Our Police Protectors
History of New York Police
Chapter 23, Part 1

By Holice and Debbie


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Our Police Courts--Arraignment of Prisoners and How Their Cases are Disposed Of--The Police Justices: Efficient, and Discriminating--Courts of Special Sessions, General Sessions, Oyer and Terminer, etc--District Attorney Martine and his Deputies--Fines Received from Police Courts--Number of Prisoners Arrested, Arraigned, and Convicted--The Ambulance System--Evils of Intemperance--A New Criminal Agency--The Opium Habit--"Hitting the Pipe"--Uses and Abuses of Opium--An Opium Smoker's Outfit--Vice Fostered by the Herding Together in Crowded Tenements--Some Gaudy Resorts--Criminals and Their Haunts.

Swiftly, surely, and systematically, move the wheels of justice. Turn where he will the criminal finds himself confronted with the visible forms of the law. Sooner or later justice overtakes him.

The Police Courts have to deal each day with the big haul of prisoners that are gathered within the Police nets. There the process of "sorting" these unfortunates takes place. Some, whose sins are venial, are turned loose with an admonition from the bench; others are fined; others again are sentenced to short terms of imprisonment, while a small remnant is held for trial. Almost every offender known to the law passes daily through the hands of the Police, from the red-handed murderer down to the case of simple assault or drunk and disorderly.

The work of the Police is never done--the task allotted to Sysiphus was not more recurrent and periodical than theirs. There is no cessation of their warfare on the criminal classes.

The Police Courts are held by eleven Police Justices or Magistrates appointed by the Mayor of the city, under the provisions of the statute of 1873, and holding office for terms of varying duration. They receive salaries of eight thousand dollars per annum each, and are distributed into six courts, as follows: Tombs, two Justices; Jefferson Market, two Justices; Essex market, two Justices; Yorkville, or fifty-seventh Street, two Justices; Harlem, two Justices; Tremont, one Justice; the last tribunal having been created by the Act which provided for the annexation of the new Wards formerly in Westchester County.

The Police Justices that took office on the fourth of November, 1873, succeeded to a Board of Police Justices elected under the old law.

The statute law of the State requires that prisoners shall be taken to the nearest Police Court, and, in the city of New York, the designation of Police

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Courts to which the various Police Precincts are to send their prisoners is made by the Commissioners of Police.

Although two Justices are assigned to each of the courts, excepting the court at Tremont, but one sits at a time. For a week each assigned Justice holds court in his district, examining prisoners, receiving complainants, issuing warrants, taking bail, and discharging all the business of a Police Court. The succeeding week is an off week with him, unless he happens to sit three times during the week in the Court of Special Sessions, or unless examinations of any length are set down before him during the week.

No Police Courts are held on Sunday afternoon, and persons are sometimes arresting after the close of the Police courts on Sunday morning, who, if they cannot get bail, are locked up until Monday.

The prisons attached to the Police Courts are under the control of the Commissioners of Charities and Correction, and difficulties of jurisdiction have arisen from time to time.

The courts are served by squads of Police attached to each court, who serve papers, run errands, and perform other similar duties for the Police Justices.

THE COURT OF SPECIAL SESSIONS OF THE PEACE, having jurisdiction over all misdemeanors and over a very few felonies, such as petty larceny, is held by three Police Justices, who sit alternately for a month at a time. They sit thrice a week for about four hours, and dispose of an average of upwards of thirty or forty cases a day. No prosecuting officer appears in this court, and in many cases the Magistrates act as prosecuting attorneys, as counsel for the prisoner, as judges and as jury, a loading of responsibility which ought not b to be encouraged.

THE COURT OF GENERAL SESSIONS has for many years been held by the Recorder and the City Judge. Since the first of January, 1876, an additional Justice, known as the Judge of the Court of Special Sessions, has been added.

THE COURT OF OYER AND TERMINER, the highest criminal court in the city, is held four or five times a year by a Justice of the Supreme Court.

SUPREME COURT.--Noah Davis, Chief Justice; John R. Brady, Geo. C. Barrett, Charles Donohue, Abram R. Lawrence, Chas. H. Van Brunt, Geo. P. Andrews.

GENERAL SESSIONS.--Frederick Smyth, Recorder; Rufus B. Cowing, City Judge; Henry A. Gildersleeve.

SUPERIOR COURT.--John Sedgwick, Chief Judge; Hooper C. Van Vorst, John J. Friedman, Charles H. Truax, Richard O'Gorman, Geo. L. Ingraham.

COMMON PLEAS.--Charles P. Daly, Chief Justice; Richard L. Larremore, Miles Beach, Joseph F. Daly, George M. Van Hoesen, Henry W. Allen.

CITY COURT.--David McAdam, chief Justice; Granville P. Haws, Edward Browne, Chas. J. Nehrbas, S. Burdett Hyatt, Ernest Hall.

The personnel of the District Attorney's office comprises the following:

District Attorney, Randolph B. Martine; Assistants: John R. Fellows, Edward L. Parris, De Lancey Nicoll, Gunning S. Bedford; Deputy Assistants: James Fitzgerald, Ambrose H. Purdy, Vernon M. Davis, Bernard S. Douras; John M. Coman, Deputy and chief Clerk.

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RANDOLPH B. MARTINE is (and the statement can be made without any approach to flattery) one of the most popular public men of this city. He is popular not because of his election to the responsible office of Prosecuting Attorney of this city and county, but for hi sown sterling qualities of head and heart. Suave, considerate, generous, and polite to all, Mr. Martine is every inch a true gentleman. Mr. Martine was born in the Sixteenth Ward in 1844. He is of French-Huguenot and Irish ancestry. His father, Theodore Martine is a graduate of Columbia College, where he also studied law, and completed his legal attainments in the office of Judge Rapallo. He was admitted tot he bar in 1866. Mr. Martine is a lawyer of extensive practice and wide experience. He is the Bayard of his profession, without stain, and without reproach.

JOHN R. FELLOWS has served under six administrations in the District Attorney's office, namely, Garvin, hall, McKeon, Peckham, Olney and Martine. He is a man of ready eloquence and solid legal attainments. His power over a jury in the handling of a case has, in innumerable instances, brought conviction home to criminals who relied upon the power of money and legal talent to save them from the consequences of their crimes. Colonel Fellows is one of the leaders of the County Democracy, and is one of their most popular campaign orators.

GUNNING S. BEDFORD has had a long experience in criminal practice. He was Assistant District Attorney from 1865 to 1869, and for several years

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after was City Judge. Mr. Bedford discharges the duties of his office with zeal and ability.

DE LANCEY NICOLL has been a member of the bar for ten years, and has built up a remunerative practice at his profession. He is able and popular.

EDWARD L. PARRIS has been a practicing lawyer for twenty years in our civil courts. He is chairman of the Young Men's Democratic Club. Mr. Parris graduated from Union College, Schenectady. He is a native of Maine. He is in the prime of life, his age being forty-three years. He is a member of the law firm of Parris & Parris.

JAMES FITZGERALD, one of the youngest, and one of the ablest as well, of Mr. Martine's staff of able assistants, is a young man of talent, who, by his own force of character, talents and industry, has forged to the front rank. He is a graduate of Columbia Law School. Mr. Fitzgerald is an able pleader, and is well versed in criminal and civil law. He served in the Assembly and Senate, and has won golden opinions for his ability, affability and incorruptibility.

VERNON M. DAVIS is a young lawyer of mote. He is a member of the firm of Davis, Cohen & McWilliam. He has charge of the preparation of indictments.

AMBROSE H. PURDY is a lawyer of wide and varied experience. He was a member of Assembly from the Twenty-fourth district, and is connected with the County Democracy. He is bright, alert, and astute.

JOHN M. COMAN has been a practicing lawyer for a number of years. Previous to his coming into the District Attorney's office he had been clerk in Police Justice White's Court.

WILLIAM N. PENNY, District Attorney Martine's private secretary, took office first under the late John McKeon. Mr. Penny is a well-known journalist, and is talented, popular, and ambitious. He is a prominent member of the Press Club.

The Police Magistracy of the city have for the past ten years been spoke of by both citizens and the press as an exemplary body of public servants, laboring for the public weal with moderation and justice. The Police Justices are: James F. Kilbreth, Henry Murray, Patrick G. Duffy, Jacob M. Patterson, Jr., Maurice J. Power, Andrew J. White, Harry Ford, Solon B. Smith, John J. Gorman, Daniel O'Reilly and Charles Wilde.

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Fines averaging nearly forty thousand dollars, per annum are collected by the Magistrates in the Police Courts, and with those collected by the Warden of the city Prison, and the Clerk of the Court of Special Sessions, the yearly average amount of fines reached about seventy-five thousand dollars.

THE FIRST DISTRICT POLICE COURT, popularly known as the Tombs, comprises the district bounded by Houston Street, Broadway to Canal Street, the bowery and Catharine Street, the East and North Rivers. Seven precincts arraign their prisoners here. The tombs Police court tried more prisoners than any of the five other Police courts,. Of late years there has been a falling away in the number of arraignments, due, largely, to the gradual disappearance of the rotten old rookeries of tenements and a corresponding increase in the number of a better class of dwellings and business stores and factories. Statistics show that drunkenness has decreased in this district from twenty to forty per cent. this is due largely to the suppression by the Police of the low groggeries in the Fourth and sixth Wards.

The tombs is a huge building of unique architecture--the world has no prison like it elsewhere; it receives hundreds of prisoners every day; two courts old sessions within its gloomy walls. At all hours of the day and night officers of the law and their prisoners are passing its portals.

The tombs was erected for about two hundred prisoners. Recently, between three and four hundred a day have been received, with consequent overcrowding, notwithstanding the utmost diligence on the part of the courts in disposing of its inmates by sending them, after sentence, to the Penitentiary on Blackwell's Island, to the State Prisons at

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Sing Sing or Auburn, and to reformatories, and by the liberation of the guiltless. Vehicles known as "Black Marias," are used in bringing prisoners from local places of detention in the city and taking them to the various points of departure to the jails to which they have been sentenced.

The office of the "Female Prison" is as pleasant an apartment as womanly taste and skill can make it. It is light, and ornamented with flowers in the windows and pictures on the walls. Cells for inmates are twenty-two in number, and vary in appearance. Women and girls have fewer restraints than males. They take their meals together, flit about the corridors along which the cells are situated, and chat, and read, and sew. Three large cells are set apart for girls arrested for a first offense. Each contains half a dozen or more beds, covered with neat checkered counterpanes, and the coarse sheeting is clean. The tombs being simply a place of detention, no unnecessary prohibitions are imposed. Hence some of the cells are as presentable places as circumstances will admit of.

The "Male Prison" is by far the largest prison structure within the architectural shell known as the Tombs. It is two hundred feet in length and forty

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in width, built of massive stone four stories high. The accompanying view was taken from the second tier of the four which complete the building. Murderers' Row is on the first tier, which, by the way, has the roomiest cells. Each tier is opened into through a massive gateway, where sits the officer in charge at his desk. Arrivals of prisoners, and more of visitors, keep each of these men busy inspecting papers and closing and admitting persons. The corridors on each tier front the cells, over the grated doorway of each of which is a slate giving the prison's name.

THE SECOND DISTRICT POLICE COURT, known as Jefferson Market, vies with the Tombs in the number of cases brought there by the Police. This is one of the handsomest public buildings in the city, here are accommodations for a great many prisoners, criminals and vagrants. The latter are confined on one large apartment, known as the ten day house." From thence they are conveyed in the prison van to the foot of East Twenty-sixth Street, where

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they are taken on board the "Thomas S. Brennan," the "Minnahannock," or the "Bellevue," to Blackwell's Island.

The district comprises the territory lying south of Forty-second Street, west of Fourth Avenue, and north of Houston Street. The precincts included in its territory are the Eighth, Ninth, fifteenth, Sixteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-ninth. This district embraces the territory known as Murray Hill, all the prominent hotels, and many of the theaters and other places of amusement. The best and the worst of New York's populace live within this district.

THE THIRD DISTRICT, or Essex market Police Court, has jurisdiction over "the great East Side." Catharine Street, the Bowery, Fourteenth Street, and the East River, constitute its boundaries. The precincts represented in the district are the Seventh, Tenth, eleventh, Thirteenth, and Seventeenth.

THE FOURTH DISTRICT POLICE COURT, known as the Yorkville Police Court, and located in fifty-seventh Street, between third and Lexington Avenues, is a roomy, well-lighted building. The precincts that arraign their prisoners here are the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, Nineteenth Sub, Twenty-first, Twenty-second, and Twenty-eighth Precincts.

THE FIFTH DISTRICT POLICE COURT (Harlem) is held in the Harlem Market Building, in One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street, neat Fourth Avenue. Prisoners are brought here from the Twelfth, Twenty-third, Thirtieth, Thirty-first, and thirty-second Precincts.

THE SIXTH DISTRICT COURT is located in Morrisania on third Avenue, near One hundred and Fifty-eighth Street. The prisoners arraigned here come from the Second, Thirty-third, Thirty-fourth, and Thirty-fifth precincts.

The annual report, ending November 24, 1884, of the Police Justices, shows that the number of arrests made during the year past was fifty thousand one hundred and sixty-four males, and nineteen thousand four hundred and fifty-seven females, making a total of sixty-nine thousand six hundred and twenty-one. Those arrested on warrant process were four thousand one hundred and fifty-three males, and eight hundred and seventy-three females. There were thirty-five thousand three hundred and eight males held, while sixteenth thousand five hun-

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dred and thirty-seven females shared the same fate, making a total of fifty-one thousand eight hundred and forty-five; the number discharged being eighteen thousand seven hundred and forty-one men and three thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine women. Twenty-two cases are still pending.

The fines received from the various Police courts amounted to thirty-five thousand two hundred and fifty-eight dollars, while from the Court of special Session the sum of twenty-seven thousand one hundred and fifty-six dollars was collected. Warden Finn, of the City Prison, collected thirteen thousand nine hundred and two dollars and sixteen cents, which is four thousand dollars, short of the sum paid by malefactors the previous year.

There were three thousand six hundred and thirty-five persons committed in default of bail or released on bail for trial at General Sessions, and for trial at Special Sessions five thousand six hundred and fifty. There were twelve thousand one hundred and three persons committed for good behavior, and seventeen thousand one hundred and three persons were committed in default of payment of fine, while five thousand seven hundred and fifty-seven were released on payment of fines. The report also shows that three hundred and ninety-seven men and tow hundred and eighty-four women were committed as vagrants. There were sent to reformatory institutions one thousand nine hundred and thirty-two males and one thousand and ninety-two females. There were six hundred and forty-four insane persons committed--four hundred and forty-four men and two hundred and twenty women.

Of persons claiming to be destitute there were one thousand five hundred and eighteen men, and one thousand one hundred and fifty-three women, a total of two thousand sic hundred and seventy-one persons. There were six hundred and sixty-five person sent to the roman Catholic Protectory; to the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin, five hundred and fifty-four; Juvenile Asylum, two hundred and eighty-three; St. Joseph's

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Asylum, two hundred and thirty-seven; Institute of Mercy, two hundred; House of Refuge, one hundred and fifty; and to the Home of Good Shepherd, twenty-nine.

The various charges were: Abduction, fourteen; abortion, eight; arson, sixteen; assault and battery, three thousand eight hundred and eighty-two; felonious assault and battery, seven hundred and fifteen; assault with intent to steal, fifty-three; attempted suicide, eighty-five; bigamy, thirteen; burglary, seven hundred and ninety-one; cruelty to animals, two hundred and forty-two; cruelty of children, twenty-eight thousand six hundred and ninety-six; keeping a disorderly house, one hundred and fifty-nine; disorderly persons, seven hundred and eighty-five; and felonies not classified, ninety-two.

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There were fifty-four forgers and thirty-nine fugitives from justice. Of these thirty-eight were discharged and only one held. The gamblers numbered fifty-five; homicides, eighty-eight; drunkards, twenty thousand four hundred and forty-five; thieves, grand larceny, one thousand four hundred and fifty-seven; petty larceny, three thousand two hundred ands two; larceny from the person, six hundred and ninety; perjury, nineteen; rape, thirty-five; receivers of stolen goods, eighty-one; suspicious persons, one thousand four hundred and forty; vagrants, six thousand two hundred and seventy-five; violators of Corporation ordinances, seven hundred and seventy-one; violators of the election law, thirty-one; Excise law, one thousand three hundred and fifty-six; Lottery law, one hundred and eight; Sanitary code, four hundred and twenty-one; Sunday law, twenty-nine.

There were eighty-five persons charged with attempted suicide, eighty being discharged. The number of persons arrested for burglary and discharged was one hundred and fifty-one; and eight thousand three hundred and eight persons arrested for disorderly conduct were discharged. Thirty-four gamblers were discharged.

The idea of disseminating among all classes of society, by means of popular lectures, general information as to the preliminary treatment of the sick and

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injured, originated with the St. John Ambulance Association, which was organized in London in 1877. The success achieved by this Association led to the state Charities Aid Association, in January, 1882, to appoint a committee, under the chairmanship of General George B. McClellan, to establish courses of lectures on "First Aid to the Injured." So rapid was the growth of the work thus undertaken by the committee, and so general the demand for instructions, as to necessitate a more complete organization, and, accordingly, in February, 1883, the committee re-organized as "the Society for Instruction in First Aid to the Injured."



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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