CHAPTER IV. THE METROPOLITAN POLICE.

The Metropolitan Police are justly the pride of New York, for the City is chiefly indebted to the force for its quiet and security. The old police system needs no description here. It was a failure in every respect. It failed to protect either life or property. Criminals performed their exploits with impunity, and were either encouraged or aided by the police in many instances. The members of the old force were too often taken from the ranks of the criminal classes, and made to serve the ends of unprincipled politicians. Finally the system became so worthless and corrupt that the best men of the City and State, without distinction of party, resolved to take the control of the police out of the hands of the Mayor and Council, and place them under the direction of a Commissioner appointed by the Legislature.

                     THE NEW SYSTEM.

The resolution to make the police independent of the politicians in the City government, was the last resort left to the better class of citizens, and the Legislature, appreciating the necessity for prompt action, at once complied with the demand made for a change. A "Metropolitan District,", consisting of the cities of New York and Brooklyn, the counties of New York, Kings, Richmond, and Westchester, and a part of Queens county, embracing a circuit of about thirty miles, was created by law. The control of this district was given to a commission of five citizens, subject to the supervision of the Legislature. The Mayors of New York and Brooklyn were made ex-officio members of this board.

Mr. Wood, who was Mayor of New York at the time of the passage of this law, resolved to resist it, and to continue the old police in power. His conduct came near creating a terrible riot, but he was at length induced to submit to the law. The new system worked badly for some years, owing to the incompetency of the persons appointed as superintendent; but in 1860 a change was made. Mr. John A. Kennedy was appointed Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police, and the number of the commissioners was cut down to three. The law was remodeled, and besides other important changes, the duties of each member of the force were clearly defined.

The new superintendent set to work with a will, and it was not long before the benefits of his administration became manifest. He had been informed that the force was almost as incompetent and inefficient as its old time predecessor, and he resolved to stop this. He caused the creation of the grade of inspector, and the appointment of energetic and reliable men. These inspectors are required to keep a constant watch over the rank and file of the force. They report every breach of discipline, examine the station houses and every thing connected with them, at pleasure. No member or officer of the force has the right to refuse to allow such examination or to refuse to answer any question put to him concerning his duty. The effect of this new rank was most happy. The men became conscious that the eyes of their superiors were on them at all times, and that the slightest breach of discipline on their part was sure to be detected and reported. The force became attentive and efficient, as if by magic. Incompetent and insubordinate members were thrown out, and good men put in their places. Matters continued to improve, until now, after a lapse of nearly eight years, the city has the best police force in the world.

                     "KING KENNEDY."

Mr. Kennedy is not a popular man in New York. To say that he has made mistakes in his present position, is but to say he is human. He has had a hard task before him, but he has succeeded in accomplishing it. He has given order, security, and a sense of security to the city, and it is not strange that in so doing he has made numerous enemies. He has often exceeded his power, and has committed acts that smack strongly of petty tyranny; but there can be no doubt of the fact that he has earnestly and faithfully labored for the cause of law and order. He makes the best chief of police this country has ever seen, and when he is gone, his place will be hard to fill.

Mr. Kennedy has Scotch-Irish blood in his veins, which may be the reason of his success. He is small in size, and quiet and unobtrusive in his demeanor. He has executive ability of a high order, but inclines rather strongly to the side of arbitrary power, which trait has earned him, amongst the masses, the title of "King Kennedy." He has infused his energy into the force, and is entitled to the greater part, if not all of the credit for the success of the new system.

                     THE FORCE.

The police force on duty in the city, consists of one super intendent, four inspectors, thirty-four captains, one hundred and thirty-one sergeants, one thousand eight hundred and six patrolmen, sixty-nine doormen, and fifty special policemen, making a total of two thousand and ninety-five officers and men. The men are clothed in a neat uniform of dark blue cloth, with caps of hard polished leather. They are armed with clubs and revolvers, and are regularly drilled in military tactics. In case of a riot, this enables them to act together, and with greater efficiency against a mob. The most rigid discipline prevails, and the slightest error on the part of officers or men is reported at headquarters.

There are thirty-three precincts, including the detective squad. The force is charged with the duty of guarding about three hundred day and four hundred night posts, about four hundred and twenty-five miles of streets in the patrol districts, and fourteen miles of piers. There are twenty-five station houses fitted up as lodging rooms for the men, and having room also for accommodating wandering or destitute persons, large numbers of whom thus receive temporary shelter.

During the year ending October 31, 1865, (which may be taken as a fair specimen of the work of the force,) 68,873 arrests were made. Of these 48,754 were males, 20,119 females; 53,911 arrests were for offences against the person; 14,962; for offences against property. The following table will show the status of New York criminal society. 
                     Total Charge Males Females Arrests Assault and Battery 6,077 1,667 7,744 Assault with intent to kill 197 1 198 Attempt at rape 40 - - 40 Abortion 2 2 4 Bastardy 141 - - 141 Bigamy 14 5 19 Disorderly conduct 8,542 5,412 13,954 Intoxication 11,482 4,936 16,418 Juvenile delinquents 154 25 179 Kidnapping 20 5 25 Suspicious persons 1,617 440 2,057 Vagrancy 978 838 1,816 Arson 35 - - 35 Attempts to steal 236 9 245 Burglary 291 3 294 Forgery 151 3 154 Fraud 104 17 121 Grand Larceny 1,675 946 2,621 Gambling 249 3 252 Highway robbery 199 6 205 Keeping disorderly house 177 165 342 Picking pockets 225 20 275 Petit larceny 3,380 1,860 5,240 Passing counterfeit money 414 46 460 Receiving stolen goods 166 51 217 Swindling 5 3 8 Violations of the Sunday laws 183 20 203

                     ON DUTY.

The police are mustered at a certain hour in the morning by their officers, and are marched from the station house to their "beats." The day patrol is relieved by that appointed for night duty. The men are required to be neat in their persons and dress, and to be polite and respectful to citizens. They are required to give information to strangers and citizens concerning localities, etc., and to render prompt assistance in suppressing any kind of violence or disorder. They are instructed to direct persons not to lounge or loiter on the main thoroughfares, which are always too much crowded to permit such obstructions. Details are made for places of amusement and public resort. If the patrolman on duty at one of these places sees a known thief or pickpocket enter, he orders him to leave the premises. If the fellow refuses to obey, he is arrested and locked up in the station house for the night. By this means respectable persons, at public resorts, are saved heavy losses at the hands of the "light-fingered gentry."

The largest and finest looking men are detailed for the. Broadway Squad. The duties of this Squad are heavy, and often require not only considerable patience, but great physical endurance.

                     HEADQUARTERS.

The Police Headquarters of the Metropolitan District are located in a handsome marble building, five stories high, situated on Mulberry Street, between Houston and Bleecker Streets. The building is fitted up with great taste for the express accommodation of the business of the force. The greatest order prevails. Every thing is in its place, and every man in his. There is no confusion. Each department has its separate room.

The Superintendent's office is connected by telegraph with every precinct in the entire district. By means of this wonderful invention a few seconds only are required to dispatch the orders of "King Kennedy" to any part of the district. News of a robbery and description of the burglar are flashed all over the city and adjoining country before the man has fairly secured his plunder. If a child is lost a description is sent in the same way to each precinct, and in a marvellously quick time the little one is restored to its mother's arms. By means of his little instrument, "King Kennedy" can track a criminal not only all over his own district, but all over the Union. He is firm in the exercise of his authority - often harsh and too impulsive, but on the whole as just as human nature will allow a man to be.

                     THE TRIAL ROOM.

One of the most interesting rooms in the headquarters is that for the trial of complaints against members of the force. Every sworn charge is brought before Commissioner Acton? who notifies the accused to appear before him to answer to it. Except in very grave cases, the men employ no counsel. The charge is read, the Commissioner hears the statements of the accused, and the evidence on both sides, and renders his decision, which must be ratified by the full "Board". The majority of the charges are for breaches of discipline. A patrolman leaves his beat for a cup of coffee on a cold morning, or night, or reads a newspaper, or smokes, or stops to converse while on duty. The punishment for these offences is a stoppage of pay for a day or two. First offences are usually forgiven. Many well-meaning but officious citizens enter complaints against the men. They are generally frivolous, but are heard patiently, and are dismissed with a warning to the accused to avoid giving cause for complaint. Thieves and disreputable characters sometimes enter complaints against the men, with the hope of getting them into trouble. The Commissioner's experience enables him to settle these cases at once, generally to the dismay and grief of the accuser. Any real offence on the part of the men is punished promptly and severely, but the Commissioners endeavor by every means to protect them in the discharge of their duty, and against impositions of any kind.

Another room in the headquarters is called 
                     THE PROPERTY ROOM.

This is a genuine "curiosity shop". It is filled with unclaimed property of every description, found by or delivered to the police, by other parties finding the same, or taken from criminals at the time of their arrest. The room is in charge of a property, clerk, who enters each article, and the facts connected with it, in a book kept for that purpose. Property once placed in this room is not allowed to be taken away, except upon certain specified conditions. Unclaimed articles are sold, after being kept a certain length of time, and the proceeds are paid to the Police Life Insurance Fund.

                     MISCELLANEOUS.

When a man applies for a position in the police force, he has to show proofs of his good character and capacity before he can be employed. As soon as he is appointed, he is provided with a uniform, assigned to a precinct, and put on duty. For one month after his appointment he is required to study the book of laws for the government of the force, and to be examined daily in these studies by Inspector James Leonard; who is in charge of the "Class of Instruction." These examinations are continued until the recruit is found proficient in the theoretical knowledge of his duties.

The following extract from the Metropolitan Police Law will show the care taken of the men: -

If any member of the Metropolitan Police Force, whilst in the actual performance of duty, shall become permanently disabled, so as to render his dismissal from membership proper, or if any such member shall become superannuated after a ten years' membership, a sum of not exceeding one hundred and fifty dollars, as an annuity, to be paid such member, shall become chargeable upon the Metropolitan Police Life Insurance Fund. If any member of the Metropolitan Police Force whilst in the actual discharge of his duty, shall be killed, or shall die from the immediate effect of any injury received by him, whilst in such discharge of duty, or shall die after ten years' service in the force, and shall leave a widow, and if no widow, any child or children under the age of sixteen years, a like sum, by way of annuity, shall become chargeable upon the said fund, to be paid such widow so long only as she remains unmarried, or to such child or children so long as said child, or the youngest of said children, continues under the age of sixteen years.

We do not claim, in what we have written, that the police of this city are perfect, but we do maintain that they are better than those of any other American city.