On February 19, 2014, the College commemorated the 30th anniversary of the appointment of Benjamin Ward as the first African American New York City Police Commissioner. This was marked by a special Lloyd Sealy colloquium, moderated by Sam Roberts of the New York Times, with panelists David Scott, former chief of department at the NYPD, Herbert Sturz of the Vera Institute, and Martin Horn of John Jay College. It was preceded by opening remarks by New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, President Jeremy Travis, Chief Librarian Larry E. Sullivan, noble’s Vice President Gregory Thomas, and Mary Ward-Markane, the daughter of Benjamin Ward. Larry E. Sullivan highlighted the Benjamin Ward Papers, a collection first donated to the Library in 2009 and later expanded in 2011 and 2012. A selection of these materials was exhibited, including letters to Ward from Governor Carey, Mayors Lindsay and Koch, commemorative photo albums of noble and NAACP events, and numerous photographs of Ward at different stages of his illustrious career. Apart from correspondence, photographs, articles and speeches by Ward, the Benjamin Ward Papers include the manuscript of Ward’s memoir Top Cop and a transcript of an interview with Ward by the Columbia University Oral History Office. Benjamin Ward, it must be recalled, assumed command of the NYPD during a period of heightened crime which he confronted with a vigorous campaign of drug-, prostitution- and gambling-related arrests. He came to national attention for his emphasis on community policing, which at the time was embraced across the country as a better approach to policing. His career was not without controversy as evidenced in the notorious 1988 Tompkins Park Square Riot that took place under his watch as Commissioner and his handling of a highly charged 1972 Harlem Mosque incident that occurred while he was the Deputy Commissioner of Community Affairs.
A selection of the Benjamin Ward Papers remains on display in the Niederhoffer Lounge of the Library.