Our Militant Police: 1900


Evidence of the extent to which our police are addicted to beating prisoners is increased by the story of a Greek push cart peddler bearing the picturesque name of Karolobos Kololuros. The Greeks have not the best reputation for veracity and there are citizens who will sympathize with the declaration of Captain Vredenburg that "all them Greeks" are liars. Nevertheless, the story which this particular Karolobos tells harmonizes so well with recent occurrences that it has probabilities in its favor. The Greek had been arrested for violating the ordinance which prohibits a push cart man from standing more than so many minutes in one place. He had paid his regular $6 a month to the police for the right to violate it and he did not object to that, regarding the fee as a government license, which it is in fact, although the money collected never reaches the city treasury. Karolobos was fined $2. Then he made a complaint on his own account. It was to the effect that the bruises upon his face as he stood in the dock had been inflicted by the policeman who took him across the Bridge of Sighs because he would not pay $2 in addition to his regular dues of $6 a month. The magistrate believed the prisoner and held the policeman in $500 bonds for the Court of Special Sessions.

This $6 a month assessment of the push cart men is in line with testimony brought out by the Lexow committee and it is generally understood that these humble merchants contribute to the irregular police funds as well as do the wholesale houses which block the side-walks with their boxes, the saloons which do business on Sunday and the purveyors of vice. The beating of the prisoner is in line with the testimony as to what happened during the recent negro riot up town. On the streets the policemen merely looked on and encouraged white men to beat negroes, but took no direct hand in the punishment. Indeed, it was recorded of one heroic bluecoat, who stood looking at the assault of a negro by some whites, that he refused the loan of his night stick to the assailant who wished to punish his victim more severely. The policeman merely said: "I would like to, but it won't do." The reporters in the police station where these negroes were taken agreed that there were few things which "would not do" in the shelter of the station house. Some of them described hearing the cries of prisoners for mercy from the back room where they were surrounded with policemen. It is this evidence which the negroes are trying, without much success, to get before the Police Board. Soon after this the reporters at police headquarters in Mulberry street saw a detective brutally assault a young fellow on the steps of the headquarters building and then take the man inside a prisoner. When they tried to learn the cause of the attack they could find neither victim nor assailant and absolute official denial was made of an occurrence which had three or four eye witnesses. The disappearance of the man who had been beaten suggested the possibility of secret vaults in the headquarters building for use in connection with "the third degree" as administered to secure confessions of crime.

The "direct interest" of the police in vice has been attested by a Grand Jury and has become accepted so much as a matter of course that nobody bothers to protest against it. As a usual thing the extortion is practiced upon lawbreakers who ought to meet with some kind of punishment. But the beating of helpless prisoners in the safe concealment of public buildings seems to be a new, or at least a recently discovered, tendency of the force. it is a dangerous one, because brutality grows rapidly  and because the habit of pounding may endanger the skull of any innocent citizen who is placed under arrest through mistake. It may be entirely proper for the police to use clubs on law breakers under certain circumstances, but the time for such an exercise of muscle is before arrest and not afterward. The discipline of the force seems to need looking after in this as well as in other directions.

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Our Militant Police: 1900
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle September 11, 1900
Time & Date Stamp: