Our Police Protectors
History of New York Police
Chapter 3, Part 2

By Holice and Debbie

 

No convict whose sentence was below three years imprisonment was admitted into this prison. In the beginning of the year 1796, a bill "for making alterations in the criminal laws of the State and the erecting of a State Prison," was introduced into the Senate by General Philip Schuyler, of revolutionary memory, and became a law on the twenty-sixth of March in the same year. By this law two State Prisons were directed to be built--one at New York and the other in Albany. The plan of the prison at Albany was afterward relinquished, and the whole of the money appropriated of both prisons was directed to be applied to the one in the city. It was begun in the summer of 1796, and so far finished that the first prisoners were received into it in the summer of 1797. The original cost of the grounds, buildings, wharf, was two hundred and eight thousand, eight hundred and forty-six dollars. It was in later years used as a brewery--thus retaining its traditions.

On March 2, 1798, an act was passed establishing a police office in this city, the location to be selected by the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commanalty. The object was to facilitate the apprehension of criminals. The chancellor, Mayor, Judges of the Supreme Court, Recorder and Aldermen were to act in the office as conservators of the peace. Two Justices of the Peace, at a salary of $750, were appointed, one at least to be in attendance daily at the police office. This office was located in the City Hall. A tax levy of $3,000 was also authorized for employing night watchmen and lamplighters for one year, the Mayor and Commonalty to determine the number of men required. On March 20th of the succeeding year, the Mayor, etc., were authorized to raise by tax a sum not to exceed $32,000, for purchasing oil, paying Watchmen, cleaning well, etc. A similar law was passed for several successive years.

There was not material change, then, until September of this year, when the Common council resolved to double the Watch on account of the increase in crime. In May, 1799, Mr. Culbertson, who had been the Captain from the time of the evacuation, died and Mr. Van Wart was appointed in his place. In 1801, a second Captain was appointed, the number of men being then seventy-two.

The duties of the police were discharged by three Justices, appointed for the purpose by the Council of appointment, and removable at pleasure. The chancellor, Justices of the Supreme Court, and Members of the Common council, as conservators of the peace, might attend and assist the Police Justices. A court was held every day, except Sunday; at which one, at least, of the Justices, and the Police clerk, were inconstant attendance at sunrise every morning to take cognizance of offences committed against the good order and peace of the city.

An act regulating the fees of the several Officers and Ministers of Justice within this State, passed April 8, 1801, regulated Constables' fees as follows:

For serving a warrant nineteen cents; serving a summons, twelve and a half cents; mileage, for every mile going only, sic cents; levying a fine, or penalty to the amount of two dollars and fifty cents or under, twelve and a half cents; and all sums above two dollars and fifty cents at the rate of twelve and a half cents on every two dollars and fifty cents. Taking a defendant in custody or a mittimus, twelve and a half cents; conveying a person to goal, twelve and a half cents, if within one mile; and for every mole more going only, six cents.

In 1802 six new "Captains or Commanders of the City Watch" were appointed. Their duties were to direct the Watchmen, and visit the different stations, each in his district, once a night. The number of Watchmen was now one hundred and twenty, and the system just at this time cost an average of about $25,000 a year. No person could be employed upon the Watch who was not a citizen of the Untied States. The Captains had to report daily to the Police Justice the names of all the men who had been on duty the night before, and they had, besides, to keep registers containing similar information. It was defined as the duty of every Watchman to continue sober, orderly, and vigilant, and in every respect to obey the commands of the Captain of his district--rules of conduct not unworthy the respect of the Watchmen of the present time. The old law goes on thus:

"If any Watchmen shall sleep while on his station, or commit any Act of violence except such as may be strictly necessary in the execution of his duty, or disobey such orders as shall from time to time be given him, it shall be the duty of the several Captains or Commanders without delay to report the name of such offenders together with his offense to the Mayor, in his absence, to the Recorder, who are hereby authorized and directed immediately to supersede such offender, and to appoint some proper person in his stead."

The stipend of the guardians of the peace was again increased at this time, each Watchman being allowed five shillings and six pence for every night's service, the Captains receiving eleven shillings.

In August of this year the city was divided into three police districts, as follows:

First District--To begin at the ferry stirs at the lower end of Cortland Street, thence to Broadway, thence to Chatham, to the Brick meeting, down Beekman to Pearl, to the head of Peck Slip, to East River.

Second District--To begin at the east side of Peck Slip, to run up East river to Bullock Street, to Bowery lane, thence through William Street to Broadway, down to the Arch Bridge to the place of intended canal; up the line of the canal to head of same; to Cross Street, to Tryon Row, to Chatham Street, to the Brick meeting, thence down the line of the First District to the place of the beginning.

Third District--To begin at the place of beginning of the First, to continue by the line of the same to the Brick meeting, tot he line of the Second District, to William Street, thence in a direct line to the outlet of the meadow of Anthony Lispenard, into the North River; thence down said river to the first place of beginning.

The committee reported that the most proper place forth erection of a watch-house for the third District "appears to be on a certain gore of ground owned by this Board at the intersection of Hudson, Barley and Duane Streets, sufficient for the same and probably of small value for any other particular purpose."

In view of the fact that the Second and Third Districts covered so large a space of ground, the Watch was ordered to patrol in lieu of having regular stands, except the Jail and Bridewell, and such other places as the Mayor for the time being should especially point out.

In 1803, an ordinance was passed formally designating the Commandants "Captains of the Night Watch." The number of privates were again increased to one hundred and forty. This was the year when the foundation of the present City hall was laid. It was a year of activity, and brought forth, among other things, a new set of regulation for the Watch. The City was divided into three districts, fifty men being assigned to the first; fifty-four to the second; and thirty-six to the third. Two Captains were appointed to each district, and they were ordered to fix the stations or rounds for the men, whom they had power to suspend for misconduct, pending the final action of the Common Council, which alone, it would appear, had power to discharge a Watchman. The Captains were required to give personal attendance to their districts every second night; and were liable to immediate removal from office in case of any neglect of duty. Every Captain had to keep a roll of men who performed duty each night, and of absentees, and to furnish a transcript of the entries every morning to the Magistrates. Watchmen, even though assigned to particular stations, were required to give assistance at any point where disorder might break out. Intoxicants or other faults on their part was to be forthwith reported by the Captains to the Mayor, or Recorder; and vacancies in their ranks by death or otherwise were to similarly announced. Every Captain, as well as every Watchman, was placed under the order of the Mayor, Recorder, or any of the Aldermen; and all officers were expressly cautioned to detain prisoners until discharged by proper Magistrates. The pay of these guardians of the peace will strike the world of to-day as ridiculously small; but I must be remembered that at this early period, the purchasing power of money was much greater than now, one dollar then being at least as good as to at the present time. The Captains pay was set by the ordinance, which we have just been quoting, at $1.50 for every night's actual service, and each of the other Watchmen at 70 cents.

The following persons were appointed Captains of the Night-Watch: Nicholas Lawrence and William Van Zandt, First District; Magnus Beekman, Nathan H. Rockwell, Second District: Jacob Hays, Charles Van Order, Third District.

No better illustration could be afforded of the pinching official economy practiced in those days than the recorded fact that "the comptroller was directed in 1803 to let out the upper part of the Watch-House in the First District."

The High Constable, under the Dongan charter (1686), and under the Montgomerie charter (17300, was appointed by the Mayor yearly on the feast of St. Michael, September 29. The time of appointment was changed by an act passed April 5, 1804, to the third Tuesday of November. According to the former charter seven Constables were to be elected and chosen annually, viz.: one for each of the first wards respectively, and two for the out ward. The number was increased to sixteen under the latter charter, two of whom were to be elected annually for each of the first six wards respectively, and four for the out ward. Should an elected Constable refuse to serve, he was liable to be fined £15, and another was elected in his place. It was his duty to attend upon the Mayor, Recorder, and on any of the Aldermen to execute their commands; to aid and obey the Inspectors at the election for charter offices. The number of Marshals was again increased to eighteen by the act of 1801. These were elected by ballot (two for each ward) on the third Tuesday Wednesday in November, and were sworn into office on the first Monday in December. It was a part of their duty to attend fires, with their badges of authority. The power of appointment and displacing Watchmen, Bellman, etc., was conferred on the Common Council by the Motgomerie charter. This charter also assigned the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Recorder and Aldermen, by virtue of their offices, to be Justices. The act of 1801 provided for the appointment of two Special Justices, as often as should be deemed necessary for the preservation of the peace. One of these Special Justices and his clerk, throughout the day attended at the police office for the execution of business. Each Special Justice was allowed a salary of $750 per annum, "together with such fees as are by law allowed to Justices of the Peace." the Justices examined persons detained by the Night-Watch and made such order on each case as justice might require. They superintended and directed the discharge of the Night-Watch every morning upon the conclusion of the services of the night. These special Justices were invested with the power of Aldermen in certain cases.

The Montgomerie charter made the number of Aldermen six. The Dongan charter increased the number to seven, and in 1803, by act, the number was increased to nine. They were, under the charters named, chosen annually, one for each ward by the electors of each ward, on the feast of St. Michael. By the Act of 1804 they were elected by ballot, on the third Tuesday and Wednesday of November. The Aldermen were invested with magisterial powers; any one of them might commit to the common Jail persons guilty or suspected of crimes and misdemeanors; to the bridewell or workhouse, rogues, vagabonds, and suspicious persons. According to the Dongan charter, the Mayor and Recorder, "with three or more Aldermen," were assigned Justices of the Peace, to hear and determine tall causes within the city. Like powers were conferred upon them by the Montgomerie charter.

Marshals and constables were ordered in 1805 to g about the city during the warm season, and apprehend and bring before the Magistrates all vagrants, that they might be dealt with according to the law.

By resolution of the Board, it became the duty of the Aldermen and assistants of each ward, at least once in every week, at such hour as they should deem proper, to visit the watch-houses, and, if possible, the several watch-posts, and inspect into the conduct of the Captains, Assistants, and Watchmen, and report weekly to the Common Council. The Watch committee were also required to notify the Aldermen and Assistants in rotation, who were detailed for such duty, beginning at the First Ward.

The year 1805 gives us an early example of a "good arrest." It was rewarded by the Common Council, thought not with surprising liberality. On July 8 the Watch committee recommended the appropriations of $23 to reward the Marshals and Watchmen, who apprehended Francisco, a Portuguese, charged with murder. The allowance was made, being divided as follows: $5 to Richard Nixon, and $2 each to N. Hill, J. Lockwood, J. Williams, Stephen Hall, Robert Furlong, -----Banta, P. Paulding, Thomas Darling, and Thomas Freeburn. Francisco was afterwards, committed and executed.

In 1806 the Legislature fixed the Constable's bond at $500, and the bond of the Justices' Clerks at $2,500. The board of Health was authorized to raise $25,000 by lottery, the money to be applied to the erection of buildings for the accommodations of persons suffering from malignant diseases, and twelve men were added to the Watch. The men returned to the charge respecting their pay. Their petition was referred to the Watch Committee. The Common Council resolved that no person should thereafter be appointed Watchman until he had been inspected and approved by the Watch committee. The committee was authorized to station a guard before any church during the hours of worship on the request of the congregation. The removal of the Watchmen's boxes was ordered, as being obnoxious during summer,. And a preamble was adopted setting forth that several Watchmen the Third district were reported by Captain Goodheart to be also firemen, and when fire broke out left their regular posts to aid in extinguishing it. This was followed by a resolution that no fireman should be a Watchmen of the City. The City Superintendent of Repairs was instructed to furnish painted and numbered staves to Constables and Marshals.

An act for establishing Courts of Justice of the Peace and Assistant Justices, in and for the City and County of New York (April 6, 1807), empowered the Governor of the State, by and with the advice and consent of the council of appointment, to appoint and commission "one proper person" in and for each of the respective wards of the city, to be known and distinguished by the name of Assistant Justices of the City of New York.

In like manner a Justices' Court was appointed, consisting of three Justices, who held court in the City Hall.

Constables and Marshals attending the former courts were entitled to the following fees:

 

For serving every Summons

19 Cents

For serving every Warrant

25

For returning a Summons or Warrant

6

For taking the defendant into custody on a mittimus, commitment or execution

12

For serving an execution for $2.50 or under

25

" " " $2.50 and more, additional rate of

6

For traveling, if above one mile, for every mile, going only

12-1/2

For summoning a Jury

37-1/2

For going with the plaintiff or defendant to procure security

25

For notifying plaintiff for trial

12

The following fees were allowed to the constables and Marshal assigned to he latter court:

For serving every summons

19 cents

For serving every Warrant

37-1/2

For taking a Bail Bond

25

For returning a Bail bon

6

For summoning a Jury

50

For taking the defendant into custody

12-1/2

For conveying a person to jail

12-1/2

For serving an execution

25

For traveling, if above one mile, going only

12-1/2

For procuring security, with plaintiff or defendant

25

For notifying defendant to give security

12-1/2

For notifying plaintiff for trial

12-1/2

For serving a subpoena on each witness

12-1/2

 

 

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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

HTML by Debbie

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