The purpose and mission of an NYPD sergeant, and their predecessors who were known as roundsmen, has not changed since the inception of the Municipal Police Department in 1844. At that time the police force was comprised of 200 men who served 320,000 people. Sergeants performed the same challenging tasks that they do today. They served as frontline supervisors in the constantly evolving and always growing city that would soon become, both figuratively and literally, the epicenter of the world.
As frontline supervisors, sergeants faced the same dangers as the patrol officers they oversaw. Between 1851 and 1897, six sergeants, or roudsmen, lost their lives in the performance of their duties. Two were shot, two were stabbed, one was assaulted during an arrest, and one was thrown from a horse.
One revered SBA member, a United States Marine Corps veteran who participated in the 82 day battle for Guadalcanal during World War II and served the NYPD from 1951 to 1987, once wrote in his journal that being an NYPD sergeant is the toughest job in the world.
The reasons, he wrote, was because an effective sergeant must possess 8 essential qualities: Integrity, Leadership, Experience, Confidence, Physical Condition, Motivation, Ambivalence, and Promptness.
“Every police officer remembers his first patrol sergeant, the way a Marine remembers his boot camp drill instructors,” he wrote in the 1970s. “Being a sergeant carries a heavy burden and sets the standard for the level of policing by those who answer to them. It is without question the most integral role in the paramilitary structure that is the NYPD.”