Harbor Unit history

Mike Bosak's history of the Harbor Unit

NYPD FORGOTTEN HISTORY:

The Establishment of the Harbor Police or 24th Precinct
by the Metropolitan Police Department

The Metropolitan Police's Harbor Police were established on Feb. 15, 1858 as the 24th Precinct. When established the command consisted of 2 sergeants and 25 patrolmen. Harbor's first station house was located at 21 State Street, near the corner of Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan. The command at the time only had 5 rowboats assigned to it, three (3) to patrol the North River and two (2) to patrol the East River after dark. Just prior to finally getting their first steamboat, the "Seneca" in January of 1862, the Harbor Pct. was beefed-up to 1 Captain, 4 sergeants, 41 patrolmen and two doormen. It has to be noted here that prior to January, 1862, all patrols conducted by the 24th Precinct were done by rowboat!

Here are the 1858 Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Twenty Fourth Precinct (Harbor Police)

The harbor police, until further action of the Board of Police, shall consist of twenty-five men, distributed in five boats.

1. There shall be assigned to each boat five men, of whom one shall be in command, and be called coxswain, but all shall receive the pay of patrolmen.

2. There shall be two sergeants, who shall relieve each other, and while on duty, shall be in command of all the boats, subject directly to the orders of the Deputy Superintendent of New York, under the General Superintendent, to whom reports shall be made every morning at nine oíclock, of the duty performed by the several boats for the preceding twenty-four hours.

3. Three of the boats shall be on service on the East River and bay, of which two shall be on duty from sunset to sunrise and one from sunrise to sunset. Two boats shall be on service on the North River, of which one shall be on duty from sunset to sunrise, and one from sunrise to sunset.

4. The beats of the harbor police shall be from the southerly end of Blackwellís Island, on the East River, to Governorís Island and the entrance to the Atlantic Dock, on the Brooklyn Shore, and from Fourteenth Street to the Battery on the North River; but the boats may, by order of the sergeant in command, or of the General Superintendent or Deputy Superintendent of New York, proceed to any part of the harbor on police duty.

5. Each boat on night duty shall be provided with a signal-lantern, to throw flashes of red light on shore; and it shall be the duty of the patrolmen on West or South Streets, who may see the light, to repair to the place where the boat shall land, to render such assistance as may be required.

6. The boat on night duty shall, in addition to the signal lanterns, carry rockets, provided for the purpose, which they shall discharge when requiring assistance from the other boats on service; and it shall be the duty of the other boats to repair immediately to that part of the river or bay whence the rocket was discharged.

7. When a boat shall bring prisoners ashore, it shall be the duty of one or more of the crew to transfer them to the patrolmen on land, who shall convey the prisoners to the nearest station house. In addition to the ordinary baton of a patrolmen, each member of the harbor police shall be armed, while on duty, with a revolving pistol and a cutlass.

8. Each boat, while on duty, shall be continually moving, unless engaged in watching some suspected place or vessel.

9. The boats shall be painted black on the outside and white on the interior, and the word, ďPoliceĒ shall be painted in large black letters on the inside of the stern, and in white letters on either bow on the outside of the boats, and numbered from one to five; but there shall not be any name or any other distinctive mark on the said boats.

10. The uniform of the harbor police shall be -

A sailorís jacket of blue cloth, police vest buttons.
A sailorís vest of blue cloth, police vest buttons.
A sailorís trousers of blue cloth, police vest buttons.
A sailorís blue shirt of blue cloth, police vest buttons.
A sailorís pea jacket, police coat buttons
A sailorís tarpaulin hat.
And from June till September, instead of cloth, white duck trousers; and instead of tarpaulin, a sailorís straw hat.
The dress of the Sergeants shall be the same as that of the men, except that they shall wear the cap and other insignia of officers of their rank.
The men shall wear the patrolmenís shield.

11. Neither of the boats, under any pretense whatever, whether the crew be on or off duty shall be employed except on the business of the Police; and if it shall be proven that the crew, or either of them, or any other person or persons, shall use a Police boat for pleasure or fishing, the coxswain in command shall be instantly dismissed from the service.

12. It shall be the duty of the members of the Harbor Police to make themselves thoroughly acquainted with the localities of all junk shops, and the character of their occupants, and the character, business, and appearance of all boats and vessels plying the harbor of New York. The station of the boats and the head-quarters of the men shall be hereafter determined by the Board.

In addition, here are the sections of the Metropolitan PD's Rules and Regulations dated November 4, 1859 that applied to the Harbor Precinct and their duties.

Sec. 154. The waters of the bay of New York, together with the East and Hudson Rivers, within the boundaries of New York shall constitute a police precinct.
Sec. 155 Each boat on night duty shall be provided with blue signal lights; and it shall be the duty of the patrolmen on West or South Streets who may see the lights, to repair to the place where the boat shall land, to render such assistance as may be required.
Sec. 156 The boat on night duty shall, in addition to the signal lanterns, carry rockets, provided for the purpose, which they shall discharge when requiring assistance from the other boats on service; and it shall be the duty of the other boats to repair immediately to that part of the river or bay whence the rocket was discharged.
Sec. 157 When a boat shall bring prisoners ashore, it shall be the duty of one or more of the crew, to transfer them to the patrolmen on land, who shall convey the prisoners to the nearest station house.
Sec. 158 In addition to the ordinary baton of a patrolmen, each member of the harbor police shall be armed, while on duty, with a revolving pistol and a cutlass.
Sec. 159 Each boat, while on duty, shall be continually moving, unless engaged in watching some suspected place or vessel.
Sec. 161 The uniform of the harbor police, shall be a sailor jacket and vest of blue cloth with the police vest buttons, sailor monkey jacket with police coat buttons, blue cloth navy cap in winter, and a white straw hat in summer, and the trousers of blue throughout the year. They shall wear the patrolmenís shield.
Sec. 162 The dress of the captains and sergeants shall be the same as that of officers of the same rank on shore, and in addition, they shall have a gold embroidered anchor on the left side of the collar of the coat; the cap of the sergeants to have a gold embroidered wreath, with a silver anchor worked thereon. As a distinctive mark, the coxswains of the boats shall wear a silver anchor on the left collar of their jackets.
Sec. 163 The coxswains of the boats shall have the sole direction of the duties of their boats after leaving on their tours of duty, and the men composing their crew, are strictly to obey their orders. Any violation of this regulation, shall subject the offender to severe punishment.

the Metropolitan River Police Force - 1869
"The River Boat Police on the Lookout"
sketch published in "Harper's Weekly" February 1869
(submitted by Mike Bosak)


 
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