Our Police Protectors
Chapter 5, Part 4
By Holice and Debbie
| The whole number of arrests made from the first organization of the
Police Department, July 13, 1845, to December 31, 1850, was as
The total number of person apprehended from the first day of May, 1848, to the thirtieth day of April, 1849, was twenty-five thousand seven hundred and sixty-nine.
The effective force on the first day of May, 1849, was eight hundred and eighty-nine, to wit: Captains, seventeen; Assistant Captains, thirty-six; Sergeants, seventy-four; and Policemen, seven hundred and sixty-two.
On the first day of January, 1851, the effective force of the Police was eight hundred and ninety-three, namely: Captains, eighteen; Assistant Captains, thirty-six; Sergeants, seventy; and Policemen, seven hundred and sixty-nine.
The Police station houses were located as follows:
Ordinance of minor importance followed. One of these authorized the appointment of thirty-seven Policemen in the Nineteenth Ward; and another the appointment of two Doormen in each of the station houses of the Twelfth and Nineteenth Wards. Still another ordinance (January 15, 1852) appointed fifty-three policemen to the Twentieth Ward, in addition to the Captain and First and Second Assistant Captains.
The legislature (July 11, 1851) amended that section of the charter of 1849 which referred to Police matters.
The amendment in question declared that should the Mayor neglect or refuse to nominate the Chief of Police for five days after the commencement of the sessions of he Common council, held in August, 1851, it became the duty of the Board of Aldermen to appoint such office forthwith. In like manner, in case the Mayor has made such nomination, and that it was rejected by the Common council, that body had power to appoint such officer, provided that five days of any such session had elapsed without nomination having been made by the Mayor.
During the six months from the first day of July to the thirty-first day of December, 1852, here were arrested by the police nineteen thousand nine hundred and ninety-one persons for various offenses' bring one thousand four hundred and forty-eight more than were attested during the corresponding period in 1851. During the first part of the year 1852 offences against the person became of such frequent occurrence that peaceable citizens became alarmed, and were afraid to venture beyond their domiciles after a certain hour in the evening; while it was evident that many of the policemen were careless, if not indolent, and rather preferred to turn away from places where they were likely to get hard usage, but little honor, than to interfere with evil disposed persons. To remedy this, the Mayor had directed the whole Police force to be placed on duty during the day and night, which had, in part, the desired effect, as it was soon manifest that there was an increased watchfulness and care on the part of the force, and the order was then revoked.
AS the November election of 1852, Jacob A. Westervelt was elected Mayor. During the ensuing session of the legislature, the city charter was again amended in some important particulars, among which was the institution of a Board of Councilmen, composed of sixty members, to be chosen respectively from the sixty districts into which the Common Council was directed to apportion the city, in the place of the long-standing Board of Assistant Aldermen.
Of none hundred and three policemen, composing the entire force of the city, one hundred and seventy-eight were , on March 17, 1853, detailed to do special duty at the various civic courts, public courts, court of sessions, bell tower, etc., leaving but seven hundred and twenty-five to watch and guard the entire county of New York, being about an average of thirty-six men to each district during the night. One half of this number, say eighteen, were on duty, while the other half were sleeping in the station-houses; so that one man had to watch from nine to fifteen blocks, according to the size of the district. Should any of them be taken sick, then the size of the beat was increased; so that it was claimed it was impossible for the men to prevent crime or detect offenders as they should have done, even though they had exercised unwonted vigilance.
The system of detailment, it was found, had grown to be an evil of great and increasing magnitude, alike unjust to the citizens and to the members of the Police Department. The larger part of those detailed had but light duties to perform, when compared with those on patrol duty, while on the other hand on detailed men arduous duties were imposed, keeping then employed during the day and the greater part of the night, and yet all were included under one head by the existing ordinances, and received one hundred dollars less than the Patrolmen. Under this system there had been no reward for merit, and the Policemen who could obtain the greatest number of influential friends to intercede for him could procure a berth where he might spend his time in comparative ease and idleness, while his less fortunate comrade, who had performed his duty zealously, and with a conscientious regard for the oath he had taken, received no honor, no favor, and was not advanced, simply because he had no influential friends to advocate his claim. Thus the incentive to do right and perform duty with cheerfulness was removed, and all experience ha demonstrated the necessity of an incentive to induce men to push forward with active exertion in any pursuit o life which they might have expected that the men would perform any greater amount of duties than they were absolutely compelled to perform by the vigilance of their superior officers, by which continual strife was kept up between the officers and Policemen. Ill-feelings were engendered, which soon ripened into the bitterest hatred and enmity, and which were carried out of the department into the private walks of life.
These or similar views were held and expressed by Chair Matsell, who also claimed that if promotions for posts of honor and profit were the reward of merit, it would be an incentive for each man to endeavor to surpass his peers in watchfulness and in the fidelity with which he would discharge his duty to the public. By doing so, he would be making consistent and honest efforts to advance his own interests, and thereby the public interests would be far better served, citizens would be fully protected in their persons and property, and the character of the city enhanced.
These views, it would appear, are no less sound at the present day than they were at the time in question.
|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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