Brooklyn Gives to the Greater New York It's Finest of Police and Firemen

Brooklyn will give to the Greater New York a well equipped Police Department and an equally efficient fire fighting brigade. As a matter of fact these two branches of the Brooklyn municipal government have been recognized all over the country as second to none in the United States. The police force of this city has been complimented over and again by officials from other cities. The last notable commendation of the local police force came from Captain Wittman of the San Francisco force, who came all the way from the Pacific slope to make investigation into the police departments of the East. He was commissioned to do the work by the municipal authorities of San Francisco and all his traveling expenses were paid by the city. Captain Wittman is a comparatively young man of progressive ideas and from Chicago to the coast of Maine he saw policemen in all the greater departments. The boasted "finest" of New York City of course took his special attention, for there never was a body of policemen so well advertised. But Captain Wittman recognized that the New York force was over estimated and he had the honesty to say, when he returned to San Francisco, that in the matter of morale, in the character of the men, in the efficiency of their work, in the excellence of the accommodations offered, in their manner of treating prisoners and in the matter of uniform and equipments, the Brooklyn force was much superior to that of New York, and that, indeed, it was the best officered and managed police service in the country.

The Fire Department of Brooklyn has also stepped to the front in the matter of Discipline, equipment and efficiency during the last score of years. Time was when the fire fighters of this city were looked down upon by the force in New York. Now we are well up with them in all matters appertaining to the work of fighting the flames. The men in the Brooklyn houses can reach a fire as quickly as their neighbors in the larger city, and the record of their work recently in managing what at the time seemed to be the beginning of a serious conflagration, p roves that the force is efficient in the matter of coping successfully with threatening situations.

Chief Dale is a fireman from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. He has spent his life in the service and the matter of extinguishing fires has been a science with him for many, many years. He has an efficient corps of assistants in the two assistant engineers and the thirteen district engineers. There may not be so much display on this side of the river as in New York, but the men who are not always on exhibition manage to do their duty just as well as the officers of the greater city.

Growth of the Two Departments

The growth of the police and fire departments of Brooklyn has been marvelous. The city has not been niggardly in its policy and although there have been complaints that the city did not furnish enough policemen and firemen and that the men in the department have been overworked, it is nevertheless a fact that Brooklyn has been well protected from thieves and fires. There are now in the fire department one chief, 2 assistant chiefs, 13 district engineers, 71 foremen, 74 engineers, 65 assistant foremen, 624 firemen and 12 bell ringers. They will all go over to the reorganized force in the larger city. The police force will turn over to the Greater New York 1,829 men, unless there are no more men appointed in the interim. This number includes the superintendent, 4 inspectors, 31 captains, 115 sergeants, 42 detective sergeants, 116 roundsmen, 1,412 patrolmen, 30 bridge keepers, 57 doormen, 1 superintendent of telegraph, 8 telegraph operators, 4 telegraph line-men, 5 surgeons, 1 clerk to the superintendent and 1 messenger to the superintendent.

The history of the Fire and the Police Departments of Brooklyn shows an almost parallel growth. The two departments are essential to the government of any community and in Brooklyn the police and the men who fought the fires always worked harmoniously and in the best interests of the people. Of course, in the old days, when the firefighters did not belong to a paid and organized force, there were collisions between the two departments once in a while, but when there were lives to be saved or property to be protected the firemen and the policemen were always a unit.

The First Guardians of the Peace

As early as 1646, just after Breucklen became a recognized village, the first policemen that we had appeared in the persons of Jan Evertsen and Huyck Aertsen, who were commissioned as "Schepens" or magistrates. The schepens were expected to make arrests as well as to sit in judgment in the matter of petty offenses. Jan and Huyck found that their duties were too onerous and in the winter following their appointment they installed Jan Tuenissen as schout, or constable. The duties of the constable, as described in the Duke of York's laws, were:

Holding courts with the overseers and with them making assessments, etc., whipping or punishing offenders, raising the "hue and cry" after "murderers, manslayers, thieves, burglars," also to apprehend without warrant such as were overtaken with drink, swearing, Sabbath breaking, vagrant persons or night walkers.

In addition to this the constable was in charge of the "ducking stool, and it was a part of his duty to inflict punishment on the women who were arrested as common scolds. There were a number of these in the old days and the constable was kept busy. The first semblance of an organized police force in the town was on April April 7, 1654, when, in consequence of a number of robberies which had been annoying the residents of the village and the hamlets round about, a "town guard" was constituted. According to the terms of the law on the subject every male resident of the town was called upon to serve as a member of the guard when summoned. From that time until the institution of the regular police force the method of patrolling the town and looking out for the interests of its citizens was somewhat informal and irregular. As late as the beginning of the present century the constables were not to be depended upon. One of the old time guards was reprimanded by the magistrate for "getting drunk and falling downstairs with his prisoner," and another was cautioned to "try and keep sober this week, for last week he had been tipsy every day." The police of the present time, with all their faults, could not present such a record.

Organization of the Modern Force

The force of the present day was organized in 1850 after Brooklyn had tried experiments with "schouts," "leatherheads" and constables. In the year named the authorities organized a force of policemen with John S. Folk at the head. The department was organized on the lines adopted by the City of New York, and Folk was made superintendent. The city was divided into precincts and sub-precincts, and to each district was allotted a captain, a sergeant and such officers as were necessary for the territory to be covered. The effect of the organization of the force was immediate. There was a marked diminution in the number of robberies and a corresponding increase in the number of arrests. John Folk was a model policeman, burly in build, fearless and conscientious. His Zeal and singleness of purpose inspired his men and soon the thieves who had been preying on the residents of the city found that the place was too warm for them. Since the days of the first superintendent there has been a general impression on the part of the professional crook that Brooklyn was not a healthy place for thieves. As a matter of fact, there is no city of its size in the world where there is so little in the way of robbery. In 1857 there was a change in the administration. Then as now the police force of the city was consolidated with that of New York and it became a branch of what was known as the "Metropolitan system," with head-quarters in Mulberry street, New York. John S. Folk retained his place as head of the Brooklyn service, but he was then only known as the "inspector in charge." The Metropolitan system continued for several years. The number of men was increased, so that the total force was 368 men. In addition to these the Atlantic Dock Squad was organized, with fourteen men especially detailed to guard the Atlantic Dock property. There was also sanitary squad. In 1869 the force of this city numbered 446 men.

Brooklyn Force Separated From New York.

The next change of importance in the local department came on April 5, 1870, when the Legislature passed a bill making the police force of this city a separate organization and three weeks later the Common Council appointed Daniel D. Briggs and Isaac Van Anden, one of the founders of the Eagle, as police commissioners. In June of that year Folk was superseded and Patrick Campbell took the position of chief of police. A number of changes were made in the personnel of the force and the headquarters building was removed from the corner of Washington and Johnson streets to the corner of Court and Livingston streets, the building now occupied by the Manual Training School. In 1872 the force fell into the hands of the Republicans, when Daniel D. Briggs was reappointed commissioner with James Jourdan and Sigismund Kauffman, two Republicans, as his associates. On May 27, 1872, Campbell, though a Democrat, was reappointed as chief and John S. Folk became an inspector. Through a change in the political complexion of the force, Folk reached the top again and the office of Chief was abolished, Folk receiving his appointment as superintendent. But Campbell was out only a short time. On August 12, 1875, he was again called to the command of the force and he remained in charge up to the date of his retirement, March 2, 1895. The superintendents since then have been William J. McKelvey, appointed March 12, 1895, and resigned in October last, and John Mackellar, appointed superintendent on November 23 last.

Creditable Achievements of the Local Force

It would be idle to attempt to tell, in this brief sketch of the local police force, the story of its achievements. There have been many mysterious cases that have been successfully solved by the ability and untiring energy of its members. There are men on the force today who have done police duty that was never surpassed by any policeman n this or any other country. Much of the credit of the record of the department is to be traced directly to the early work of sturdy John Folk, who never shirked his personal duty and who never would allow one of his men to give up a case when there was any work to be done on it. His example was followed by Chief Campbell, whose creed was that the duty of an officer was done only when the case was cleared up.

"I've been here a week and have accomplished nothing," telegraphed one of the detectives who had been sent out of town by Campbell to find some trace of a wrongdoer, "Shall I come home?"

"No," was the curt reply of the Superintendent by return dispatch. "Stay there until you find him. Your expenses will be paid, but stay there."

Persistency, the old Superintendent used to say, was the chief of the virtues of a detective and he had no use for a man who would give up on the first failure. Mr. Campbell himself gave his subordinate a good example of this when he caused a house to house search to be made throughout the city for a supposed murderess. He found her, too, and convicted her, as all old residents of the city may remember.

In his brief term of service as the head of the police force, Superintendent McKelvey made his strength felt as a manager of the department for the city's good. Mr. McKelvey proved that he was well equipped to manage men and he aided materially in bringing the force up to its present degree of excellence. Superintendent Mackellar, the present facumbent, has been so long one of the heads of the force, and he has done so much to bring its discipline up to a mark that is above the average that it is safe to predict that in the new organization of the department his advice will be received with more than ordinary consideration.

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Website: The History
Article Name: Brooklyn Gives to the Greater New York It's Finest of Police and Firemen
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 2, 1898
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