Never Called By His Given Name
Self Directed Training
A woman living in their building suggested that he apply to the New York State Attorney General's office as an investigator for the Board of Elections. He was accepted as a volunteer investigator. After some training, he was issued "Bertha", a four inch .357 magnum. His wife told him not to bring it home. She didn't tell him why. She didn't want to shoot him with it. Louis Lefkowitz was then Attorney General [1957-1978]. He worked out of the World Trade Center office.
New York State Investigators were represented by the Teamsters Union and he had to pay weekly dues to serve as an investigator.
He initially worked as an election inspector in the Bronx. He and a partner would visit the various polling places to handle situations and clear up reported irregularities. One election day, at JHS 143 Tetard on Sedgewick Avenue, his partner Butler went into the school to check things out. He saw a man with a drawn gun paralleling Butler's path on the outside of the school. He walked behind the man and when Butler came out the door at the other end, as the man raised his gun to shoot Butler, Mike shot him through the abdomen, blowing him over the fence. He then gave the surprised gunman first aid, saving his life, having already saved Butler's. The man was amazed that he'd been shot by a "bum". Butler usually wore a three piece suit, black shined shoes and a black trench coat, while he wore a tee shirt, dungaree jacket, jeans, a scruffy brown hat, no socks and slippers. No one suspected they were partners.
After a while, he and Butler were assigned as regular partners and he was charged with keeping Butler out of trouble. He worked mostly undercover, except when working for the Board of Elections. He was frequently loaned out to New Jersey when they needed help. A daily pass got him across the state line with "Bertha".
One time, he was working undercover on a really sensitive matter and got his jeans caught on a fence, ripping the pants. He went home to change, hidding the jeans in the back of a bottom drawer under some other clothes so his wife wouldn't ask him about how they were ripped. They remained there until they moved to New Jersey, a year after he resigned from New York State. It was also the only time he brought "Bertha" home as he knew his wife was at work.
Another time, someone reported seeing a body being thrown off the Pulaski Skyway. Not surprisingly, the local police couldn't find anything. The land below the Pulaski Skyway was wetlands, mostly swamps. He was called. When he arrived, since it was wetlands, he took a stick and began walking, poking the ground as he went. When he felt something different, which meant it might be a body, he reached in, pulled it up, dropped it back on the surface and continued walking, leaving the bodies for others to bag. More than a dozen bodies were found that day.
One day, he and Butler were waiting to testify in a case at the Courthouse at 100 Centre Street. Butler, bored, decided it was a good time for target practice. Butler took out a match box, removed a roach from the box and placed it on the hood of a parked Cadillac. Butler then shot the roach. Unfortunately, even though the car wasn't hit, it blew up, However, Mike recalled seeing three men working on the car just before Butler began target practice. Examination of the car revealed the shot had detonated a bomb underneath the car. Back in the office, Mike described each of the three men and each of the men was recognized by one of the women in the office. All three were in law enforcement. Fortunately, Butler had saved the owner's life, a sitting Judge and received only 30 days suspension without pay for unlawfully discharging a firearm. Mike was commended and the incident was classified.
Despite it being a secret with no publicity whatsoever, A/Sgt. D'Amico was soon notorious throughout NYPD, demonstrating, once again, there are no secrets.
Whenever he went to Auxiliary Police Headquarters in the Queens Courthouse basement on Queens Boulevard, the reaction was always the same. There was only one way in and out, yet the members of the service consistently tried to find another exit. Years later, when his wife was visiting AFS in Queens, she noticed a sudden increase in activity. Sgt. D asked if her husband was coming. She nodded and he said "Watch". The activity tapered off and, as many disappeared except Sgt. D & Lt. A, in walked Lt. D'Amico with his associates, smiling and greeting all present. Lt. A came out of his office, smiling, and Sgt. D. chuckled.
While working as a volunteer investigator, he looked for work in security which was hard to find following the NYPD layoffs.
He applied for positions as an armed investigator but there was one obstacle: the required lie detector test. When he was told to give a false answer, neither the machine, nor its operator, could tell the difference between his false answer and his truthful one. When he was told to say something, he did as he was told, without any emotional attachment. Since they couldn't tell when he was lying, no one would hire him.
He was hired as a guard. However, he took off Wednesdays so he could look for a better position.
On one assignment, he was scheduled to work days in a Fort Lee luxury apartment building. One day, the Galaxy wouldn't start so he took the bus from the Port Authority in northern Manhattan to Fort Lee and walked to the building. At the end of the shift, in late afternoon, he walked back to the bus stop. He politely nodded to the well dressed man already waiting there, who nodded in return. They waited for the bus and boarded without speaking.
A few days later, as he drove off the George Washington Bridge, he noticed two men in a sedan following him. He stopped at the diner for coffee, as usual, got his coffee, light and sweet, and went on to work.
The next day, he saw the same car following him. Again, he stopped for coffee but this time he ordered 2 extra coffees, saying they were for the two men who were coming in after him.
The third day, the car was there again. This day, he ordered food for the two men, as well as the coffees.
The fourth day, the same car tailed him. This time, however, when he entered the diner, there was a New Jersey State Trooper waiting for him. The two men following him were making a scene each day over paying for the food he had ordered and management had notified the police. He told the trooper what he knew. The trooper said to order food for the men and go on his way while the trooper waited for the two men. He had fun ordering food that he himself couldn't eat, like lemon meringue pie, and went on to work.
Later, the trooper met up with him to tell him why the men were following him. They were federal law enforcement. He had caught their interest by nodding to the gentleman at the bus stop. The gentleman was a person of interest in an investigation into organized crime.
While working at a certain building in Fort Lee, an interesting pattern of incidents emerged. He worked Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of each week. On the days he worked, he intercepted all improper acts or apprehended the perpetrators. Because of his alertness, word got around and there soon were no criminal acts while he was on duty. All the incidents were now occuring on Wednesdays. When the owner of the company, who liked having him on the payroll, went on a world cruise, the one left in charge fired him, ostensibly because he refused to work Wednesdays. He was considered by some to be a major embarassment to the company.They were not able to adequately replace him on his day off.
In the summer of 1972, he completed the Auxiliary Police 10 week Primary Training course given at the Bronx Auxialiry Police Headquarters in the basement of Lehman College, across from the Reservoir. He was now Auxiliary Police Officer D'Amico of the 46th Precinct. He told her that they took women in Emergency Service so she also joined, completing her Primary training at Lehman at the end of December, 1972.
The purpose of the Auxiliary Police program was Civil Defense preparedness, to handle disasters, natural and otherwise. When Lindsey became Mayor, the program was revitalized,
Relations between regular Poice Offcers and Auxiliary Offficers were not always cordial. Regulars thought the Auxiliary Program would threaten their jobs.
One evening, A/Sgt. D'Amico was checking a team on 188th Street when three small children came up to him and asked if he knew about the man being watched by the detectives. He didn't, but asked "What about him?" The little ones said that the man had moved out a week earlier. Children told him all kinds of things and he passed the information on through the auxiliary established channels.
Ladies of the evening also liked to talk with him as he was always respectful. He was following in the footsteps of their first Auxilairy Police Coordinator, Police Officern George Clark III. George liked to give informants S&H and other trading stamps in return for information. He had no stamps to give but they had no use for certain types of crime in their work place.
They took the Intermediate training course together with Sgt. D. One of the things Sgt D emphasized was how to report an incident. A report was always begun with "While performing my duties in the prescribed manner, I did observe ...." with no mention made of what actually preceeded the incident, This was done to avoid incriminating oneself in any way and to keep the focus on what mattered, which was what was being reported The humor of the example situation of being in the wrong place at the wrong time helped them remember the basic advice.
She was promoted first, the night they completed the training. Unbeknowst to them, George had submitted her promotion papers during the course while holding Mike's papers until it was finished to insure her promotion because she was a female. This did not impact their marriage however, He was annoyed with George for "losing" his papers and making him wait another 3 months but was pleased that she had made Sergeant.
It would be years later before she would understand why she always outranked him in the program.
The 46th Precinct was a training command. Recent Academy graduates were assigned to a training precinct for their first months of patrol. In the 46th, a pair of rookies and an Auxiliary Police team were assigned to the same foot post, so the rookies could ask the Auxiliaries questions and the Auxiliaries could remind the rookies of certain procedures if necessary. Both teams benefitted from this practice and long term friendships developed.
They established three rules every auxiliary had to observe:
- Shined shoes: This resulted in the best dressed precinct in the city. People with shined shoes keep the rest of themselves spotless and it is contagious
- If an auxiliary was going to be absent on the agreed upon duty night, he had to notify the command: This made APOs aware that their presence and absence was noticed. It greatly improved reliability.
- A patrol had to notify the command prior to leaving their post. They were aware this was for their safety and so knew someone cared about them. They were also made aware of the need for caution.
These three rules were enough to maintain a dsiciplined command.
While taking the Auxiliary Primary training at Lehman College, she had seen notices about courses and decided to enroll in a computer course at Lehman. The first one, in the fall of 1973, was in PL1 taught by an IBM person whose job had him commuting from White Plains to Washington, D.C. several times a week. He taught at Lehman as a community service which IBM encouraged. promoted, In the Spring of 1974, she enrolled in the next course in Assembler language. It was generally thought the instructor did not mark on a curve, If you scored in the 60s, you received a D, 70s got you a C, etc. She had received an A on the first course. However, on the final of the second course she scored 125. It was then she realized, the tests were scored on the basis of 150 with anything 100 or over as an A+. She had broken the man's curve.
At the 46, George encouraged her to take the Civil Service test for NYC Policer Officer and she applied. She noticed there was one for Computer Programmer Trainee for which she also applied. She passed both. She was called for Police Officer and took the physical, medical and psychological tests. She met with an Officer in the 47 who was assigned to do her background investgation. He didn't ask anything which would lead to learning of her involvement with the Department and she didn't volunteer wanting to see if it would turn up in the investigation. The last time she met with him, she was told her investigation was finished but there was still no mention of the Auxiliary Program. She told the officer there was something else that didn't come up in the investigation, making him pause and nearly panic. She was an Auxiliary Police Sergeant.
She was to enter the January 1975 class. As part of the preparation, they were invited to the Police Academy, along with her parents. It was then that her father told them a few things he thought she should know.
When she was in the Marianettes, St.Catherine's all girl Drum and Bugle Corps, her Dad would wait for the bus to bring the girls home from contests with the other fathers. During one of these waits, one of the fathers, a New York CIty Police Officer, had told Dad about what he did as a Police Officer. He worked under cover on special assignments. He would receive orders to eliminate certain criminals for whom the government could not obtain convictions due to legal loop holes. He was an official assassin. For some reason, she was not surprised.
No one, however, from her list was called. All the members of the January 1975 class were scoured off every other Police Officer list in existence. And they were laid off 2 months later. The Department had not wanted to alienate the top 500 from the most recent exam. This list would expire in 4 years without a single person ever being hired off it.
The layoffs at the Academy were followed by 2000 layoffs in the precincts. There was no advance warning. The day began as any other, except those being laid off were instructed to turn in their shield, id and firearm. The parade to the Desk went on all through the day and into the evening and included those who had the day off. Sgt E manned the Desk throughout. Of the 300 officers assigned to the 46, 180 were laid off. Morale plumeted. Auxiliary patrols ceased because of the high level of anger among the regular officers and disgust among the auxiliaries.
There was conflict between Mike and Grauer, the PBA rep. With his labor background, Mike had always had an affinity with union organizations and the PBA was no exception. However, there were differences of opinon as to the best course of action.
OpSail and the Independence bi-centenial celebrationin July 1976 was the first major uptick in the mood of the 46th Precinct. Officers assigned to monitor the festive crowds began to relax and remember that most people were not the enemy but neighbors, people like themselves, As the 4th of July weekend progressed, more and more officers were smiling once again.
The Blackout of 1977
On the evening of July 13, 1977, it was very hot and Auxiliary Police turnout in the 46 was light. Normally, auxiliary patrols in the 46 were divided between Fordham Road and the Grand Concourse, with 2 - 3 patrols on each but this evening, she decided to cover only Fordham Road. So the two teams were assigned the adjoining posts on Fordham Road which met at the Concourse.
She had scheduled an Auxiliary Supervisors meeting to begin after the patrols were assigned and posted. All supervisors were present except A/Sgt. McC. The Auxiliary Coordinator, Police Officer Tony S, attended as usual. A little after 9 PM, the lights went out. The phone had no dial tone.
As X.O., A/Lt. D'amico immediately headed for Fordham and the Concourse with their car to setup a command post and the coordinator headed for his post at the station house desk. Tony's first job was to get the generator running and tonight it cooperated on the first try. The other supervisors headed for their assignments and the 46 Auxiliary Emergency Service Unit was dispatched. The Auxiliary desk officer, APO Yvette A. was moved from downstairs to the station house entrance where she would maintain three logs throughout the night, logging all Auxiliary activity and incoming personnel, as well as answering citizens questions.
Before the Auxiliary C.O. could get her gear, she was confronted by a bleeding woman. The woman's arm had been in the path of the descending plate glass of a smashed Concourse store window. The cut was so severe and jagged that she used sanitary napkins to bandage it and strongly advised the woman to go to the hospital. The looting had begun.
As regular and auxiliairy officers reported to the 46th Precinct station house or the Fordham Road command post, they were assigned posts. Within a half hour, the auxiliary patrols on Fordham tripled. It was unsafe to assign unarmed patrols to the Grand Concourse, South of 188th Street, as the looting had begun within minutes of the loss of electricity.
The A/X.O. not only kept track of all the Auxiiaries working in the 46, he also tracked all the regular officers being assigned by the 46 regular X.O. Capt. Vignola. They worked as a team throughout the night. This led to a lasting friendship between the two men.
There would be over 400 regulars and 200 auxiliaries from various commands in the 46 this night.
The command post also directed military and national guard personnel to the Kingsbridge Armory at Jerome and Kingsbridge. Buses were flagged down to pick up passengers headed for the South Bronx. The buses were stopping only for police due to the looting.
They were also minding a young boy who had become separated from his mother. He lived in the South Bronx.
A/Sgt. McC. worked from home. She worked in a bank and there was a branch of the bank on the corner of her street. It was being looted so she told the looters that they could store the computer equipment in the lobby of her building. She would mind it for them. And they did. It was all returned to the bank the next day.
There were two anti-crime units angle parked on the Grand Concourse, one on each side of the boulevard, visibly armed with shotguns and not a little frustrated by what they were witnessing.
Around 10 pm, the Bronx Boro Auxiliary coordinator called from the PBBX Auxiliary at Lehman College. The 46 A/C.O. brought him up to date. He said to continue patrols and that a PBBX Auxiliary zone supervisor would visit.
She spoke on the phone with Lt. T who lived upstate New York where the biggest worry that night was that the temperature would drop below 40 which was too cold for the tomatoes. He said he would be in for the morning shift when they would need a fresh face.
As things settled into a routine at the 46 station house, she took one of the officers and headed for the command post on foot, entereing the Grand Concourse from 181st Street and walking on the east side, the side being looted first.
They walked along the curb, watching the looters. A pickup truck would back up to a store's gate and a looter would attach the chains to the gate. The truck would then pull away, pulling the gate down. Someone would then smash the glass with a stick and the onlookers would rush into the store. The truck would then back up to the next store's gate and repeat the process. One of the stores was a TV repair shop owned by the father of a 47th Precinct Auxiliary.
As the A/C.O. and her partner crossed 183rd Street, they were noticed. She told her partner to take longer steps but at the same pace. At first, there was one following them, then a few, then about 30 men. She saw the anti-crime team, standing on both sides of their vehicle with their shotguns clearly visible and hoped the looters would soon notice them also. They did and went back to their looting. Everything was very calm and busniess like. There was no rioting, just looting. The rest of the walk to Fordham was uneventful until they reached 188th Street. However, her partner would not return to patrol for a year. When he did return he was an usually mature young man.
At 188th Street, they met up with the A/X.O. who had just rescued another regular team on 188th Street, something he would do throughout the night. He updated them on the status of the Auxiliary patrols which were covering Fordham Road from Jerome Avenue, west to Third Avenue. There were only 2 incidents of attempted looting. The one at Alexander's was deterred by the store's watch dogs. The other was at a jewelry store near Jerome, where a window had been broken but the initial looter had been scared off by 5 foot APO Frances A. who then sat in her car waiting for reinforcements, which was enough to deter anyone else, while her partner went for help. They were soon joined by another team and spent the rest of the night aiding people by answereing their questions.
She went to one of the store owners and asked for cold drinks for the officers on patrol as it was in the high 90s and the ice was goin to melt anyway. She was given lemonade which was then distributed to all the patrols on Fordham and nearby.
After visitng the patrols, she drove the boy home, driving south on the Concourse, past other stores being looted. However, it was very quiet in the South Bronx. Fires had been lit in 55 gallon trash cans to provide light. When they reached the boy's neighborhood, a neighbor recognized the boy, sent someone to get his mother, and mother and son were reunited.
Looters were being apprehended but there were too many to process. The 46th Auxilairy Coordinator came up with the idea of taking a polaroid snapshiot of the looter holding his loot, then numbering the picture, the looter and the loot. Then they put a number on the looter and the loot before taking the picture. The looter was then put on a bus and transported to a holding area while the loot was piled high. This was done with hundreds of looters, especially with the big items such as TVs and large appliances.
Hit and run squads were set up, made up of 2 regular and 2 auxiliary police officers. Looters would be chased to make them run between squad members, who would hit them in the arm with a night stick, causing them to drop whatever they were carrying and lose some of their enthusiam for looting.
This relieved a lot of tension for the police officers which had built up with the layoffs of the previous year and greatly improved relations between regular and auxiliary police officers. One of the regular sergeants, Sgt. M, gifted her with a beautiful nightstick as a token of respect as a result of this.
Not long after this, A/Lt. D'Amico's shield was stolen from his locked locker. The normal penalty was a 30 day suspension for loss of shield, regardless of cause. However, when the report went up the chain of command, Capt. Vignola strongly recommended that no penalty be imposed which was endorsed by the 46 C.O. and PBBX.
Chaplain 46th Precinct
He was ordained in the fall of 1977. He applied to be an Auxiliary Chaplain. The request was approved by the entire PBBX chain but unanswered by Auxiliary Headquarters. He was appointed Chaplain for the 46th Precinct by the 46 C.O and when transferred to PBBX served as a chaplain throughout the Bronx. When they took public transportation to and from the 46, people frequently asked if they could talk with him and he spent most of each trip counseling people.