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The Retired Cop: My Office – Car 56 

I was finally able to start working a Territory Car on my own.  I was assigned the Third Platoon, 4PM to Midnight shift in what was known as 56 Territory.  The shift started with Roll Call at 3:30 PM.  The roll call room was located on the 1st floor of the Public Safety Building.  The roll call was usually conducted by a Lieutenant or Sgt. making sure our uniforms were consistent with the standards set forth by the rules and regulations of the  Syracuse Police Department (SPD).  Our uniform shirts were grey in color with a triangular black patch on the upper left shirt sleeve with the Syracuse Police Department logo in Yellow, dark trousers, leather duty belt which contained our handcuffs in a handcuff case, a leather nightstick holder for our nightstick, a .38 Smith and Wesson revolver, Mace, and a leather ammunition pouch for extra .38 ammunition.    We signed out a walkie talkie.

The roll call officer would inform us of any unusual incidents from the prior shift.  We were also given a daily bulletin which consisted of arrests from the previous day, stolen vehicles and wanted individuals.

Once we were dismissed from roll call we would head to the police garage where the patrol cars from the previous shift were parked.  (The city was never left unprotected as the change of shifts was staggered).  The territories furthest away from the building came in first, with the territories closest to the building coming second.  This was all handled by the Police Dispatcher.

In 1970 SPD was still using the old Black and White Plymouths with the bubble gum red light on top and the whip antennas.  (These cars would be replaced sometime in 1971 or earlier ‘72 to White Fords with the traditional light bar on the roof).

Before leaving the garage we would check our cars to make sure there was a First Aid Kit, an Oxygen Tank, Fire Extinguisher, Flares, Crime Scene Tape all of which was located in the trunk of the vehicle.

I also carried a briefcase which contained blank Investigation Reports (Code 15’s), Supplemental Reports (Code 19’s), Arrest Reports (Code 12’s), Accident Reports (Code 17’s), Uniform Traffic Tickets, and Parking Tickets (both of which had to be signed for as they were numerically numbered to show who they were issued to), a dictionary, City Street Guide, pens and finally a clipboard to write my reports as my Patrol Car was my office.

The City of Syracuse consisted of 23 territories.  Fifty Six (56) territory was located on what was known as the near southside of the city. The residents in my territory were mixed, consisting of whites, African Americans, and some hispanics.

Once I put myself in service I would head to my territory and unless I was dispatched to a call, my usual routine would be to look in my log book and review any warrants for residents in my territory.  Before the age of computers we would also get 3×5 cards which contained addresses of residents that might go on vacation and would request a house check.

We were required to fill out the back of the card with the date and time we checked the house. We also had to maintain a log during our shift in which we logged our starting and ending mileage, our dispatched calls, traffic stops, building checks, break time and lunch break.

Depending on how busy the shift was I would meet up with another patrol car in an adjacent territory to just sit for a few minutes to compare notes on the night.  It usually didn’t last long as one or both of us would get a dispatched call, sometimes the same call which would require two officers.

During the course of shift the Sector Sgt. would come by to pick up any reports that we had written and those reports would be waiting for us at the end of our shift to make any spelling corrections (thus the dictionary).  We had a sector Sgt that liked to correct reports in Red ink which would necessitate the rewriting the whole report.

Even back then cops could be a little harsh to each other.

There is a backstory to the street guide.  There was a rookie police officer who came in the next class.  He was not familiar with the City at all and was assigned to the North Side, 47 Car.  Anyway whenever he was dispatched to a call where a side street was involved he would always ask for a “Quick Location”.  After several requests a veteran officer came on the air and I quote, “Car 47 I think you need to invest $5.00 in a City of Syracuse Street Guide”.  “If you are going to work in my City you need to learn the City Streets”.  Even back then cops could be a little harsh to each other.  I met up with him after the shift and explained that he needed to get a street guide especially if he had to get to a call in a hurry. It was either that or continue to get harassed.  We eventually became good friends and he later worked a split shift in my territory.

I was enjoying my job as no two nights were ever the same.

Tom Stassi
Tom Stassi
Thomas J. Stassi was a Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran having served 3 1/2 years from 1966 to 1969. He was sworn in as Syracuse Police Officer in 1970 having served for 20 years before retiring as a Detective in 1990. During his career he served in the Uniform Division, a Major Felony Unit investigating Homicides, Burglaries, Rapes, and was the recipient of "The Medal of Valor" award. Tom also worked as an undercover investigator in Gambling, Narcotics, and Prostitution. After his retirement, he worked in the Onondaga County District Attorneys Office for five years as a Senior Investigator.

6 COMMENTS

    • Thanks Ken. Policing has come a long way since I was on the job. In some ways I get it but back then I think ot made you more aware of the way you approached the job. I think it was more hands on and I don’t mean in a bad way.

  1. Okay Officer Stassi, your narrative was strictly “by the book” with attention to detail. You painted a “black and white” word picture that was in the best spirit of Sergeant Joe Friday, LAPD in his opening dialogue for “Dragnet”. I will be looking forward to your “just the facts” style of police story telling Tom.

    • Thanks for your kind comments. I’m hoping that my articles are not to vanilla and that I am able to convey how policing was back in the 70′ and 80’s before were started getting into the age of technology. It was like I was telling someone just yesterday. Imagine having to write a police report at 10 at night inside a police car with just a dome light for lighting.

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