Benjamin Ward was born in Brooklyn’s Weeksville section, one of 11 children — of
whom, only five survived childhood illnesses.
Commissioner Schriro reads mayoral proclamation at dedication.
After graduating from Brooklyn
Automotive Trades High School in 1944, he was drafted and served as an MP and
a criminal investigator with the U.S. Army in Europe.
Mr. Ward entered the New York Police Department on June 1. 1951 as a
patrolman. becoming the first black officer assigned to Brooklyn’s 80th Precinct.
During the next 15 years, he rose through the ranks to Lieutenant, serving in:
Capt. Teresa Mack helps Commissioner with Proclamation.
- Juvenile Aide Division,
- Detective Division. and
- Legal Bureau.
rise was aided, in part, by after-work studies at Brooklyn College and Brooklyn
Law School that earned him undergraduate and law degrees — invariably with
He eventually served as Special Legal Counsel to Police Commissioner
Howard R. Leary.
Former Mayor Dinkins lends moral support to Ward family.
Ward left the uniformed ranks to become Executive Director of the Civilian
Complaint Review Board in 1966.
Two years later he was named Deputy
Commissioner of Trials, serving as chief hearing officer in all departmental
Later he became Deputy Commissioner of Community Affairs
with responsibilities for the Youth Aid Division and the Auxiliary Forces Section.
Mayor John V. Lindsay designated Ward as Traffic Commissioner in 1973.
Mary Ward-Markane speaks of her father.
his leadership, uniformed traffic controllers took on street duties, thereby freeing
hundreds of police officers from traffic direction posts.
The following year he
headed up what is now known as the Criminal Justice Agency, which performs all
bail risk evaluations.
In 1975, Governor Hugh L Carey named him Commissioner of State Correctional
Services, one of the nation’s largest prisons systems, with 20,000 inmates, 20,000
parolees and 12,000 employees.
He was the first African American to hold that position.
Overview of dedication ceremony scene at Rikers visit center.
Three years later, Mayor Edward I. Koch named him to the first of three posts in
his administration: Chief of the New York City Housing Authority Police, the fifth
largest police department in the state. In August of the following year, he was
designated to run the New York City Correction Department, the second African
American to head the agency.
Ward served at city Correction until sworn in by
Mayor Koch as the city’s 34th Police Commissioner on Jan. 1, 1984.
Jacqueline McMickens shares memories. She had been Chief of Operations when Ward was named to head NYPD and succeeded him as DOC Commissioner.
He was the
first African American to hold that position.
His long career didn’t close when he retired from the NYPD on Oct. 22, 1989.
Even in retirement, Ben Ward remained active, teaching and serving on various
He served as an Adjunct Prdfessor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, an
Adjunct Professor of Corrections at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and
an adjunct professor of the Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.
Benjamin Ward passed away on Monday, June 10, 2002. at age 75.
Commissioner Schriro watches as Ward family members pull cord unveiling plaque.
He is survived
by his wife, the former Olivia Irene Tucker, a retired New York City public school
principal; three daughters, Jacquelyn Ward. Margie Ward-Lewis and Mary Ward-Markane; two sons, Benjamin Jr. and Gregory; nine grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.