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II

ADMINISTERING THE NEW YORK

POLICE FORCE*

IN

N New York, in the fall of 1894, Tammany Hall

was overthrown by a coalition composed partly of the regular Republicans, partly of anti-Tammany Democrats, and partly of Independents. Under the latter head must be included a great many men who in national politics habitually act with one or the other of the two great parties, but who feel that in municipal politics good citizens should act independently. The tidal wave, which was running high against the Democratic party, was undoubtedly very influential in bringing about the antiTammany victory; but the chief factor in producing the result was the widespread anger and disgust felt by decent citizens at the corruption which, under the sway of Tammany, had honeycombed every department of the city government, but especially the police force. A few well-meaning people have at times tried to show that this corruption was not so very great. In reality it would be difficult to overestimate the utter rottenness of many branches of the city administration. There were a few honorable and high-minded Tammany officials, and there were * Atlantic Monthly, September, 1897.

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a few bureaus which were administered with more or less efficiency, although dishonestly. But the corruption had become so widespread as seriously to impair the work of administration, and to bring us back within measurable distance of the days of Tweed.

The chief centre of corruption was the Police Department. No man not intimately acquainted with both the lower and humbler sides of New York life --for there is a wide distinction between the twocan realize how far this corruption extended. Except in rare instances, where prominent politicians made demands which could not be refused, both promotions and appointments toward the close of Tammany rule were made almost solely for money, and the prices were discussed with cynical frankness. There was a well-recognized tariff of charges, ranging from two or three hundred dollars for appointment as a patrolman, to twelve or fifteen thousand dollars for promotion to the position of captain. The money was reimbursed to those who paid it by an elaborate system of blackmail. This was chiefly carried on at the expense of gamblers, liquor-sellers, and keepers of disorderly houses; but every form of vice and crime contributed more or less, and a great many respectable people who were ignorant or timid were blackmailed under pretence of forbidding or allowing them to violate obscure ordinances and the like. From top to bottom the New York police force was utterly demoralized by the gangrene of such a system, where venality and blackmail went hand in

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hand with the basest forms of low ward politics, and where the policeman, the ward politician, the liquorseller, and the criminal alternately preyed on one another and helped one another to prey on the general public.

In May, 1895, I was made president of the newly appointed police board, whose duty it was to cut out the chief source of civic corruption in New York by cleansing the police department. The police board consisted of four members. All four of the new men were appointed by Mayor Strong, the reform Mayor, who had taken office in January.

With me was associated, as treasurer of the Board, Mr. Avery D. Andrews. He was a Democrat and I a Republican, and there were questions of national politics on which we disagreed widely; but such questions could not enter into the administration of the New York police, if that administration was to be both honest and efficient; and as a matter of fact, during my two years' service, Mr. Andrews and I worked in absolute harmony on every important question of policy which arose. The prevention of blackmail and corruption, the repression of crime and violence, safeguarding of life and property, securing honest elections, and rewarding efficient and punishing inefficient police service, are not, and can not properly be made, questions of party difference. In other words, such a body as the police force of New York can be wisely and properly administered only upon a non-partisan basis, and both Mr. Andrews and myself were quite incapable of managing

a few bureaus which were administered with more or less efficiency, although dishonestly. But the co ruption had become so widespread as seriously to impair the work of administration, and to bring us back within measurable distance of the days of Tweed.

The chief centre of corruption was the Police Department. No man not intimately acquainted with both the lower and humbler sides of New York life —for there is a wide distinction between the twocan realize how far this corruption extended. Except in rare instances, where prominent politicians made demands which could not be refused, both promotions and appointments toward the close of Tammany rule were made almost solely for money, and the prices were discussed with cynical frankness. There was a well-recognized tariff of charges, ranging from two or three hundred dollars for appointment as a patrolman, to twelve or fifteen thousand dollars for promotion to the position of captain. The money was reimbursed to those who paid it by an elaborate system of blackmail. This was chiefly carried on at the expense of gamblers, liquor-sellers, and keepers of disorderly houses; but every form of vice and crime contributed more or less, and a great many respectable people who were ignorant or timid were blackmailed under pretence of forbidding or allowing them to violate obscure ordinances and the like. From top to bottom the New York police force was utterly demoralized by the gangrene of such a system, where venality and blackmail went hand in

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hand with the basest forms of low ward politics, and where the policeman, the ward politician, the liquorseller, and the criminal alternately preyed on one another and helped one another to prey on the general public.

In May, 1895, I was made president of the newly appointed police board, whose duty it was to cut out the chief source of civic corruption in New York by cleansing the police department. The police board consisted of four members. All four of the new men were appointed by Mayor Strong, the reform Mayor, who had taken office in January.

With me was associated, as treasurer of the Board, Mr. Avery D. Andrews. He was a Democrat and I a Republican, and there were questions of national politics on which we disagreed widely; but such questions could not enter into the administration of the New York police, if that administration was to be both honest and efficient; and as a matter of fact, during my two years' service, Mr. Andrews and I worked in absolute harmony on every important question of policy which arose. The prevention of blackmail and corruption, the repression of crime and violence, safeguarding of life and property, securing honest elections, and rewarding efficient and punishing inefficient police service, are not, and can not properly be made, questions of party difference. In other words, such a body as the police force of New York can be wisely and properly administered only upon a non-partisan basis, and both Mr. Andrews and myself were quite incapable of managing

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