By Andrew T. Darien (auth.)
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Extra resources for Becoming New York’s Finest: Race, Gender, and the Integration of the NYPD, 1935–1980
69 Following the war, the Guardians pressured the city through Harlem congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. to recognize their organization. After a protracted struggle, Commissioner William O’Brien begrudgingly acknowledged the charter of the Guardians in 1949. The NYPD management and rank-and-file officers, who had criticized the Guardians for being political, held black officers to standards that they did not apply to their white peers. Ethnic fraternal associations had been an established part of the department long before the Guardians began their organizing drive in the early 1940s.
Police commissioners further attacked patrolmen’s efforts to unionize by charging that it threatened their objectivity, neutrality, and patriotism. They claimed that officers’ political affiliations exposed them to charges of bias or even treachery. 81 In the 1940s, the NYPD became obsessed with potential infiltration of fascists and communists among its ranks. In 1940, Commissioner Valentine went so far as to compel his officers to complete information forms that attested to their patriotism. The forms asked the men four questions: “Are you a member of the Christian Front?
The NYPD swiftly disciplined officers who contested compensation or work practices. Such critics were easily dismissed as political since they violated the 36 B e co m i n g Ne w Y or k ’s F i n e s t department’s ethic of neutrality. In the 1940s and 1950s, rank-andfile policemen faced critical issues regarding pay, benefits, working conditions, and status. Cops in New York and throughout the country grew distraught over their impotence relative to management. As historian Robert Fogelson points out in his survey of municipal police departments, police work prior to World War II had provided a secure financial future.