The Guardians Association came about during the early 1940’s when there were approximately 152 black officers in the NYPD out of a total 1900 officers. The black officers were usually assigned to the 28th and 32nd precincts in Harlem, and the 79th precinct in Brooklyn, with a few scattered around in various precincts here and there. Post assignments for these officers were usually located in the hottest areas of the city in the summer and the coldest corners in the winter. These posts were unofficially called the “Black Posts”. Robert “Bob” Magnum was one of many Black officers who had grown tired of standing while White officers rode in warm radio cars. He and a number of others decided that this had to change.
In March 1948, 172 police officers, including one policewoman, Elizabeth Fuller, petitioned for official recognition of the Guardians Association. Six years elapsed before, the Guardians were recognized as a fraternal organization within the NYPD. After three prior failures, the Guardians Association was recognized and given approval on July 7, 1949 by Police Commissioner William O’Brien.
It was on this accord that Robert Magnum and a few fellow officers met and started the Guardians Association as we know it today. Their mission was to advance brotherhood, full participation in departmental organization activities, equality of opportunity, enhance the general welfare of the membership, and establish dignity, pride, and respect for Black police officers.
On October 5, 1979, the Guardians Association and the Hispanic Society lodged a lawsuit, which challenged the June 1979, police examination as not being job-related and its format unlike that of previous examinations. Federal Judge Carter ruled on December 17, 1978, that New York City could not use its latest Civil Service Exam to select new police recruits until he decided on a plan to assist African-American and Hispanic applicants to the Police Department. This lawsuit resulted in a hiring quota of 1/3 of the recruits selected being of Hispanic and African-American descent.
Researchers at Columbia University have compiled an oral history of the Guardians Association. Click on the link below for more information.