played a big part in stopping the HHC from converting your force into a much cheaper guard force. I don't know if that was the major reason why he was appointed president, but it certainly didn't hurt his chances. I mention this because on a site for Hospital Police, someone commented that should Gregory Floyd become mayor he would get rid of the Hospital Police and turn it into a guard force. We all know that once someone achieves a high office like mayor they start doing things that they wouldn't have done before they achieved that higher office, so anything is possible. But to think that Gregory Floyd will double cross the same people that would make his election and reelection possible is ridicules.

    I am now living in Florida, and I can tell you that most of the natives that I know will never have what I have because their work career wasn't in a union shop. Businesses or governments only give what a good union with great members forces them to give. One thing I have learned in my old age is that the decline of the middle class and unions are both riding on the same train. Somebody is making tons of money and that somebody isn’t the middle class.  Unions aren't perfect, some have been found to be corrupt, but most of the benefits workers have received over the years weren't given freely by employers - no these were hard-fought  victories by unions and their membership. Without unions, the average worker would have stayed in the 19th century as far as working conditions, pay and benefits.(Need to study the history of unions to understand the previous sentence.) Certainly without Local 237 members of the HHC Hospital Police would have a lot less in pay, benefits and the all-important  pension benefits. Without Local 237 Hospital Police would be replaced by Hospital Guards and would become a pretty crappy outfit where crime prevention would be replaced with crime avoidance. Of course, every Hospital would have one or two special officers per shift who could arrest people who threatened what each hospital considered important, but the rest of you would be guards and worse - watchmen. I can't prove it but I bet Local 237(whatever their reasons) was the force behind making sure the bulk of the personnel were special officers and the merit system(i.e, tests) determined who was appointed and who was promoted.

   Every place I worked at most of the officers and supervisors were a pretty scrappy bunch that took it very personal if you tried to commit a crime at their location. Once you become a peace officer and know that you are a servant of the law and have to respond not flee once a law is broken you have a different mindset than a minimum wage security guard. Yes, Local 237 deserves credit for fighting to get peace officer status in the NY State Criminal Code of Procedures. Yes, they already had peace officer powers, but they didn't have status in the NY State Criminal Procedure law.

   Are there areas where Local 237 can improve? The answer would have to be yes. I think that Local 237 needs to look at their peace officer and security job titles as professions where they need to encourage the professional growth of these job titles. I don't know whether Local 237 offers some tuition assistance for personnel in these job titles, but it would be a good investment for the union. Especially if they offered some assistance to a school like John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The world of Security and Policing is pretty vast. If you are a Hospital Police officer or above and use the knowledge that you have learned to improve security and apprehend offenders than you are helping your union make the case that the Hospital Police are an important part of the hospital system. If you can't make that case don't expect to get the same pay and recognition as mainstream police agencies. Expect your status to dwindle to minimum wage security guard status. The more Hospital Police that understand the above point the more the Hospital Police will accomplish.


   During my career, my model for the Hospital Police was based on the Port of Authority Police. Everything from creating the ‘Peace Officers Journal’ to a newsletter at Woodhull ('Behind the Shield') was done with the idea of showing how the Hospital Police belonged along side the Port of Authority Police. [The POA police don’t bring in retread NYPD detectives for their upper management positions. They groom their leadership from the bottom up.]  Unlike the POA the HHC gave their Director of Security(How can a Dir of Security be in charge of Hospital Police?) jobs to ex-city police political hacks who didn't understand the compicated nature of Hospital Policing, which is both Law Enforcement, security, pro active crime prevention and even safety. The end result of this policy meant that many Hospital Police personnel which could have done a better job at these positions looked elsewhere. I knew several Hospital Police personnel that went to the NYPD and POA and did pretty good; some of them could have emerged as the future leaders of the Hospital Police.  This was how it was years ago, it things have changed I would certainly like to hear about it.  Many things would stand in the way of my vision, but there was one thing I could do and that would be to improve the public and media perception of the Hospital Police.


Many years ago, when I was involved with the ‘Peace Officers Journal', I did make an effort in trying to get the union to supply a page of anything they wanted to write about. Looking back at things, I can see that I did a lousy job in showing them how that would benefit the union. I also couldn’t get them to believe that even though I was someone who wanted out of the union, I was never a major figure or stooge in any of the get out of the union movements, and I was committed to making the newspaper a professional and academic show case for peace officers. Neither I nor the other partners in the newspaper would ever tolerate anyone writing negative things about the union. We weren’t afraid of the union. We just wanted a paper that would help to develop the professional aspirations of the Hospital Police and the other peace officer groups that joined us. The ‘Peace Officers Journal’ wasn’t the forum for anti-union rhetoric. No, if was a forum for peace officers looking to improve their value to their organizations and to themselves.                          


I was fortunate to have partners like Pete Gutierrez(Hospital Police, Sgt) who ran distribution and set up the network of correspondents and Anne Sherry(Hospital Police-officer) who edited the paper and who also had a relative who owned a print shop. Finding that level of talent is difficult. So if someone comes along and gives a pitch for another ‘Peace Officers Journal’: I hope the union will take the time to listen.  If a union helps to develop the professional aspirations of its members and showcases their value to the media and public,  the union will benefit as much as its members. I shouldn't have to remind the union that the more its members make the more the union makes.


 One of the key mistakes I made was that I kept the direction where I wanted to go with the newspaper to myself. If I could have gotten the page from the union, I wanted to approach other unions that have specialized police or peace officers and also offer them a page. In their page or pages, each union could present a professional image and showcase the many things its members were doing from a law enforcement perspective. The best part for the union would be that they could get this at little cost because the newspaper would generate money from paid subscriptions and ads.  My idea is pretty much what big newspapers do where they have separate editions for different areas of the city. One of the things I did at the time was put a large map on my living room wall of New York City and I color coded all the areas that had specialized police or peace officers working in those areas. In the end, I was astounded by the many areas that had specialized police or peace officers working at the city, state and federal level.


How would such an association be beneficial to your union or the other unions? If would show that your union cares about the professional development of its members and offers your union a professional level of communication to the law enforcement members, that you wouldn’t get otherwise. It would also give some members of your union and other unions a chance to get articles written and possibly some book projects about Peace Officers.(eventually someone would write another novel that creates a peace officer hero)   If the peace officers in your union are to develop and get the same respect as other specialized officers the union has to develop heros to publicize and present a consistent narrative showing you are more than security guards. Don’t expect governments and the police political types they put in leadership positions to do it, only the union and its' members can create the right narrative. Certainly, if you give me, some help - in my second novel, I can expand my narrative and show how some members of the Hospital and Welfare Police can investigate and solve a case that even the much publicized NYPD doesn’t even know is happening. I have been outside of the Hospital Police for over ten years, but I still doubt if any level of city government fully understands the full potential of their peace officers.


During my period in the Hospital Police, I was one of the few people in the uniform ranks who had a college degree. As a Captain I was responsible  for all the investigations that took place in the Hospital where I worked. During this period, I improved the investigative capabilities of my officers and used the data that I developed to write a master thesis at John Jay College of Criminal Justice: Hospital Security: 'Environmental Design, Access Control and Surveillance as Deterrents to Thefts.' I would suggest checking out the library copy of my thesis at John Jay's library but unfortunately, it was stolen less then two months after they put it in the library. 

I wanted to know more about Hospital security, so I joined IAHSS(better for hospital security than police). I also joined ASIS which is a major security organization. I also was the first person in HHC to get their Certified Protection Professional designation.  I'm not bragging but trying to make the point that in order for the profession to grow more people have to reach beyond what their local hospital is doing in terms of law enforcement, peace keeping and security: more people have to do what I accomplished. Years ago I was an oddity in the Hospital Police and most of the directors of security that I worked for saw me as a threat because I had more credentials than they had. Certainly, the last security director saw me as a big enough threat to get me fired. If you want to get respect and eventually a better salary, then everything starts with you, the more people who start to improve what they can do for their organization and the more people who pressure the union for support the more things will change for the better. And finally, don't make the same mistake that I made.  Find people who believe that the HHC Hospital Police is a profession and are willing to work hard to make it a profession - and organize for a future you deserve.


I would love to have some feedback. Even though I have been out of the Hospital Police many years, my experience in working for HHC has been a major part in the writing of my novel. If you are someone from another special police or peace officer agency, I would also love to hear from you.


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