The police arrested many more looters and rioters during the power blackout here last Wednesday night and Thursday than they had in the city’s two major racial disturbances in the 1960s, statistics showed yesterday.
A high police official said the police had chosen a more-aggressive tactic this time in dealing with looters. “If we hadn’t moved in the looting would have been much greater.” The riots of 1964 and 1968 occurred during times of severe racial tension. The police, especially during the 1968 disorders, tried to contain rampages by cordoning off areas, rather than by moving in and making large scale arrests.
The department reported that 3,777 persons had been arrested in the 24 hour period following the blackout – at least 8 times more than in either of the two racial riots of the 1960s. Because of the mass arrests, the city’s court and prison systems were confronted with unprecedented overcrowding problems on the hottest day of the year.
Officials were unable to provide an exact count of how many police officers had seemingly ignored requests broadcast over radio stations to report to work immediately.
According to the department’s own preliminary personnel statistics, as many as 10,000 off duty policemen were either unaware (!) of the emergency or failed to heed the order issued by Commissioner Codd.
“Most of the guys put in 12 to 16 hours. But quite a few came in today to pick up their checks. They said if Mayor Beame wants to screw us, let the city burn.” About half of all policemen live outside the city. Estimates were that 5,000 off-duty cops responded, joining 3,800 on duty thus providing a street force of about 8,000 during the early hours of the disorder. About 10,000 failed to return to work during the early part of the emergency.
excerpt from Selwyn Raab NYT 7/16/77