Our Police Protectors
History of New York Police
Chapter 14, Part 1

By Holice and Debbie


CHAPTER XIV--1880--1885

Central Office Bureau of Detectives -- Government and Discipline of the Police Department -- Powers Invested in the Board of Police -- Bureau of Elections--Board of Health -- Police Surgeons -- Special Patrolmen -- Police Life Insurance Fund -- Power of the Police Force – Pawnbrokers -- The Sanitary Company -- Duties of Captains and Sergeants; of Physicians -- The Telegraph System -- An Act Amendatory of the Consolidation Act -- Roosevelt Committee -- Lottery and Policy.

An act to amend Chapter 335, Laws of 1873, known as the Public Burdens Bill, was passed May 29, 1880. This placed the salaries of the Commissioners of Police, hereafter to be appointed, at five thousand dollars a year, each. The salary of the force, thereafter to be appointed, was as follows: Inspectors, three thousand dollars; captains, one thousand eight hundred dollars; Surgeons, one thousand five hundred dollars; Sergeants, one thousand two hundred and fifty dollars; Patrolmen, eight hundred dollars. After two years of service in the third grade, such Patrolman was advanced to the second grade and received nine hundred dollars per annum. After two years service in the second grade he was advanced--should his conduct and efficiency have been satisfactory--to the first grade, at an annual salary of one thousand dollars.

An Act passed may 17, 1882, authorized the Board of Police to establish a bureau, which should be called the Central Office bureau of Detectives, not to exceed forty detectives, who were entitled to receive the same pay as the Sergeants of Police, namely, one thousand six hundred dollars per year.

An Act to consolidate the special and local laws affecting public interests in the City of New York (chapter 410, Laws of 1882), thus, with slight variations from the legal phraseology of the text, defines the powers and duties of the Police Department:

The government and discipline of the Police Department should be such as the Board of Police may from time to time, by rules and regulations, prescribe. The Board, from time to time, in their discretion, are empowered to enact, modify, and repeal orders, rules and regulations of general discipline of the subordinates under their control, but in strict conformity to the provisions of the chapter.

The Board was invested with power to issue subpoenas, attested in the name of its President, to compel the attendance of witnesses upon any proceedings authorized by its rules and regulations. Each commissioner of Police, the superintendent, the chief Clerk and Deputy, are authorized and empowered to administer affirmations and oaths to any person summoned and appearing in any matter or proceeding authorized as aforesaid, and in all matters appertaining to the department or the duties of any officer, or to take any disposition necessary to be made under the orders, rules and regulations of the board. Any person making a complaint that a felony or misdemeanor has been committed, may be required to make affirmation or oath thereto, and, for this purpose, the Inspectors, Captains, and Sergeants of Police shall have power to administer affirmations and oaths. The Board of Police shall at all times cause the ordinances of the city of New York, not in conflict with law, to be properly enforced. The Board shall provide suitable accommodations for the detention of witnesses who are unable to furnish security for their appearances in criminal proceedings, to be called the House for the Detention of Witnesses. And it shall be the duty of all Magistrates, when committing witnesses in default of bail, to commit them to such House of Detention. The Board of Police may, with the authority and approval of the Mayor and Common council, from time to time, but with special reference to locating the same as centrally in precincts as possible, establish, provide, and furnish station and station houses, or sub-stations, at least one to each precinct, for the accommodation of members of the Police force, and as places of temporary detention for persons arrested and property taken within the precinct. The Board of Police shall have the power to erect, operate, supply and maintain, all such lines of telegraph to and between such places in the city for the purposes and business of the Police Board as they shall deem necessary, the cost of which shall be chargeable to the general expenses of the Police. The Board is permitted to use the said telegraph lines to aid them in facilitating the operations of the Department of Health, and when so used, the expense thereof shall be charged to the said Department of Health.

In the performance of Police service in any precinct or precincts comprising waters of the harbor, the Board of Police may procure and use and employ such rowboats and steamboats as shall be deemed necessary and proper. In rural or sparsely inhabited precincts they may establish a mounted patrol, and procure, and use, and employ so many horses and equipments as shall be requisite for the purpose; and they may procure and cause to be used any teams and vehicles required to transport prisoners, supplies and property, whenever it shall be proper and economical to d o so; and may sell and dispose of, in accordance with law, any personal property owned or used in the department whenever it shall have become old and unfit, and not required for service; and they shall have authority to detail and employ patrolmen in any duty or service other than patrol duty, which maybe necessary and proper to enable said Board to exercise the powers and perform the duties and business imposed and required by law.

It shall be the duty of the Board of Police:

To cause some intelligent and experienced person connected with the Police force to attend at the Police courts in cases where there is need for such assistance, who shall aid in bringing the facts before the Police Justices in proceedings pending in such Police courts. It is made the duty of the Police Board to provide for the lodging of vagrant and indigent persons. The Board shall have authority to offer rewards to induce all classes of persons to give information which shall lead to the detection, arrest, and conviction of persons guilty of homicide, arson, or receiving stolen goods, knowing them to be stolen; and pay such rewards to such persons as shall give such information.

To continue the bureau in the office of the Department of police known and designated as the Bureau of Elections. The affairs of the said Bureau shall, under and subject to such rules, regulations and orders as may from time to time be made and adopted by said Board of Police; be managed, conducted, and carried on by a suitable and proper person, chosen and selected by the said Board, who shall be known as the Chief of the Bureau of Elections; shall hold office for the period of three years, ands whose salary shall be fixed and paid by the said Board as such sum as they shall deem proper, not exceeding five thousand dollars, and shall be removable by the Board of Police for cause.

To perform all the duties imposed upon them in Sections eighteen hundred and forty-five; eighteen hundred and forty-six, eighteen hundred and forty-seven, eighteen hundred and fifty, eighteen hundred and fifty-two, eighteen hundred and fifty-three, and eighteen hundred and fifty-seven.

To properly advise the Board of Health of all threatened danger to human life of health, and of all matters thought to demand its attention, and to regularly report to said Board of Health, all violations of its rules and ordinances, so far as practicable and appropriate, co-operate for the promotion of the public health and the safety of human life in said city.

To faithfully (by and through its proper officers, agents and men) enforce and execute the sanitary rules and regulations, and the orders of the Board of Health, upon the same being received in writing and duly authenticated as said Board of Health may direct. To employ and use the appropriate persons and means, and to make the necessary and appropriate expenditures for the execution and enforcement of said rules, orders and regulations, and such expenditures, so far as the same may not be refunded or compensated by the means herein elsewhere provided, shall be paid as the other expenses of said Board of Health are paid. In and about the execution of any order of the Board of Health, or of the Board of Police made pursuant thereto, Police officers and Policemen shall have as ample power and authority, as when obeying any order of or law applicable to the Board of Police, or as if acting under a special warrant of a Justice or Judge, duly issued; but for their conduct, they shall be responsible to the Board of Police, and not to the Board of Health. The Board of Health may, with the consent of the Board of Police, impose any portion of the duties of subordinates in said department upon subordinates in the Police Department.

The Police Department, through its Treasurer, and in pursuance of the orders, rules and regulation of the Board, shall pay all salaries and wages of the officers and members of the Police Department and force, as established by and in pursuance of law, and all bills, claims, and obligations lawfully incurred by, or by authority of said Board; and the Comptroller shall pay over to the Treasurer of police, on the requisition of the Board of Police, the total amount annually, estimated, levied, raised, and appropriated for the support and maintenance of the Police Department and force, from time to time, and in such sums as shall be required (not exceeding one-twelfth part of said total annual amount in any one month), and the Treasurer of Police, if required by the Comptroller, shall transmit to the Department of Finance, each month, duplicate vouchers for the payment of al sums of money on account of the Police Department during each month. The Board of Police shall procure and pay for all printing, books, blank paper, and other articles of stationery required for the administration and business of the department and each bureau thereof. Any one of the Commissioners, or any member of the Police force, who shall, after qualifying in office, accept any additional place of public trust, or civil emolument, or who shall during his term of office be publicly nominated for any office elective by the people, and shall not within ten days succeeding the same publicly decline the said nomination, shall be in either case deemed thereby to have resigned his commission, and to have vacated his office, and all votes cast at any election for any person holding the office of Police Commissioner, or within thirty days after he shall have resigned such office, shall be void.

The commissioners of Police shall annually, or as often as a vacancy shall occur, elect one of their number to act as the President of the Board of Police. He shall preside at the meetings of the Board. They shall elect one of their number to be the Treasurer of Police. He shall be the fiscal officer of the police. He shall, on check and voucher, duly disburse, by order of the said Police Board, all moneys belonging to the Police fund, and shall deposit the same, when paid to him, in a bank or banks designated by said Board. The Treasurer shall give a bond, with two sureties in the sum of twenty thousand dollars each, for the faithful performance of his duties; said bond to be approved b y the Comptroller, and filed in his office.

The Police force shall consist of one Superintendent of Police; four Inspectors' Captains, not exceeding in number one to each fifty of the total number of Patrolmen; Sergeants, not exceeding four in number to each fifty of the total number of Patrolmen; Doormen, not exceeding two in number to each fifty of the total number of Patrolman; not exceeding twenty-two surgeons, one of whom shall be designated as Chief Surgeon; and Patrolmen to the number of two thousand three hundred. The board of Police shall have power to increase the Police force by adding to the number of Patrolmen from time to time, as far as the funds appropriated allow, but such increase shall not exceed one hundred in any one year.

Whenever a vacancy shall occur in the office of Superintendent of Police, and in the absence or disability of the said Superintendent, the President shall possess all the powers and perform all the duties of that office subject to the orders, rules and regulations of the Board of Police. But the Commissioners of Police may, by resolution, designate such other officer of the Police force as they may chosen, to execute and perform the duties of the Superintendent during the period of such absence or disability.

The duties of the Police surgeons, and the extent and bounds of their districts, shall be assigned, from time to time, by the rules and regulations of the Board of Police. The Board of Police may, if requested by the Board of Health, employ their surgeons to aid the Sanitary Inspectors in the discharge of their duties, under such regulations and orders as the Board of Police may make and issue.

No person shall now be appointed to membership on the Police force, or continue to hold membership therein, who is not a citizen of the Untied States, or who has ever been convicted of crime, or who cannot red and write understandingly in the English language, or who shall not have resided within the State one year, but skilled officers of experience may be appointed for Detective duty who have not resided as herein required. No person shall be appointed Patrolman who shall be at the date of such appointment over thirty years of age, or who shall have been convicted of any crime, nor shall any person who shall have been a member of the force and resigned, or been dismissed therefrom, be re-appointed, except by the concurring vote of all of the Commissioners comprising the Board, to be taken by yeas and nays, and recorded in the minutes. The name, residence and occupation of each applicant for appointment to any position in the Police Department, as well as the name, residence, and occupation of each person appointed to any position, shall be published; and such publication shall, in every instance, be made on the Saturday next succeeding such application or appointment, in the City Record.

The Board may, upon an emergency or apprehension of riot, tumult, mob, insurrection, pestilence, or invasion, appoint as many Special Patrolmen, without pay, from among the citizens, as it may deem desirable. The Board of Police, with the approbation in writing of the Mayor, or, in case of their disagreement, the Governor, may, under similar circumstances demand the assistance of the military of the First Division, and such commanding office shall obey such order. Special Patrolmen, appointed in pursuance of law, may be dismissed by resolution of the Board; and while acting as such, Special Patrolmen shall possess the powers to perform the duties, and be subject to the orders, rules and regulations of the Board, in the same manner as regular Patrolmen. Every such special Patrolman shall wear a badge, to be prescribed and furnished by the Board of Police.

Every member of the Police force shall have issued to him by the Board of Police, a proper warrant of appointment signed by the President of said Board and Chief Clerk or first deputy, which warrant shall contain the day of his appointment and his rank. Each member of the Police force shall, before entering upon the duties of his office, take an oath of office, and subscribe the same before any officer of the Police Department who is empowered to administer an oath.

Promotion of officers or member of the Police force shall be made by the board only on grounds of meritorious Police service and superior capacity, and shall be as follows: Sergeants of Police shall be selected from among Patrolmen assigned to duty as Roundsmen, Captains from among Sergeants, and Inspectors from among Captains.

The Board shall have power, in its discretion, on conviction of a member of the force of any legal offense or neglect of duty, or violation of rules, or neglect or disobedience of orders, or absence without leave, or any conduct injurious to the public peace or welfare, or immoral conduct, or conduct unbecoming an officer, or other breach of discipline, to punish the offending party by reprimand, forfeiting and withholding pay for a specified time, or dismissal from the force; but no more then thirty days' pay shall be forfeited for any offense. All such fines shall be paid forthwith to the Treasurer of the Department to the account of the Police Life Insurance Fund. Members of the force shall be removable only after written charges shall have been preferred against them, and after the charges had been publicly examined into, upon such reasonable notice to the person charged, and in such manner of examination as the rules and regulations of the Board of Police may prescribe.

No member, under penalty of forfeiting the salary or pay which may be due to him, shall withdraw or resign, except by permission of the Board of Police. Unexplained absence, without leave, of any member of the Police force, for five days, shall be deemed and held to be a resignation, and the member so absent shall at the expiration of said period, cease to be a member of the Police force.

Every person connected with the Police Department on the thirtieth day of April, eighteen hundred and seventy-three, and who remains so connected, shall continue in office, and the amount of salary or compensation then legally paid to such person, except as in this Act otherwise provided, or authorized, shall be the salary and compensation fixed for his office; but the commissioners may fix the salary and compensation of such clerks and employees other than Policemen whom they maybe authorized by law to employ.

No person holding office under this Department shall be liable to military or jury duty, and no officer or Patrolman, while actually on duty, shall be liable to arrest on civil process, or to service of subpoena from Civil Courts.

No member of the Board of Police, under any pretense whatsoever, shall, for his own benefit, share in any present, salary or compensation. The Board, for meritorious and extraordinary services rendered by any member of the Police force in the due discharge of his duty, may permit any member of the Police force to retain for his own benefit any reward or present tendered him therefore; and it shall be cause for removal from the Police for any member thereof to received any such reward or present without notice thereof to the Board of Police. Upon receiving said notice, the said Board ,may either order the said member to retain the same, or shall dispose of I for the benefit of the Police Life Insurance Fund.

The several members of the force shall have power and authority to immediately arrest, without warrant, and to take into custody, any person who shall commit, or threaten, or attempt to commit, in the presence of such member, or within his view, any breach of the peace or offense directly prohibited by Act of the legislature, or by any ordinance of the city. The members of the Police force shall posses, in the city of New York and in every part of this State, all the common law and statutory power of constables, except for the service of civil process, and any warrant for search or arrest, issued by any Magistrate of this State, may be executed, in any part thereof, by any member of the Police force, and all the provision of Sections seven, eighth, and nine of Chapter two, title two, part four, of the revised statutes, in relations to giving and taking of bail, shall apply to this chapter.

Any member, as the regulations of the said Board may provide, may arrest any person who shall, in view of such member, violate or do, or be engaged in doing or committing in said city, any act or thing forbidden by Chapter twelve of this Act, or by any law or ordinance, the authority conferred by which is given to the Board of Health, or who shall, in such presence, resist, to be engaged in resisting the enforcement of any of the orders of said Board, or of the board of Police pursuant thereto. And any person so arrested shall be thereafter treated and disposed of as any other person duly arrested for a misdemeanor.

In every case of arrest by any member of the Police force, the same shall be made known immediately to the superior on duty in the precinct wherein the arrest was made, by the person making the same; and it shall be the duty of the said superior, within twenty-four hours after such notice, to make written return thereof, according to the rules and regulations of the Board of Police, with the name of the party arrested, the alleged offense, the time and place of arrest, and the place of detention. Each member of the Police force, under the penalty of ten days' fine, or dismissal from the force, at the discretion of the Board, shall, immediately upon an arrest, convey in person the offender before the nearest sitting Magistrate, that he may be dealt with according to the law. If the arrest is made during the hours that the Magistrate does not regularly hold court, or if the Magistrate is not holding court, such offender may be detained in a station house, or precinct thereof, until the next regular public sitting of the Magistrate, and no longer, and shall then be conveyed without delay before the Magistrate, to be dealt with according to law. And it shall be the duty of said board, from time to time, to provide suitable rules and regulations to prevent he undue detention of persons arrested, which rules and regulations shall be as operative and binding as if herein specially enacted, subject, however, to the order of the court committing the person arrested.

It shall be a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary for no less than one year, nor exceeding two years, or by a fine of not less than two hundred and fifty dollars, for any person, without justifiable or excusable cause, to use, or to incite any other person to use, personal violence upon any member of the Police thereof when the discharge of his duty, or for any member of the Police force to willfully neglect making any arrest for the offence against the law of this State, or ordinance in force in the city of New York, or for any person not a member of the Police force to falsely represent himself as being such member with a fraudulent design upon person or property, or upon any day or time to have, use, wear, or display without authority, any shield, buttons, wreaths, numbers, or other insignia or emblem such as are worn by the Police.

It shall be a misdemeanor for any person not being a regular member of the Police, established in any city of this State, or a member of the Police force of the city of New York, or a Constable of this State, or a Police constable, or Assistant Police Constable, or a Sheriff, or one of the usual general Deputies of any Sheriff of this State, to serve any criminal process within the said city.

It is hereby made the duty of the Police force, a all times of day and night, and the members of such force are hereby thereunto empowered to especially preserve the public peace, prevent crime, detect and arrest offenders, suppress riots, mobs, and insurrections, disperse unlawful or dangerous assemblages, and assemblages which obstruct the free passage of public streets, sidewalks, parks, and places; protect the rights of person and property, guard the public health; preserve order at elections and all public meetings and assemblages; prevent and regulate the movement of teams and vehicles in streets, and remove all nuisances in the public streets, parks, and highways; arrest all street mendicants and beggars; provide Police attendance at fires; assist, advise, and protect emigrants, strangers and travelers in public streets at steamboat and ship landings, and at railroad stations; carefully observe and inspect all places of public amusement, all places of business having excise or other licenses to carry on any business, all houses of ill fame or prostitution, and houses where common prostitutes resort or reside, all lottery offices, policy shops, and places where lottery tickets, or lottery policies are sold or offered for sale, all gambling houses, cockpits, rat-pits, and public common dance houses, and to repress and restrain all unlawful or disorderly conduct or practices therein; enforce and prevent the violation of all laws and ordinances in force in said city; and for these purposes, with or without warrant, to arrest all persons guilt of violating any law or ordinance for the suppression or punishment of crimes or offenses.



Our Police Protectors, History of the New York Police, Published for the benefit of the Police Pension Fund, by Augustine Costello, Published by Author, 1885.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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