Our Police Protectors
History of New York Police
Chapter 21, Part 2

By Holice and Debbie

 

Joel B. Erhardt, United States marshal and ex-Police Commissioner, at the banquet given by the Police Inspectors and Captains, at Delmonico's on January 21, 1884, spoke to the toast of "the Police." Speaking for the Police force generally, he said:

"Now, we do not thing we are a lad lot of men, Superintendent, nor Inspector, not Captain, Sergeants, nor Patrolmen. In the first place we are men who do work in uniform, under rules and regulations prescribed, and which we are bound to obey. We are charged with enforcement of all laws, Federal, State, and Municipal. We are a very hard working class; one a year,

Page 476

of late years, we have permission to give a dinner; and a few of us assemble as you see us; at twelve tonight we shall again be on our posts, there to remain. Almost all of us have families, and try to bring up our children so that they will not fall under the ban of the law, or in the custody of our successors; we send them to school, and we cloth them as well as we are able. We have a home, not a very large one--still its a home; and we are not well off in the world's goods; once in a great while some kind friend gives one of us a point, and we make a few hundred dollars; but, generally, we get pricked, and attend to our legitimate business. There is no class of citizens who fall from grace less frequently than we, and we are never better pleased than when the morals of society improve and we have no cause to make arrests.

"Please to remember that when the old world has done with her criminals, they seek our shores, so that we have some of the worst of the world, which, with the aid of the best commanded and managed Detective force in the world, we keep in subjection or in jail; while we have the real population of new York, we have the floating population of the cities in close proximity, giving a population of nearly two-and-a-half millions to protect and watch.

Page 477

"Our hours of duty vary a little--we have a long day for patrol and a short one--but we are always on duty, subject to call at any house of the night or day. We cannot change our residences without notice to the Board of Police, and we are obliged to change if we are transferred, if we ever expect to see our fireside; so that we have no settled habitation. WE are out in all sorts of weather, often unprepared, and from exposure we have lost about seventy within the last few years. This is aside from the death rate; and we have had six killed, and any number stabbed and maimed. As we are not permitted to engage in any other business our income is always limited. We have a few days vacation annually, and at the end of five years we are fit for nothing else than to be a Policeman. WE thus lose many social rights, such, for instance, as assembling together, and have not even the right, as a body, to petition.

"If you will peruse recent history you will see how much crime we have detected and punished, and it requires no great stretch of imagination to realize how much we have prevented.

"WE ask you, the legislature, to pay all of our men the same salary when they perform the same work. Now, this is fair. And we, here assembled, must not forget the twenty-seven hundred Policemen on duty in this city, who patrol their posts as regularly and continuously as the great dipper in the sky above us, which know no setting--some of them, after deducting expenses for uniform and other necessities, net two dollars and thirty-seven cents per day, while others only one dollar and twenty-right cents. This is not fair; this is scandalous. Do not be misled by the alleged price of cheap labor--our is not cheap labor; it is labor is the highest order, We act instantly as a committing Magistrate and Policeman in the same breath; we are acquainted with Federal, State and city laws, and are bound to keep pace, as far as possible, with the decisions of the courts; we are bound to learn the rules of evidence so as to be able to apply them to the case in hand; to say, therefore, that our labor, which knows no rest, can be gauged by the market value of a porter who unlocks doors and sweeps the floor, is not sound reasoning. Nor should you be misled by those who cry that the taxes are high; if they are we did not make them; on the contrite, our efforts and our labor keep them as low as they are; our eyes, which are never closed in slumber, prevent small as well as large public thefts. And pertinent to this is the statement which the Comptroller told me not long since, that with the increase of the Sinking fund, New York City will be free from debt in another eighteen years.

"We ask you to provide means for those of us who are broken down in the service of the State--some have been on the force twenty-five up to forty years--and the service in which we have participated would like a romance.

"Their associate and commander for over three years--commander by reason of power delegated to me by my colleagues--my first acquaintance repined into a friendship, on my part, which will last as long as I shall live. I found them obedient without being servile; I found them tractable and honest, courteous and uncomplaining; and I take pleasure instating whenever an officer was sent for and asked for facts, he never told me a lie; decline to answer he might, but answering, he told the truth.

"I could tell you of their past, which comes down to us glorious, and, with the additional lustre of our times, will pass to posterity increasing in splendor and brilliancy. Were you to ask me of the battles they had fought, their tattered flag, the undulating ground in the valley of the James and Shenandoah, or Spottsylvania, would answer more eloquently. Were you to ask me of the riots or incipient revolution they have prevented or overcome, let your own memory answer that from 1863 to the threatened eruption which did not take place in 1876, when Pittsburgh and our western cities were inflames, with a large communistic population than elsewhere in the country and every oppor-

Page 478

tunity to do their work, the power and discipline of the Police force of the present prevented a second conflagration, and bloodshed which would have far exceeded the cruelties of 1863. What prevented it is the knowledge that when the Police force of the present charge, they now nothing but duty, and ties of friendship, of kindred, of religion, count as nothing to stay their progress in enforcing the law--they are irresistible.

"They are a keen, wiry, clean-cut set, with perceptive faculties sharpened by contact with the world, who wish to do right, and who will always do right if the politicians will let them alone. Far be it from me to cast a slur on politicians; politics is a noble profession; and he is a poor American citizen who is not a politician, and is not proud of being one; but neither they nor their ways have a place in the discipline or movements of an army which is always in line of action and always engaged. For so long "AS master passions in the breast, like Aaron's serpent, swallow all the rest," so long as restless, ignorant and frail humanity shall fall, so long there must be a body of men, well organized, subject to rigid discipline, doing sentry duty or sleeping on their arms, and the directors of that body have the right to say to camp-followers: You shall not tamper with our men--and if they still persist, the culprits should be held up to the execration of honest men, put in the pillory with slip ears and punctured noses.

"As Dickens' character, Tiny Tim, says: 'God bless them all, every one of them.'"

Those who sneer when the life of Policeman is called a hard one would do well to ready the following regulations:

Rule 550.--Each member of the Police force shall devote his whole time and attention to the business of the department, and is expressly prohibited from following any other calling, or being employed in any other business. Although the members of the force are, by the rules and regulations of the service, relieved at certain hours from the actual performance of duty on ordinary occasions, yet they are held to be at all times on duty; and must be prepared, while relived as aforesaid, to act immediately on notice that their services are required.

Rule 594.--Each member of the force shall be deemed to be always on duty, subject to such relief therefrom as shall be allowed by proper authority; and the same responsibility, as to the suppression of disturbances and the arrest of offenders, rest upon them when not in uniform, as when in uniform on post duty.

No better idea of the risks run by officers can be had than by a perusal of one of the monthly reports of the Police surgeons. Take for example that of a recent one, so as to illustrate how a Patrolman's life exposes him not only t wounds and broken limbs, but to sickness: It appears that in one month eight men were suffering from sprains, sixty-one from rheumatism, one from malarial fever contracted from a Police station being badly drained; sic from contusions received from vehicles, struggles with refractory prisoners, etc.; two from bad bruises, sic from pneumonia, twenty-six from colds, three from incised wounds, seven from fractured limbs, and fourteen from phthisis, the result of duty in all weathers and neglect of colds, because of a desire to continue to draw full pay by doing duty when unfit for it.

A thousand examples of the gritty, plucky, manly stuff the "common cop" is made of, might be given. Here are half a dozen taken at random: One the thirty-first of May, 1879, officer V. H. Marron, of the Twenty-first Precinct, encountered an ex-convict, Joseph Murphy, who "owned the streets," and terrified

Page 480

law-abiding citizens. The officer could have knocked the fellow insensible, and made his task of taking him tot he station house easy and devoid of danger, but he treated the felon decently, to be assaulted, shot or knocked down, and severely injured. But Murphy went to the station house, nevertheless, Marron's hand on his collar. Marron was laid up. In March, 1880, Officer Martin Finnerty, of the Twentieth Precinct, had a desperate tussle in Fortieth Street, near Eighth Avenue, with an ex-convict, Thomas Tuite, who tried to kill Finnerty with a pistol, and inflicted one wound, but Tuite was subdued, and Finnerty went to the West Thirty-seventh Street Station House to lock him up and call for a surgeon for himself.

Not less heroic was the conduct of Officer J. J. Reilly, of the Eighteenth Precinct, who struggled with a desperado, John ruddy, on the fifth of September, 1880, after he had dangerously stabbed him, and persisted in escorting him to the East Twenty-second Street Station House, when he should have been in the care of a surgeon. Officer C. S. Pike, of the Fifth precinct, tackled a desperate burglar, William Livingstone, at dawn on the nineteenth of September, 1881, at West Broadway and Franklin Street, and immediately received what was for sometime considered a fatal wound in the abdomen, but he sprang on the man, disarmed him, and took him to the Leonard Street Station House, to faint as soon as he arraigned his would-be assassin before the Sergeant on duty. Detective Sergeant Jacob Tooker will never again be the man he was on the fourteenth of February, 1882, before he confronted and commanded to halt Thomas

Page 481

Hennessy, a burglar, who had laid concealed in a house that the offices had watched. Hennessy was prepared, for he had a cocked revolver in his pocket, and his first act was to fire at the officer and wound him dangerously in the head. Tooker held on to the man after disarming him, and might have killed him had it willed it, but he forbore to harm him, and two processions went to the station house, one with the prisoner and the other with the wounded officer. Tooker was laid up a year by his injury, and at times he is compelled to abstain from all duty.

The best example of Police grit ever exhibited can be found in the case of Sergeant John Delaney of the Nineteenth Precinct. On the second of January, 1883, he was virtually a Patrolman of the Tombs Police Court Squad, although he had the rank of Acting Sergeant. He had been highly and honorably mentioned three years before, for risking his life to save that of George McFadden, a boy, at the foot of East thirty-third Street, and ha received a gold medal from Congress. On the day above mentioned, Delaney was given a warrant for the arrest of a man who had swindled a provincial visitor at the low groggery, No. 144 Hester Street, and, while seeking the rascal, encountered Patrick McGowan, a burly ruffian employed by "Billy" McGlory at Armory Hall. McGowan was at the stage of drunkenness when men become brutal. Delaney was as nothing in the ruffian's hands, as he was very low with a pulmonary trouble, contracted in the saving of the boy McFadden. But when McGowan went away, exulting, to escapee in a carriage, in which sat a strumpet with whom he had caroused during the night, Delaney crawled down stairs, and, hailing McGowan as he was entering the vehicle, commanded him to halt, and advanced on him. McGowan replied foully and sprang into the carriage, telling the driver, a "night hawk," to go on. Delaney followed, to be shot in the yes through the rear window of the carriage and disfigured for life. An instant later he fired, killing McGowan. Delaney has not yet recovered from his injury, but he was rewarded by substantial promotion.

On the twenty-second of last august, Officer Patrick Rabbett, of the Twenty-second Precinct, arrested a man in West forty-seventh Street, for robbery, and, while taking him to the station house, was stabbed by John Connors. He would have landed both in a cell but Connors, who beat off the officer, to be arrest and "taken in."

The new Civil Service rules, in their application to the Police Department caused no little trouble and confusion at first. These regulation went into effect on august 29, 1884.

Page 482

Schedule C, regulation 18, first, that an applicant for a place in the Police Department must present his application to the Police Commissioners, giving full particulars of his qualifications, accompanied by testimonials that he is a man of good moral character, of sober and industrious habits, and never known o be guilty or convicted of any criminal act or disorderly conduct. Those who sign their testimonials must consent that their certificates may be made public, and they must be willing to furnish any other information respecting the applicant that they may possess. Each applicant must be accompanied by a full description of the applicant, a thorough description of his physical qualification, and various particulars of his life, amounting to a considerable autobiography. The applicant must swear that he has not promised to pay for any aid or influence toward procuring his appointment. The character of the applicant must be inquired into by the Captain of the precinct in which he resides, and his physical qualifications must be certified to by the examining surgeons. The applicant is questioned closely as to the diseases with which he or his family may have been afflicted. He must tell whether has had fits or injury of the head or spine, or piles or rheumatism. His stature must not be below five feet seven inches. He must have at least thirty-three inches circumference of chest, and weight not less than one hundred and thirty-five pounds. Obesity is a good cause for rejection. "There must be a difference of at least two inches at forced expiration and on full inspiration." The examining surgeons must swear to the results of their examinations. Then there must be a test by the Examining Board of the strength, activity, his swiftness and endurance in running, his

Page 483

skill in the use of the club and firing at a mark. His general health, eyesight, and hearing are examined. He is then ready for examination as to further general qualifications, such as habits and reputation, experience, reading writing, ciphering, rules of the Police Department, questions relating to the city government, location of streets, public buildings, and other subjects respecting which strangers in the city naturally inquire. Here is the luminous rule by which the standing of the applicant is determined:

"the general average shall be ascertained buy multiplying the ascertained average standing of the applicant in each qualification by the value attached, and dividing the united products by the sum of the values by ten."

No person whose standing on any of the qualifications or obligatory subjects enumerated above is less then sixty, or who ascertained average on all is below seventy, shall be entered on the eligible list.

At first no provision was made for the payment of the provisional or probationary corps. Not being Policemen, they could not either claim the tenure of office or receive the pay of Policemen. The law, as originally framed, deprived these men of pay for the first six months. the law was remedied, making the probationary period thirty days, and finally the board of Estimate and Apportionment provided the necessary funds to pay the probation men regularly from the date of their appointment, the same as the regular Police.

The quota of officers and men allowed by law tot he Police Department is as follows: One superintendent, four Inspectors, eighteen Surgeons, thirty-six Captains, one hundred and fifty-two Sergeants, eight doormen, forty Detective Sergeants, eight Acting Sergeants, one hundred and seventy-eight Roundsmen, two thousand three hundred and seventy-four Patrolmen; making a grand total of two thousand eight hundred and ninety-one.

The actual force varies from this in the following particulars: thirty-five Captain, one hundred and forty-seven Sergeants, seventy-nine Doormen, and two thousand three hundred and eight Patrolmen. The rest of the force is the same as allowed by law. The force is apportioned as follows:

 

COURT SQUADS.

District Courts

Inspector

Sergeants

Roundsmen

Men

Doormen

Acting Sergeants

1

--

1

2

3

--

--

2

--

1

1

10

--

--

3

--

1

1

8

--

--

4

--

1

1

8

--

--

5

--

1

1

8

--

--

6

--

1

1

12

--

--

 

INSPECTION DISTRICT OFFICE.

1

1

2

4

2

--

--

2

1

1

4

--

1

--

3

1

2

1

1

--

1

4

1

2

1

1

--

1

 

SANITARY COMPANY.

--

--

1

4

42

1

--

 

TENEMENT HOUSE OFFICERS.

--

--

--

--

30

--

--

 

SPECIAL  SERVICE SQUAD

--

--

--

--

1

--

--

 

Next

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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