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Still slighted with a suffix

June 3, 2002

It was merely symbolic, perhaps, but the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association has defeated a motion to change its name.

That change - to the Police Benevolent Association - would have reflected the presence of the union's 3,441 female officers among its estimated 24,500 members.

Many felt the time was especially right considering that one of those women, Officer Moira Smith, died in the World Trade Center attack. The proposed change was introduced by John Flynn, the union trustee of Manhattan South, which includes the 13th Precinct, where Smith was assigned.

But change in the PBA, as in all of law enforcement, does not come easy. A two-thirds majority, or 204 votes, was needed among 306 delegates at the union's May 21 meeting at Antun's restaurant in Queens; 188 voted yes.

Although a majority voted for it, the name change - and its defeat - symbolizes both women's increasing status in the Police Department and the realization that they continue to play a subordinate and invisible role. One need look no further than Commissioner Ray Kelly's team; He has appointed black and Hispanic officers to top positions but not one woman.

Like most law enforcement agencies, the NYPD has hardly been in the forefront of women's lib. The department has had female police officers, known as matrons, who guarded female prisoners and lost children, since the 19th century, says its unofficial historian, Tom Reppetto. In the 1930s, women were allowed to become detectives, but they were not permitted to take promotion exams until the 1960s, nor to go on patrol until the 1970s.

Female delegates are few and far between. The union has yet to have a female board member. Its longtime president Phil Caruso adamantly opposed a name change. Not that he has anything against women, colleagues say. He's just a traditionalist.

Nonetheless, the vote upset some.

"It bothers me because it isn't representative," said a high-ranking female officer, who asked that her name not be used. Times have changed, but they are not willing to change their name."

Former PBA president Doc Savage supported the name change as does current president Patrick Lynch, who campaigned on it.

"The name change is something whose time has come," Lynch's spokesman, Al O'Leary, said. The problem, explained O'Leary, is that the board's focus has been on something more tangible: completing the arbitration process for long-overdue raises.

Official Word on Fyfe.
With former police commissioner Patrick V. Murphy in the audience, James Fyfe was formally sworn in Friday as deputy commissioner of training. Kelly read aloud Fyfe's resume. Some highlights:

"Deputy Commissioner of Training James J. Fyfe was first appointed to the NYPD in 1963, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant before retiring in 1979. He served as the first chairman of the Police Academy's Police Science Department and as the commander of management training ... After his retirement, Fyfe served on the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies from 1989-97 ... A former senior of the Police Foundation, professor at American and Temple Universities and editor of Justice Quarterly, he has published seven books ...

"Fyfe earned a Bachelor of Science degree from John Jay College and a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from the State University at Albany ... Most recently he has been a Distinguished Professor of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay and has also testified as a police practices expert in the U.S., Senate and Congress. As well as in federal and state courts in 38 states, the District of Columbia and Canada."

In an Albany courtroom in 2000, Fyfe testified the four white officers who shot and killed Amadou Diallo followed department procedure when they fired 41 bullets at the unarmed African.

In His Own Words.
Kelly has completed five months of his second term as commissioner and here's what he has to say of his accomplishments:

  • Best senior staff this department has ever had.
  • Continued crime declines, including homicides.
  • New department initiatives in counter-terrorism control.
  • Thirty-eight thousand new applicants.
  • Successful handling of demonstrators at the World Economic Forum.
  • An analysis of counter-terrorism technology.
  • Continuing anti-drug initiative in the 30th Precinct.

"And they said it couldn't be done."

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© 2002 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.