What’s the Deal With; The “Genesis” of the NYPD’s Police Chaplains

Background

Police Commissioner (PC) Theodore A. Bingham, also known and referred to as “General Bingham,” served as PC of the Police Department of the City of New York (PDNY or NYPD) from 1906-1909. Bingham graduated the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York and rose through the ranks in the Army Corps of Engineers and retired from the Army in 1904 as a Brigadier General.

As PC Bingham brought his military background and experience to the PDNY. The last article posted on this site explored the adoption of a military rank structure to the PDNY, the hierarchy of which remains to this date.  Perhaps it was his experience with military chaplains that caused him to issue General Order 20 on February 8, 1906, instituting the title of Police Chaplain in the PDNY. The tradition continues to this day.

“Genesis”

In the beginning PC Bingham created the title of Police Chaplain and granted the Chaplains the “assimilated rank” of Inspector of Police.

And PC Bingham said (by way of the General Order) that they will report directly to the Police Commissioner.

And PC Bingham directed that “They are authorized to visit and converse with any member of the Force.”

And PC Bingham directed that “They are expected to visit the sick, the injured and the dying.”

And PC Bingham directed that “They are authorized to visit all Precincts and Station-houses.

And PC Bingham directed that “While not competent to issue orders of any kind…they are to be treated with courtesy by all; their questions to be answered, and any suggestions they may see fit to make be received with respect and acted on so far as possible.”

And PC Bingham ordered that “They will on all occasions be treated with the courtesy and respect due not only their profession but to their assimilated rank as Inspectors of the Force.”

PC Bingham saw all that he had directed, and it was very good for the force.

First Chaplains

The first two Police Chaplains appointed were: Reverend John A. Wade and the Reverend John P. Chidwick. Later, from Brooklyn, Reverend Duncan M. Terris and the Reverend Father W.J. McGuirl were appointed as Chaplains. Chaplains served without salary, although in 1908 a small stipend was provided and they received twenty days vacation.

The Annual Report for the PDNY for 1908 noted that “The influence of Chaplains can be of invaluable aid, not only to the Police Commissioner, but to the men. They are able to give a strong moral support to the men who would be good Policemen except for a natural moral weakness.”

According to the 1908 Rules and Regulations of the PDNY, the uniforms for chaplains were the “Same as prescribed for Inspectors, substituting a silver cross for oak leaf” as lapel insignia and on their shield.

Police Chaplain Shield

The following excerpts describe the growth of the Police Chaplains and their services rendered in 1920. Note that only Reverend John A. Wade remained.

1920 Annual Report of the PDNYC

Summary

What’s the Deal With; The “Genesis” of the NYPD’s Police Chaplains?  On February 8, 1906, PC Bingham appointed the first two Police Chaplains to the NYPD and provided the “assimilated rank” of Inspector to the title. One decade later, there were five Chaplains and their position and service had proven invaluable to the members of the force. 

Today, the “Chaplains Unit” of the NYPD, is organized under the Deputy Commissioner, Administration and the chaplains continue to meet the needs and to serve New York’s Finest.

As is the case with all of his articles, the Author welcomes feedback, suggestions, corrections, and constructive criticism. Sources for all information and photos will be provided to anyone who asks. The author can be contacted at the following email address:

 

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