Close-up of Marron Hopkins' second dinosaur pin, a gold one he purchased and wore upon being appointed Chief of Department in 1992.

Here's a

Official photo of James W. Hunter as DOC Commissioner (interim: 12/24/89 - 2/2/90) shows him wearing his dinosaur pin.

The science books tell us that dinosaurs are extinct. But 'taint necesarily so . . . at least not so for the NYC DOC variety.


Seven Tier I eligible DOC staffers -- three uniformed and four civilians -- are still on the job. So far the research has not found any "pinned Dionsaur" among them, but the hunt is not yet completed.

Former DOC Commissioner Hunter's dino pin

The above image is an enlargement of the dinosaur pin seen in former Commissioner James W. Hunter's official photo (top-of-page, right).

The research up to this point indicates they're just in retirement*, still very much alive, kicking up their heels, and doing whatever else retired dionsaurs do.

They may look like other retirees dealing with the opportunities and challenges presented by the so-called Golden Years. But sometimes, if you keep close watch, a DOC Dino can be detected. Look for a tiny dinosaur pin worn in a jacket lapel.

Unlike the terrible lizards who once roamed the earth millions of years ago, this species came into existence in the early 1970s, not as a result of horror movie-style evolution, but born of self-deprecating good humor. New York authorities had just introduced a "tier system" to reign in what they regarded as excessive expansion of public employee pension benefits.

When in 1970, District Council 37 of the American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees negotiated benefits that reportedly meant a member retiring from public agency employment after 40 years would receive 100 percent of final salary, the Legislature in Albany refused to pass the enabling legislation.

Above are images of retired CO Alfred W. Brown's green and silver color dinosaur pin, alone and on his leather shield holder. Below is a photo of Alfred at the retirement fete for AMKC COs Patrick Coffey and J. B. Brown.
Above is an image of then recently appointed Division Chief Marron Hopkins from the Summer 1990 Correction News issue. In the spring of 1992, he was named Chief of Department by the Commissioner Catherine M. Abate.
Instead, a New York State Commission on Public Employee Pension and Retirement Systems was created to study the matter. In 1973, the panel came back with a report recommending pension benefit reductions.

Since the state Constitution prohibits pension reductions retroactively, the lawmakers enacted legislation preserving the pension benefits of those in the public employees retirement systems prior to July 1, 1973 (Tier I), but reducing the benefits for those coming into the system after that date (Tier II). Additional Tiers with other benefit packages came still later.

Some veteran Tier I NYC DOCers saw the 7/1/73 cutoff as casting them collectively into a role akin to a species slated for extinction. They had become, in effect, the last of the Correction force having the full "original" uncut pension benefits package.

Someone among them came up with the idea of wearing a lapel-type dinosaur pin to signify their "last-of-their-kind" status. Dino pin wearing took hold among other DOCers in that pension category. There was a shared concensus, but no organization as such; just individuals acting on their own. Many of them wore the pins on their shield holders.

Eventually, the pins' significance shifted away from self-mocking their wearers' Tier I no-more-after-us category and moved more toward proudly denoting veteran service and dedicated perseverance on the job. The point of the pin became less of a needle aimed at the pension system and the wearer's unique situation in it and more a badge of honor symbolizing long years of faithful duty.

In response to New York Correction History Society inquiries, former Chief of Department Marron Hopkins recalled:

"When the City changed the pension system in the '70s and added Tier II, the dinosaurs came in to being to point out those of us that were left in Tier I. The thought was that we would one day be extinct like the dinosours. . . . .

"To the best of my memories, there was never any organized effort or events surrounding this 'group.' Only those Department members who were a part of the Tier I pension class were included in this group. I don't recall hearing about any formal process to be inducted and and most of us bought our own pins and wore them on our uniform without any fanfare or disapproval from the Department.

"At one time, I had a green dino, the original, and then I had a gold one made and wore when I was Chief. I don't know that I still have either, but I will look for it and will help put the word out that we need a picture for the CorrectionHistory.Org web site....."

Dino pin from NY Correction History group members Danny & Cathy Thompson.

The above dinosaur image was shared with New York Correction History Facebook group by members Danny & Cathy Thompson without comment.

True to his word, Marron provided this web site with a digital image of his gold dinosaur pin (the top of the page, left) that he wore after becoming Chief of Department, replacing the green color one he previously wore up to then.

Other members of the Facebook New York Correction History group wrote:

Julio Parrilla: "Retired Capt Tomas McCann gave me his as a memento of our friendship. In those days, it was an HONOR to wear the Dinosaur Pin. It was sad that when I got my 20 years in, I could not wear the pin that Capt. McCann gave me due to 'it was not part of the Uniform Code.' They should bring it back and Honor those who are still alive with one. Now that would be History."

Fred Bacchi: "Those were the pins that some of us would wear . . . "

Andrew Roane, "I was ONE of those dinosaurs and I STILL have my pins."

Bill Teska: "I learned the job from a true dinosaur. His name was Donald Spence, a great guy who took me under his wing. That was in 1982."

Sidney Head: "I was a 'Dinosaur.' Twenty years on the job, I was given my pin by Chief Hunter, I believe."

Patrick Coffey: "Someone gave me one after I did 25 years but I can't remember who. . . ."

Above is an image of a green dinosaur pin that appears to have suffered an injury to its long neck. Image courtesy of New York Correction History group member Alvin Brice, who retired in 1994 as an ADW after 23 years in NYC DOC. Image first appeared in Rikers Island-ARDC C-74 Facebook group page.

John J Murphy Jr: "While I may enjoy fossil status with 27 years in so far, I saw the real dinosaurs in action in the commands years ago. They are indeed a breed apart. We were really lucky to work with them . . ."

Nadene Dunnavant-Forbes: "I came on the job in 1981 and during my career worked for one of the best dinosaurs in the department, Nancy Reese. She was a one of a kind woman; she had spark, class and definitely extinct in today's Correction world..... Anyone who has met Warden Nancy Reese knows what a great person she is ... a real female dinasour who worked for Gloria Lee back in the day . . ."

Alvin Brice: "Back in the days: If you wore one of these pins [above left] on the job, you were identified as a dinosaur."

NOTE: In the interest of total transparency and full disclose, I ought mention that, though not a pinned DOC dinosaur, I too am a Tier I pensioner, having joined the system while a State Senate legislative aide years before the 7/1/73 cutoff date. My public service career also included about a decade and a half as Queens DA's Office spokesman and a decade with DOC as a communications, editorial and historical services director. Before and in between were years spent as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers. -- Tom McCarthy, webmaster

For DOC Dinosaurs related story, see
AMKC COs Patrick Coffey & J. B. Brown retire after DOC service totaling 71+ years!