to the History of the NYPD Honor Legion
The Honor Legion was conceived
and formed in January 1912 by Patrolman John W.
Frazer who approached Chief Inspector (todays
rank of Chief of Department) Maximillian F.
Schmittberger with the idea. Chief Schmittberger
approached Police Commissioner (PC) Rhinelander
Waldo (1911-1913) who wholeheartedly endorsed
and supported the proposal. The first meeting
was held in the Trial Room of Police
Headquarters at 100 Centre Street.
While serving as Chief Inspector, Schmittberger,
Patrolmen John W. Frazer, and George Griffin,
became the first Board of Directors of the Honor
Legion. Chief Schmittberger served as the
Chairman of the Board. John Jacob Astor was an
Honorary Member and a faithful supporter,
according to Chief Schmittberger. Astor, a
friend of the Chief, perished on the Titanic.
His son, William Vincent Astor, was voted by the
membership of the Honor Legion to take his
Membership in the Honor Legion required that the
officer be an Honor Man, a sobriquet given to
an officer who had previously been awarded a medal(s) typically on the occasion of the Annual
Police Parade, which were held each spring. The
group of such men were referred to as the Honor
Men, and, when marching in a parade, the Honor
Men could be identified by the presence
of at least one four-pointed star on the cuff
of their uniform sleeve which represented a
level of recognition, or award. These
Representative Sleeve Stars were adopted on
April 22, 1906 pursuant to General Order 40,
signed by PC General Theodore Bingham
(1906-1909), a Veteran of the Great War (World
War I). The color of the four-pointed star
signified the level of the award and deed, and
were either gold, silver or bronze in color.
A gold star signified that the officer was
awarded Honorable Mention with Medal for
facing death and, against all odds, performing
his duty to the standard of being faithful unto
death. A silver star denoted an Honorable
Mention with Certificate, awarded for a higher
degree of bravery where the chances of losing
life were about even. A bronze star reflected
the fact that the officer received a
Commendation for an act such as stopping a
runaway horse, where the policeman takes the
chance of being maimed, or even killed.
In December 1912, 400 of the 11,000 men in the
department were members of the Honor Legion.
Elaborate, large membership certificates (or
diplomas), created in the style of those of the
French Legion of Honor, were presented to
members along with an emblem. The emblem was a
medal-like adornment that may be pinned to their
uniforms. (See image below.).
Of course, a plentiful sprinkling of scars,
bullet marks and other evidence of flirtation
with death go with the emblem and diploma, but
that's all in a days duty, said Honor Legion
member, Sergeant (Sgt.) Daniel J.Fogarty. One of
the most decorated officers in the history of
the department, and a member of the Honor
Legion, was Patrick Fitzgibbons, below.
on the type of police officer that comprised the
membership of the Honor Legion, Sgt. Fogarty
stated there were Not the kind of cops you read
about in two inch letters across seven columns
of the paper. There are cops who do creditable
things in a quiet way. They have not the fire of
patriotism to spur them on as does the soldier
in battle. Their pay envelope will be no heavier
at the end of the month for a hand to hand
struggles with death. If they are maimed for
life in the discharge of duty, they get
honorable mention and a medal. They are men who
keep faith with their work.
The first of many annual banquets was held on
January 27, 1913.
In January 1914, the Honor Legion of the Police
Department of the City of New York was
incorporated with the Secretary of State of New
For related photos please visit
Many thanks to Pascal Storino Jr for this
history summary & photos online at: