Our Police Protectors
History of New York Police
Chapter 21, Part 1

By Holice and Debbie

 

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CHAPTER XXI

DUTIES OF A POLICEMAN.

A Terror to the Wicked and Depraved., a Protector to the Upright and Virtuous--His Responsibilities and Labors--Necessary Qualifications: Youth, Strength, Intelligence, and a Stainless Reputation--The School of Instruction--Doing Patrol Duty--The Laws he has to Study and Enforce--Ex-Commissioner Erhardt's Exposition of a Policemen's Life--A Keen, Wiry, Clean-cut Set--Always on Post--An Eye that Knows no Sleep--Dangers to which Policemen are Exposed--Sprains, contusions, Incised Wounds, Fractured Limbs, Rheumatism, Pneumonia, etc.--Sergeant John Delaney, a Type of a Brave Policeman.

A well-informed public need not be told how faithfully and bravely "Our Police Protectors" guard their interests from the depredations of criminal. On that head nothing need be said, as the facts speak for themselves, and with an emphasis more convincing than words.

The duties which the Police Department are called upon to perform are of vital importance to the city in its security, peace and prosperity. Dishonesty, carelessness or inefficiency in the discharge of those duties are followed by such grace consequences, as to lay upon every one connected with the Department the most solemn obligations to devote all his energies to the proper protection of the city. Every one, in accepting a position in the Department, accepts voluntarily these obligations.

After long years of slow development, the Police, it is safe to say, have reached that stage that their efficiency and discipline may be confidently relied upon. This fact has been practically demonstrated on numerous occasions, and he must be a very young man indeed, if brought up in the city, who, by personal observation, cannot vouch for the entire accuracy of this statement.

Night and day, fair weather and foul, when his tour o duty commences, the Policeman, like the trusty sentinel, must go on his post and be prepared to meet all kinds of danger; but not like the soldier in open battle, with his comrades and the noise and strife cheering him on. He has to encounter the hidden, and stealthy, and desperate foe, who is about committing, or is just emerging from, the commission of crime, through which, by his arrest, his life or liberty is forfeited. This causes him to resist apprehension, ever to taking the life of the officer of the law. Surely tragic incidents, where in Policemen have lost their lives, been wounded and disabled, need not be cited to convince New

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Yorkers of this fact, or to show that the Patrolman's duties are arduous, responsible, and dangerous.

To the Police are committed the enforcement of law, the maintenance of order, and the preservation of the public peace. the protection of life and the security of property largely depend upon the zeal and fidelity with which they discharge their duties. It is essential, therefore, that they should possess discretion, integrity, activity, sobriety, fearlessness, and decision. That these conditions are combined in our New York Police Protectors, few, if any, will be found so prejudiced or ill-informed as to deny.

A stranger in this city in quest of information about the Police, were he not industrious and disposed to investigate statements, would come to an opinion that is by no means that of the vicious, criminal, ignorant, or vulgar; but he held by not a few persons of education and refinement who, if they were required to say why they thought ill of the average Policeman, would have to confess that their judgment was mainly based on hearsay and newspaper gossip. Take a thousand such persons, and few will be found who have ever south to know what a Policeman really is, and what his duties, trial, temptations, responsibilities and virtues are. Their idea of a Policeman is on the par with that of the boniface who, when asked what a gentlemen was, replied, with assurance, "A gentleman's a man wot keeps a hoss and gig." The most vulgar conception is that of a bloated, drunken, brutal fellow, who depends on craft and political influence to retain his sinecure situation, and who perfunctorily does his "sixty minutes to the hour," from pay day to pay day, and from one blackmailed rumhole to another. Have been fostered by, which will one day record, as a "police outrage," an act of self defense by an officer that should be commended, and then, when fully aware of the injustice of the aspersion, refuse or omit to correct the impression that thousand of readers have formed. The same exultant shout is vented over a Policeman's backsliding, as when a minister or a citizen of good repute falls from grace, as if a Policeman less of a man or less liable to be tempted than other people. It has been suggested, and there is some basis for the explanation, that our free institutions tend to make men who enforce the law and deprive others of their liberty, objects of contempt. In Europe it is not rare to see a Police Officer, unable to cope with one or more persons he has in custody or wishes to arrest, call on bystanders, in the name of the representatives of law and order, to aid him, and the appeal is seldom disregarded. Here such a request would be received with a guffaw, and an escaping prisoner gets more aid from a crowd than his pursuer, while in a Police Court sympathy with defendants is evinced daily. Logic is rarely applied when the question of the morale of the working members of the Police force is discussed, but detractors invariably refrain from meeting the issues involved in such a question as; "Take twenty-give hundred clergymen, brokers, tradesmen, lawyers, laborers, or average citizens, compare then with the Patrolmen of the force of New York, and say, conscientiously, if the officers are viler than the others, or if there is any vice that a Policeman has that the others are not guilty of." The trouble with Policemen is that they are men, and rather more of men than the rest of the community. They start in their career from the mill which

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grinds them out at Police Headquarters with many brands, guaranteeing their manhood, both physically, intellectually and morally, on them. The uniform and badge of the force were never permitted to b worn by an idiot or a rogue, if he were known to be such when he was appointed, and no such man ever remained on the force after there was good evidence give of his being either. It should, however, be remembered that men have been dismissed for cause, and have be reinstated by the courts.

It is not every one who wills it that becomes a Policeman, and some of the best Policemen are those who have been compelled to join the force through necessity. It is safe to that nearly every appointment is made through personal or political influence. Those who cavil at this should remember that this almost invariably secures for the department men who have lived long enough in the city to know it, for politicians and friend of Police Commissioners are not disposed to interest themselves in strangers. A young man having, then, secured a sponsor, makes his first step towards appointment by going in his company to one of the Police commissioners. Here the first weeding out system is encountered. A commissioners rarely passes a man with a grog-blossomed nose, or one so uncouth or ill-favored as to be a laughing stock. If he objects to the man, he does not, however, always tell the sponsor, but the candidate has a change of getting very gray before he is sworn in. If the commissioner is disposed to favor the application, the candidate for appointment must be less then thirty years old, able to read and write English, a citizen of the United States, a resident of this city from a year back, of spotless character, so far as conviction of crimes is concerned, of a stature not less then five feet seven inches and a half, more than one hundred and thirty-eight pounds in weight, and sound in body and mind. It is safe to say that in running this gauntlet of qualifications forty our of one hundred applicants find themselves ineligible. The applicant is sent by the commissioners before the Board of surgeons, who pass on his height, weight, and sanity. The examination s thorough, the candidate being

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stripped. He may be rejected for obesity, or his stature, weight, and check circumference may be so disproportionate as to make him unfit to be a Policemen. Once passed by the Surgeons he would be an excellent risk for a life insurance company to take. If the candidate's sponsor is active, or has influence which is recognized and respected, a statement of his arrest or non-arrest, a conviction or non-conviction for crime or misdemeanor, and, among other questions, answers one which inquires if he has paid, or promised to pay, or gave money or any consideration for the aid or influence to wards producing his appointment. These statements he swears to. He also procures the signatures of at least ten respectable citizens to a petition for his appointment, which declares that the signers know him intimately, that he is of good moral character, sober, temperate, and industrious, a man of truth and integrity, of sound mind, good understanding, and of a temper, habits and manners that fit him for the duties of a Policeman. When the signatures are appended, the Chief clerk marks them, or a few of them, and the persons thus indicated are required to visit the Central Office and make affidavit to the truth of the statements in the petition. Next, Detectives are employed to investigate the candidate's antecedents, and, on their favorable report, he may be enrolled as eligible for appointment. A candidate is then only "a little lower than the angels," if al that has been sworn to in regard to him is true. What business, in engaging an employee, would hesitate, with such a series of safeguards? The candidate is now on the anxious seat, and if his support is not of the best, he

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may fail at the threshold of success. The system of dealing out orders for examination by the surgeons, application papers, and examination papers, without regard to the probably vacancies on the force, has been not too harshly criticized as pernicious. It puts a premium on political and personal influences if it does no more, encourages false hopes, and leads many young men to throw up positions, refrain from accepting employment, and to spend, not only their savings, but those of relations and friends. In one case, known tot he writer, a man, who had waited two years for his appointment spent all his cash, disposed of his wife's money and property, sold his furniture, and was such a financial wreck when he was sworn in that it took him three years to recover himself. Instances are known of men waiting more than four years for their shield. Once, certain commissioners resolved on canceling applications for appointment which dated back more than six month, and between seven and eight hundred were destroyed. But this was when appointment papers were given out by the ream. However, we will suppose our friend, John Brown, safely landed on the shores of official duty after running the gauntlet of the Civil Service examination. One happy day the board has met, and he is recorded as having been voted on, and appointed. He takes the official oath and receives his numbered shield. Then he busies himself about his uniform, buying the regulation cloth from the Police clerk, and his hat and insignia at Police Headquarters, also his baton and belt. Half uniformed, he is directed to the School of instruction, where he passes at least a month as "citizen" Brown under the new rules, and he does on tour of night duty--six P. M. to Midnight--with an officer of the precinct to which he is assigned. In the school of Instruction he begins to cast aside any citizen's prejudices he may have formed in regard to the little knowledge required to enable a man to twirl a locust, patrol a post, and draw pay at the end of each month. The Instructor at present is Roundsman Michael Smith. His duty is to "instruct the members of the School in all the duties, discipline, and exercises of Patrolmen, including the Police law, the law of the State of New

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York, the laws and ordinances of the city of New York, and the rules, regulations and orders of the Board of Police, and their powers and privileges under the same," only this and nothing more. A matter of seven hundred and fifty rules and regulations, some two hundred and fifty general orders, many of them amending, altering, and chancing the rules and regulations, gentle dalliance in "the position of the soldier," "riots," "commands," "steps," "alignments," "marching," "wheeling," "turnings," "baton exercise," etc., a little healthy mental exercise, with such questions as "When, going or returning from court or means, there are more than two Policemen on the side walk, how should they conduct themselves?" "What disposition are you required to make of all prisoners you may arrest while on duty?" "In case you should arrest a person so much under the influence of liquor as to be unable to comprehend the proceedings at court, what would be required of you?" "In case you should arrest a person having stolen property in his or her possession, what disposition would you make of the prisoners and the property?" "In case you come in possession of lost property of a dangerous nature, what would be your duty?" "How about carrying umbrellas or walking canes when on duty?" "What is the best evidence of an officer's efficiency when on post duty?" "What information should you be prepared to give to strangers and citizens who may inquire of you?" "If any person had a long communication in regard to Police matters, what would be your duty?" "What are your to refrain from doing while on post duty." Etc., the answers to some of these questions would make a bronze statute of sorry howl with merriment. The laws of the State and the city ordinances are other sources of innocent recreation. How much a candidate can learn about them in thirty days remains, and can well remain, a mystery. Few of the superior officers of the force claim to fairly well understand them, and some of our best lawyers are at times at fault in regard to them, especially the ordinances which include those of the Board of Health.

Then there are digression to the Sunday Law, Excise law, the societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. No wonder if the callow "cop's" head whirls and he is distrait when doing his "first night tour," with his more experienced or more callous mentor. Well, at last he is discharged from the school, and, in new uniform, blossoms into a full-fledged Policeman and begins his "day," which is really one of ninety-six hours. He is now at the mercy of the public, the press, the criminal classes, his superior officers, the Roundsman, and his own weakness.

What is known as the Police day begins at six A. M. and ends at Six P. M. the Police night begin at six P. M., and ends at six A. M. But the scheme is an extremely complicated one, and was probably devised to get all the duty out of a patrolman that his system will stand. There is what is known as the "dog watch," from six A. M., to eight P. M., and we will suppose John Brown to have done this trick. He goes to breakfast, to return to his station house at the quarter past nine A. M., and is then "in reserve," until noon. "In reserve" does not imply that he lounges in the sitting room of the station house reading newspapers, playing checkers, or talking station house scandal. If he has not prisoners locked up the night before or during the "dog watch," he may have to go

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to the courts of Special, or General Sessions, or Civil Courts, to testify against criminals, or violators of ordinances. On one of a hundred excuses he may be ordered to don citizen's garb and play detective on ballplayers, hucksters, and others. Rain or shine, in temperate, as well as inclement weather he can be called await at any instant to help form fire lines in his own or another precinct; a parade, unusual excitement among workmen, weddings, festivals, political gatherings, election business, quotas reduced by funerals or marry making in other commands, excursions, and a hundred other matters conspire again his east "on reserve." At noon he is, in time of peace, and providing he be at the station house, allowed one house for dinner. At one o'clock he must go on post

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again, brushed, blacked, clean-shirted, and trim. At six P. M., he goes back to the station house, has up to quarter past seven for supper, and is back "on reserve" until midnight. Sleep claims him, and he is lucky if, at a quarter to twelve, when the doorman rounds his section--a command is divided into two platoons, and each platoon into two sections--he has not been called from bed to do fire or other duty. John Brown is now a sidewalk inspector from midnight to six A. M. he has a sinecure, has he? Let us glance at some of his duties. In any precinct but the Twenty-fourth, Twenty-fifth, Twenty-sixth, Nineteenth, the Special Service Squad, and generally the Thirty-second, Thirty-third, Thirty-fourth and Thirty-fifth Precincts, which me may not belong to unless he has seen year of service, he as to "try his doors." That is to say he should ascertain beyond peradventure that on aperture through which a thief could enter, whether it be windows, areas, area gates, door, grating, cellar flaps, or coal chutes, is open or unsecured. This he is to do "frequently" during his tour of duty, according to the rules. While doing this he maybe called upon to give advice, make arrests, aid the sick and injured, quell brawls, and he should discover fires, burglaries, and property imperiled in various ways. All this time he should resist temptation. Free liquor is his at every saloon on his post, providing he return the compliment by closing his eyes to violations of the excise law.

He has, at every step, some rule to observe, and may, on the report of a Roundsman or superior officer, be tried, convicted, reprimanded, or fined from one-half to a day's pay to his pay for a month, for intoxication, disrespect toward superior officers or citizens, "neglect of duty"--a comprehensive term, violation of any one of the hundreds of rules, disobedience of orders, "conduct unbecoming an officer," sitting down, conversing, not properly patrolling, absence from post, or "breach of discipline." The monotony of such a existence is often varied by tussels with refractory prisoners. Some drunkards, especially females, never thing a carouse satisfactory without winding it up with provoking arrest, and trying issues with a "cop," and this means for the Policeman violent walking exercise, varied with wrestles, blows, kicks, tumbles in the street and gutter, torn clothes, and general demoralization by the time the prisoner is landed at the station house. Now and then an officer has to tote a couple of drunkards each as refractory and belligerent as the other, and he is in the position of a man with two lusty shoats bent on going their own way, and "led" by a string. In the day time John Brown is not so much hampered by "trying doors," but any relief in this respect is made up by the vigilance required in the enforcement of the ordinances, the Policeman's bette moire.

John Brown leaves the street at six A. M. If he has prisoners he conquers sleep, goes to court, and awaits the pleasure of the Magistrate. It is his "day off," that is to say, he does not go to the station house in quiet times until six P. M., but he may be robbed of his rest by dilatory court proceeding's, witness duty, riots, parade duty, trials at Police Headquarters, etc. At six P. M. he goes out until midnight, and it is his "morning home," or in other words has no patrol duty until

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Eight P. M. ordinary patrol duty is made all the more irksome when the command is short-handed, because of "nights off," which occur once a month per man, sickness, etc., by "doubling up" or requiring one Patrolman to cover two posts. This doubles his duties and responsibilities. After eight P. M. on "morning home," days, he is on patrol till one P. M., when he goes to dinner till a quarter past one P. M. he is again "on reserve"--this is his "short day"--till midnight, when he goes on post till six A. M. then comes another "day off;" he follows with patrol duty from six P. M. till midnight; is a "reserve" from midnight tot six A. M., and take his "dog watch" anew from six A. M. to eight P. M.

When John Brown has been a year on the force he will begin to appreciate a patrolman's duties, and be indifferent to those who malign the force, except when he is personally attacked. By this time he will have acquired a certain practical, and theoretical knowledge of surgery, and be in a small degree a diagnostician. This from cases he has had under his observation and lectures on First Aid to the Injured that he has attended. He will know much of the practice of Criminal and Police Courts, and have become careful in making arrests. He will have passed through perils and exposed life and limb often if he has done average duty in a brisk precinct. It is more than probable he will have seen the sunny side of burglar catching, a d record a "night off"--the reward

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in any well regulated command for such an exploit. At any rate, he has shared in the capture of seventy thousand prisoners,. Of whom twenty thousand were drunkards and five thousand felons, each of whom, with State Prison staring him in the face, would have taken any change, even to the life of the officers, and sacrificed even his own limbs or life to escape. Of the felons, seven hundred were guilty of felonious assaults, seven hundred burglars, one hundred forgers, ninety to one hundred murderers or slayers of others in some fashion, one thousand had attained such dignity in thieving as to be charged with grand larceny, and he may have come across one or more of a score of escaped prisoners. He sent in his share of the two hundred thousand reports of violations of ordinances, and "took in" some of the seven thousand prisoners arrested for violation of the "Aldermen's" Laws, the Excise Laws, the Sanitary Code, the Lottery Law, the Pool Law, the United States Internal Revenue Law, the School Law, the Election Law, the Theatre Law, the Building Law, the Hotel Law, the Penal Code, the Railroad Law, the Gambling Laws, the Opium Laws , the Barrel Act, the Squatter's Law, and the Game Law. It is more than probable he has been tried and has contributed to one hundred and twenty thousand dollars of "sick time" and the funds derived from fines. He has shared in securing one thousand buildings, left open in various ways; has attended many of the fifteen hundred fires; taken some of the twenty-five thousand lost children to the Central Office matron, buying them dainties on the way to keep them in good humor, and may have done the "baby act," by carrying tenderly and well swathed, an abandoned foundling, to the same place, and borne the ridicule of the vulgar while exciting the admiration of the proper minded. Some of the seven hundred thousand dollars' worth of property turned over to the Property Clerk, as taken from pioneers or found in the street, has passed through his hands; and of the five thousand five hundred persons succored by the Police, he has seen men and women suffocated, sick injured by assaults, in fits, knocked down, injured by falls, cut, scalded, shot, burned, stabbed, crushed, rescued from the water, frozen and benumbed, and otherwise helpless; and, if John Brown is, as ninety-nine our of one hundred officers are, large-hearted, plucky, attentive to duty, possessed of an esprit du corps--which is a shield against malignant criticism and falsehood--healthy and ambitious, he will either die in harness, or linger a little while on a pension and to go Heaven just as certainly as his foes, who are not all there, to whom apply the lines;

A rogue n'er felt the halter draw,
With good opinion of the law.

 

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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

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