History of the NYPD Hispanic Society
On July 29th, 1957, the New York City Police Department Hispanic Society was incorporated, with Police Commissioner Stephen F. Kennedy’s approval. The organizations founding fathers (William Rodriguez, Peter Rodriguez, Isabel Barber, Eric Seise, Ivan Marfisi, Eugene Calderon, Victor J. Ortiz, Alex Cuesta, and Thomas Martino) indicated that the formation of the organization was “to promote and develop a friendly and fraternal spirit among all members of Spanish descent in the police force of the City of New York, and to create a more harmonious relationship within the police department and the City of New York.

Shortly before its inception, there were approximately 40 officers of Hispanic origin. These officers were apprised by Police Officer Victor J. Ortiz of the need to form a fraternal organization that would address and voice the concerns of Hispanic officers. From its very beginnings, the Hispanic Society has been involved in enhancing the opportunities for appointments and promotions of its members. Hispanic Society members were not only concerned with the plight of the officers it represented, but they also set forth on an immediate recruitment drive to increase the number of Hispanic candidates taking the police entrance examinations. At that time, Hispanics did not join the Police Department for various reasons. In 1954, there were only 20-30 Hispanics in a police force of 20,000. In their recruitment endeavor, the Hispanic Society members appealed to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to assist them in their recruitment efforts. In order to improve the prospective candidates chances of selection, tutorial sessions were held. As a result of these attempts, the number of Hispanics joining the Police Department increased dramatically.

Throughout the years the Hispanic Society has been involved in challenging entrance and promotional examinations and assessing the status of Hispanic officers in the department. In the early 1970’s, as a result of the recruitment drives, Society members discovered that many Hispanics were unable to realize their dream of becoming police officers because they did not meet the departments height requirement. The Hispanic Society addressed the problem locally by attempting to have the Police Department change these criteria; this was an unsuccessful venture, but in 1972, congress amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting the height requirement as it was ruled discriminatory. This resulted in a change in personnel selection practices in the law enforcement field. The removal of this barrier substantially increases the number of women and Hispanics in the Police Department.

In 1972, the Hispanic Society joined the Guardians in contesting the entry-level examinations administered in 1968 and 1972. An injunction barred the selection of candidates from those lists. Subsequently, that lawsuit had an impact on those Hispanic and African-American officers who were hired off that list. Those affected received retroactive monies due to their newly designated appointment dates.

On October 5, 1979, the Guardians Association and the Hispanic Society lodged a lawsuit, which challenged the June 1979, police examination as not being job-related and its format unlike that of previous examinations. Federal Judge Carter ruled on December 17, 1978, that New York City could not use its latest Civil Service Exam to select new police recruits until he decided on a plan to assist African-American and Hispanic applicants to the Police Department. This lawsuit resulted in a hiring quota of 1/3 of the recruits selected being of Hispanic and African-American descent.

In 1981, yet another challenge, the Hispanic Society mandated that the promotion of new police sergeants should be consistent with the number of police candidates competing for that position.

Not only is the Hispanic Society actively involved with issues relevant to its members, but it also engages in matters directly affecting the community. An example would be the significant role played immediately after the island of Puerto Rico’s devastation by Hurricane Hugo in September 1989. The New York City Police Department amassed personnel as well as heavy equipment from its elite Emergency Services Unit to assist the Puerto Rican government and the Red Cross in their post-hurricane assistance. To further these efforts, the Hispanic Society appealed to its members to volunteer their time and travel to Puerto Rico to help the many affected families. The officers that unselfishly left their families behind for three weeks provided diverse aid, some were translators for those Puerto Ricans who could not describe to Red Cross personnel the hardship suffered, others accompanied Red Cross staff to remote areas of the island that had not yet been assessed as to the damage incurred, and yet others distributed food and emergency supplies to non-for-profit organizations that’s would in turn disperse supplies to the community. The Hispanic Society also raised funds and provided aid for Hurricane George in 1998.

The Hispanic Society has helped during other catastrophic events, such as the tragedy of American Airlines Flight# 587 bound for the Dominican Republic, which crashed in Belle Harbor, Queens in November 12th 2001. The Hispanic Society raised funds, served as translators, and helped the families in the recovery effort. The Hispanic Society also participated in fundraisers for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. The Hispanic Society also held a fundraiser for the victims in the Dominican Republic of Hurricane Noel in October 2007 and for the victims of the floods in Mexico in October & November 2007.

On the local level the Hispanic Society has been involved in the restoration of a church in the Lower East Side in Manhattan. The Annual Christmas Party is dedicated to raising funds for sick or injured children who are spending the holiday in local hospitals. The Hispanic Society has hosted and participated in vest drives, for law enforcement in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

The Hispanic Society pledges to continue in the tradition set forth by our Founding Fathers to assist our members, communities and other countries.

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