The Port Authority Police Department was created in June 1928 when 40 men were selected to police the Goethals Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing (then known as the Arthur Kill Bridge). These original officers were known as Bridgemen, nine of whom were later promoted to the rank of Bridgemaster, or Sergeant.
The force grew in number with the opening of Port Authority facilities such as the Holland Tunnel in 1927, three Metropolitan Airports and a Marine Terminal in the 1940s, and the Port Authority Bus Terminal in the 1950s. The Port Authority also assumed control of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) system, formerly known as The Hudson and Manhattan Tubes.
The PAPD protects three major airports: Newark Liberty International, John F. Kennedy International, and LaGuardia, which handle over 80 million air passengers, over 1.1 million aircraft movements, and over 2.5 million tons of air cargo annually. Together, the three New York area airports create the largest airport system in the entire United States. Policing these aviation facilities involves a wide variety of duties. Police personnel cover screening points, respond to all aircraft incidents, and aid travelers from all parts of the world. Escorting and protecting visiting dignitaries is provided for on a daily basis. The PAPD also patrols the Port Authority-owned Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, which is much smaller than the other three airports and operates only general aviation aircraft. The PAPD does not currently patrol the Port Authority-operated Stewart International Airport, which is patrolled by the New York State Police; or the Atlantic City Airport, which is patrolled by the New Jersey State Police.
The PAPD is also responsible for fire fighting and crash emergency rescue at the four airports and for all other aircraft emergency incidents. Police personnel assigned to fire and rescue duty are trained in all phases of aircraft rescue and firefighting.
Police operations at Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, Howland Hook, Port Jersey, and the Red Hook, Brooklyn piers include traffic control and the prevention and investigation of cargo thefts. PAPD officers are stationed at all ports.
The department's headquarters is located at the Port Authority Technical Center in Jersey City, New Jersey. The nerve center of the force is the Central Police Desk, which is located at Journal Square. It is staffed around-the-clock and is the hub of the communications network. There, personnel are assigned to needed areas, all radio transmissions are monitored, and computer terminals are integrated into the NY & NJ Intelligence and Crime Information Systems as well as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) in Washington, D.C.. Information received from these sources is supplied to officers in the field when needed. Approximately 200,000 passengers use the PATH system daily. The system's stations are monitored by video surveillance to aid police personnel.
At the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, the Bayonne, Goethals, and George Washington Bridges, and the Outerbridge Crossing, the duties of PAPD officers are patrol, traffic control, hazardous cargo inspections, truck weigh and emergency services, as well as enforcement for violations of motor vehicle laws. Police at these crossings have also instituted programs that maintain a constant campaign against drunk driving. The Port Authority operates the largest and busiest bus terminal in the nation, accommodating 57 million bus passengers and over 2.2 million bus movements in 2001. Police assignments demand a broad range of functions, everything from locating lost children to aiding everyday commuters. They are responsible for the general security of the facility utilizing a variety of patrol tactics. Police Officer/Social Worker teams patrol the bus terminal and identify youngsters who may be runaways, throwaways, or missing persons. They provide crisis intervention counseling, placement with social service agencies, and reunions with families when appropriate. The Port Authority also owns the World Trade Center site and Port Authority Trans-Hudson, and the PAPD is responsible for the general safety and security of those facilities.
The Criminal Investigations Bureau consists of over 100 detectives and supervisors that are specifically trained for crimes occurring at transportation facilities. During the past year, the Criminal Investigations Bureau has worked on computerized airline ticket fraud, and property and drug interdictions. They have seized over 10 million dollars of goods including 35 kg (77 lb) of narcotics. Additionally, the Criminal Investigations Bureau has worked cooperatively with Local, State, and Federal agencies in the fight against crime. Some of these agencies include the New Jersey State Police, the New York City Police Department, United States Customs and Border Protection, and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Members of the Criminal Investigations Bureau also work as part of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to prevent terrorist activities in the region.
The Port Authority Police Emergency Services Unit was founded in 1983, over the objections of the Port Authority Police management at that time. Working with the non-police PATH railroad personnel and railroad management, who clearly recognized the need for a rapid response to PATH railroad emergencies and fires, a small group of Port Authority Police officers assigned to the PATH command asked for, and got, a stock Port Authority utility truck which was converted for police emergency use. Despite the continued objections of P.A. Police management, the PATH railroad management's goal of having an "Emergency Response Vehicle" operated by the police bore fruit. The initial team members were trained in underground rescue, extrication of passengers from PATH train cars and first aid, with emphasis on the procedure of lifting railroad cars from trapped persons by use of Vetter air bags. Prior to the PATH Emergency Unit, emergencies which occurred on the PATH train were handled by the local police within the jurisdictions around the PATH train (Jersey City, New York, Newark, etc.).
Emergency Services Unit members, who have received specialized training to respond to emergency and rescue operations that arise at Port Authority facilities or in other jurisdictions when their expertise is requested are currently assigned to various facilities throughout the Port Authority. Emergency Services Unit members may receive training in the following areas; animal control, hazardous material response, heavy weapon use, bridge and water rescue and tactical operations. Noteworthy cases that the Emergency Services Unit has handled or assisted other jurisdictions in handling include:The collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001
The 1993 World Trade Center bombing
The rescue of an emotionally disturbed person from a water tower in West New York, New Jersey.
A General Aviation crash in the City of Newark
The rescue of homeowners in Bound Brook, N.J., trapped by rising floodwaters caused by Hurricane Floyd in 1999
A ceiling collapse at the Journal Square Transportation Center
Water rescues from the PATH system in 1992
An NJ Transit train accident in the Hackensack Meadowlands in 1996
The Port Authority Police Department formed its first canine unit with three patrol dogs; Prince, Bear, and Rex, and three police officer handlers in September 1985. There were two assigned to PATH and one assigned to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. They were trained by the NYC Transit Police canine unit located in Brooklyn N.Y. They began patrol in December 1985. The Port Authority Police Department formed its Canine (police dog) Explosive Detection Unit in the fall of 1996 in response to the crash of TWA Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island that summer. The department subsequently expanded the unit to include a K-9 Narcotics Detection Unit.
The Canine unit, which consists of 45 police officers, three sergeants, one inspector, and 48 dogs, patrols all Port Authority facilities on a 24-hour basis.
Port Authority Police officers who are members of the K-9 unit must pass a challenging and demanding physical, a physical agility course, participate in a group interview and complete a minimum of 400 hours of K-9 training. The most popular dog in the unit is the German Shepherd. The unit also has Labradors, a Belgium Shepherd and a Golden Retriever. The dogs are trained to detect either explosives or narcotics, but not both.
The unit currently has 40 dogs trained to detect explosives, including 22 certified by the federal Transportation Security Administration. There are eight dogs trained in narcotics detection.
The canine explosive detection teams patrol and search aircraft, airline and cargo buildings, bus terminals, subway stations, vehicles, and unattended luggage and packages. The K-9 narcotic detection teams patrol and perform a variety of searches at Port Authority facilities and are also used by many other government agencies.
This unit experienced what might be the first loss ever of an American police dog due to international terrorism when Sirius, PAPD Badge #17, died in the collapse of the World Trade Center's South Tower. Sirius' remains were recovered in 2002, and ceremoniously removed with full honors.
In June 1998, the Port Authority Police Department opened a state-of-the-art Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Fuel Spill Trainer Facility at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The facility, one of the largest of its kind in the nation, is used to train Port Authority Police officers in aircraft rescue and firefighting techniques. It allows officers to train for emergency situations in a controlled environment. The centerpiece of the training center is a 125-foot-diameter (38 m) pit that uses clean-burning propane to simulate a fire. It also features a 75-foot (23 m)-long aircraft mockup with a broken wing section. Computer controls allow for the creation of firefighting scenarios that vary in size, difficulty and intensity. Each year, more than 600 Port Authority officers are cross-trained as aircraft rescue firefighters for the region's three major airports - John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, and LaGuardia airports.
After undertaking a study, the PAPD in July 2010 decided to disband its aviation unit, elimination of which will save an estimated $4 million annually in labor, fuel and maintenance costs. In addition, selling the fleet’s two Sikorsky S-76 helicopters is expected to net over $8 million.
During an eight-month review period from August 2008 through April 2009, the choppers made 258 flights, 228 of which were security patrols of Port Authority-operated airports, bridges, tunnels, and other properties. Not a single unusual incident was spotted during these patrols, according to a Wall Street Journal report. One flight was made in response to the US Airways 1549 “Miracle on the Hudson” incident, but the New York City Police Department waved off the PAPD’s assistance. Other flights were made to take aerial photos of facilities. The review also discovered that the Port Authority was the only airport operator in the U.S. to use patrol helicopters.
Recruits typically receive 25 weeks of intensive training at the Port Authority Police Academy, which is located in Jersey City, NJ, with a Regional Training Center located at Kennedy Airport. Training given to recruits includes New York and New Jersey law, behavioral sciences, public relations, police practices and procedures, laws of arrest, court procedures and testimony. They are also trained in rules of evidence, defensive tactics, first aid, fire fighting, police patrol and traffic duty, firearms training, defensive and pursuit driving, water safety and rescue. Throughout their careers, Port Authority Police officers return to the Academy both for refresher courses and for training in new techniques added to the curriculum.
The Koebel Memorial Police Firearms Training Center is dedicated to the memory of Police Officer Henry J. Koebel, who was killed in the line of duty in May 1978. The Police Academy uses state-of-the-art equipment where the staff operates eighteen shooting ports within this computerized firearms training facility. Features include moveable target lights and noise controls, shoot/don't shoot situations, as well as standard marksmanship instruction.
In June 2016, the PAPD began delivering counter-terrorism training focused on “active shooter situations” to key personnel. The program was paid for by federal grants. That month, the PAPD added 102 new recruits to its ranks of roughly 1,800 officers. The PAPD focuses on intelligence gathering to protect against attacks. It is a member of 28 different task forces at the federal, state and local level, including the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.
There are ten sworn titles (referred to as ranks) in the Port Authority Police Department:
Promotion to detective and the higher ranks is at the discretion of the Police Superintendent/Director of Public Safety.
Power and authority
Port Authority Police officers are classified as police officers in New Jersey and as New York State police officers under paragraph e, subdivision of the state Criminal Procedure Law. With the status of police officer, they are permitted to serve warrants, make arrests, use physical and deadly force, carry and use firearms, carry and use handcuffs, and issue summonses.
All Port Authority Police officers are equipped with a firearm, expandable baton, can of pepper spray, handcuffs, whistle, flashlight, bullet resistant vest, and a radio that is directly linked to the Central Dispatcher and other Port Authority officers.
Currently, the department utilizes numerous vehicles in its fleet including Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors, Chevrolet Impalas, Chevrolet Suburbans, Dodge Chargers, and Harley Davidson motorcycles. The department also utilizes numerous boats.
The PAPD has had 46 police officers die in the line of duty. The Port Authority Police Department suffered the worst loss of life ever in a single event in the history of policing in the United States, losing 37 officers in the 9/11 attacks. PAPD officers killed ranged from rookie patrolmen to the Chief of the Department.
On February 26, 1993, the Port Authority's World Trade Center complex was the target of a terrorist attack bombing. On September 11, 2001, the complex was the target of terrorist attacks for a second time.
The complex housed over 50,000 employees and accommodated 70,000 visitors per day; the efforts of the Port Authority Police, the New York City Police Department (NYPD), the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), New York City Fire Department (FDNY) EMS Bureau, New York City Sheriff's Office, New York State Court Officers, and federal law enforcement officers, along with countless others, helped to minimize the loss of life. The Port Authority Police suffered the worst loss of police personnel in a single event in American history: 37 police officers, along with one police K-9 named Sirius, were killed on September 11.