When I first met Wayne Meyenberg at one of our church services a couple of years ago the last thing that I thought when we first visited was that he must have been a New York City police officer. That has nothing to do with his manliness or his demeanor. It was that he truly was a gentle man and could sing extremely well. I knew this because he was interested in becoming part of our church choir.
For me an NYC policeman was what I had seen on television. It seems that 90% of the cop shows on TV now are based in the Big Apple. I also remember those men in blue who were interviewed after 9/11. They all seemed tough and ready for a scrap with little patience for any wrongdoing; anything but gentle.
Last week when I sat down with Wayne to talk with him about his time as an officer I was very impressed with what he told me about his career and how it unfolded. That career began after his graduation from Jamaica High School in the spring of 1965. Attending college was just not on his radar so after a conversation with his dad he decided to take his advice and seek a career in civil service.
He had to take a civil service test and pass it to get accepted. After passing the exam Wayne decided he would take the route as a policeman because that department was seeking young men who truly wanted to be a cop. At age 18 he could not immediately become a member of the force. He first had to enlist in a trainee program.
After the trainee program he entered the police academy which was 50% academic and 50% physical fitness. The academic part consisted of learning laws, rules, regulations etc. The physical part of it was running, judo, and obstacle courses. Once he finished the academy he was ready to be sent out into the field.
He was first sent to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation where he worked in the fingerprinting department. This office was in lower Manhattan. The amount of detail he learned in this department is simply to lengthy to include in this post. It was interesting to hear nevertheless.
He was then sent to the gambling unit for organized crime. This unit covered such areas as gambling, racketeering, and prostitution. It too was quite an experience for him. At age 21 he was sworn in as an NYC police officer and sent to the Bronx for firearms training for two weeks.
After that he was assigned to the 17th precinct in Manhattan. He worked the mid-town area but not Times Square. His beat was the area near 38th Street and 5th Avenue, which included the business district, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the United Nations. Because the UN was part of his precinct he at times was assigned as a fixed post at this building, which meant that he was not on the move but was assigned to guard the world leaders coming into the building.
He spent 13 years in Manhattan before being promoted to detective. At this time his role in making arrests really increased because of his new assignment. In 1981 he was promoted once again and this time to Sargeant. This included another stint in education in preparation for the new post. Following that schooling, he was sent to the 71st precinct in Brooklyn.
His new assignment was the Neighborhood Stabilization Unit in Brooklyn. This included, as indicated, a neighborhood beat that was heavy on family disputes, shootings, and fights. It was opposite of Manhattan which had been about two thirds business with few residences. Brooklyn at the time had lots of minority groups who seemed to fight among themselves at an alarming rate.
In 1983 he was promoted to Lieutenant and was sent to the 75th precinct, still in Brooklyn. After a short time there he was moved to the 67th precinct which was an area of high crime. His shift was the midnight shift which he liked because it allowed him to be home during the day with his family.
While working this unit he was taken out of his role here and transferred to Queens because the Narcotics unit there had caused alarm when they were accused of using a stun gun to get information from a suspect. Wayne said that he was told that he was being sent to Queens to help stabilize the area and was being sent because of his good work in his previous roles and had earned the department’s trust.
Queens was more civil than Brooklyn even though part of the area in which he was assigned was the Howard Beach precinct which was the stomping grounds of organized crime leader John Gaddi. This area of Queens was also commanded by Ray Kelley who would later become New York City Police Commissioner. Wayne took a job in clerical work here under Kelley where he was in charge of roll call and assignments. He laughed as he said that when Kelley asked him to take this job he wasn’t really asking but telling him he was going to take the job.
Four years later Wayne took a job in the Integrity Control Unit which meant that he was part of the force that made sure that cops were doing all the right things in their jobs. His last assignment during his time on the force was spent in Organized Crime Bureau Control which meant he could earn overtime pay that would help his retirement.
He was fortunate that he was never involved in any raging gun battles and only once in his career did he have to fire his weapon. He retired in 1993 before 9/11 ever took place. His different assignments took him to all parts of the city where he was involved with all the populations that make up the most diverse city in the world.
Wayne Meyenberg is still quite the gentleman and having known him for two years now, I know that he is very representative of what I see in an NYC police officer. In fact he is the kind of person that I always hope to see in any law enforcement officer anywhere.