June 2012

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Securing the City–Without a Badge or a Gun

The NYPD relies on Police Attendants like Kenneth Wallace.


Cops get lionized in television dramas and the front pages of tabloid newspapers. But the public never really gets to see the civilian workers who work hard everyday to make sure the New York Police Department runs safely and efficiently.

SSEU Local 371 member Kenneth Wallace, a Midtown-based Police Attendant with 25 years on the job, is one of the nearly 100 workers who are dedicated to “safeguarding prisoners.” What that means is that people like Wallace are responsible for an arrested person’s wellbeing from the moment they are brought by police officers into the precinct or booking office to the moment they are released. On top of that, they perform the type of back-end duties that make it possible for the criminal justice system to function smoothly.

Forgotten by PD

Wallace explained how he “does finger prints” and looks after the possessions of arrested people, ensuring that they come back to the person upon release. Police Attendants also do “light clerical work,” he said, which includes filing rosters and other administrative paperwork that supports front-line police work.

“We are the forgotten people who work for PD,” Wallace said.

Wallace also takes care of sick people who are arrested. This job duty raises an on-the-job health concern, but also speaks volumes about how these nonuniformed public servants are responsible for making the criminal justice system as humane as possible.

Wallace wants the NYPD to know how vital this type of work is, noting that “they have tried to fade our title out,” and that Police Attendants are forced to do more with less— there were 300 people in his title a quarter century ago. Now there are about 100, he said, and he is the only one working in his Midtown location.

More, Please

Police Attendants are still only given $100 a year to clean their uniforms, and they’ve been working with the same uniform for the past 25 years.

Investing in Police Attendants is to the benefit of the public, Wallace said, in particular because if there are more back-end workers in precincts and in the courts, police officers can spend more time on the streets fighting crime.

“We want more Police Attendants,” he said.

Social Service Employees Union Local 371
817 Broadway, New York, NY 10003