Bill Kiley Visits The Second Precinct

Going Back to The Second
By Bill Kiley – SCPD ’72 – ‘01

It seemed so long ago when I first walked into the lobby of the Second Precinct back in 1972. Commuting from Ridgewood, Queens, the Town of Huntington was indeed “the country” to me. Forty-nine years later I walked into the lobby to surrender my recently deceased brother’s Pistol License and his firearms. I was shocked to see Crime Scene tape across the lobby of the precinct, dividing it in half; a COVID precaution. After desk officer’s summoning a Detective from the Squad to handle the firearms, I was invited to cross the tape and come to the desk. As I stood in the lobby, waiting for the paperwork to be completed, I began to talk with the two uniformed officers who were working the desk. One of them, a female officer, told me that she had five years on the “City job” before coming to Suffolk. The other officer told me that he had also worked in NYPD before coming to Suffolk.

As I glanced behind the chair where the male officer was sitting, entering data into a computer, I said, “Right behind where you are sitting is where the switchboard used to be.” The look of puzzlement on the cop’s face was followed by, “Switchboard? What was that?” I tried to describe the cords and plugs and added, “You’ve probably seen a switchboard in an old movie.” He hadn’t. The female officer asked what the switchboard was used for. Well, my answer took us in to what seemed to these young officers to be ancient history. “What do you mean by a call-box?” “You walked foot patrols?” “What’s a Cushman Scooter?” “You didn’t have radios when you were on foot patrol?” “Hourly rings on midnight tours?” And “Holy Crap, you changed shifts every week and worked three shifts?” Trying to describe a floating RDO on the midnight tours, back in the four squad days, was an entirely different trip. We didn’t get into discussing a time without Dunken Donuts and only two diners, in the entire town, that were open twenty-four hours where you could get coffee at 3 a.m.?” My next walk down Memory Lane brought surprise and laughter. “Sometimes on the midnight tour It would be so quiet that the entire County was on one radio frequency,” I told the two officers. The thought was unimaginable to them. Questions were interrupted by a call. At the conclusion of the call, the female officer reached out to a sector car, not by radio or via headquarters, by on a cell phone. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “I’ve never given consideration to things like using my cellphone to call the adjacent sector operator to ask if he or she was picking up coffee.”

As I approach the twentieth anniversary of my retirement, I realize that my first trip to the Second Precinct was almost half-a-century ago. The changes in the job have been continuous over that time. I remember stopping at the precinct at about 2 a.m. when working as District Commander. The Lieutenant was a guy I had worked with years before, so we went downstairs for a cup of Joe. “Bill, you’ve been in headquarters so long that you don’t see that our young cops aren’t what cops used to be. Remember the cars that we drove to work? Sometimes the precinct parking lot looked like a crappy used car lot. Look out there now,” he continued. “BMWs and Corvettes. They are making tons of money and at thirty-five years old many of them are still living with Mom and Dad. We had three or four kids by then,” he said with a smile. “Go into the men’s room and look at the magazines on the floor. Do you remember what used to be there? Well, now you’ll find Kiplingers and Forbes.” As we sipped our coffee he said, “We used to talk about getting together on a day off to help one of the guys in our squad put a roof on his house. The conversations now are about maximizing deferred compensation, best investments and buying a condo in West Palm. Bill, it’s a whole new world.”

Standing in the lobby looking around, I thought about all the great guys I had worked with when I was assigned to the Second Precinct as a cop and as a boss. And I thought about the salty-old guys who worked in the Squad. In those days, the famous but long-gone Centerport restaurant, Links Log Cabin, was the operations center for the squad on the 5 to 1 tour. Sadly, most of the folks I knew at the Second have passed away; only the stories of “the old days” linger in my mind. Gone are the black-and-white socks, Uni-coats, and Field Reports. Today’s cops will have their own stories to tell other retirees. They will reminisce about the “good old days.” Little did I imagine that the sad task of bring my brother’s guns to a precinct would result in a flood of such wonderful memories. Thanks for letting me share these thoughts with you, my fellow retirees. By the way, my brother who just passed away, retired from the NYPD on April 24, 1972; next year he would have been out of the job for fifty years. So, stay healthy, continue to collect your checks, and try to break my brother’s record!