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HISTORY OF THE POLICE DEPARTMENT.

Published in the Kansas City Journal of Commerce
January 27, 1870

     Our city is fast verging upon metropolitan dignity, and with the rapid increase of wealth, population and business, come, as a necessary sequence, an increase of crime.  Kansas City has bee a favored spot, situated in the heart of the Great West, and upon the direct route to the Pacific. She has been remarkably free from the criminals and crimes which have stained the annals of her sister cities.  her citizens have always shown a love of peace and order rarely found in older communities, and her fame has seldom or never been tarnished by riot or Lynch Law.

  The first step in the inauguration of a Police Department was taken in 1856, when J. P. Howe was elected City Marshal, he being the first incumbent of that office  Mr. Howe served two terms, to the entire satisfaction of the citizens.  He was succeeded by F. M. Barnes, who became a defaulter and fled the cit, leaving his bondsmen to make good his defalcations.  The remnant of Barnes's term was filled by Sam Kerr, who was duty to that worthy.  Wm. H olden was the next Marshal, and as succeeded by Dennis O'Brien, our present worthy City Auditor, who held the office for two terms, and was succeeded by Jerry Dowd, who also was re-elected for a second term.  J. B. Brothers was the next Marshal, and he was succeeded by the present incumbent, John L. Keck, who has held the office nearly two years.

     The police force at present consists of John L. Keck, City Marshal; J. B. Brothers, Civil Deputy, Robert Adams, Chief of Police, and Cornelius O'Haire, H. R. Kelso, Nicholas Cassidy, E. F. Knight, L. Gent, Thos. Fitzpatrick, J. Crabtree, Robt. Wiley, M. Halpin, Wm. Douglass, Patrick Brennan, Patrick Brady, John Mulholland, Edward Dowd, Patrick Green, Dennis Malloy, Thos. E. Parks, E. O'Malley, M. McNamara, J. Fitzgerald and Emmett Gillooly, policemen.

     The Marshal is paid by fees.  The Chief of Police is paid a salary, fixed at $100 per month.  The policemen receive $47 per month.  These salaries are paid in city scrip.  The Marshal has control of the policemen doing duty by day, while upon the Chief of Police devolves the superintendence of those performing night duty.

     Last winter a merchants' police force was organized, but it has been disbanded.

     While we believe that our police force is perhaps as efficient as any body of men of equal number laboring under equal disadvantages can possibly be, still it is not such a one as we might and ought to have.  There are several things urgently needed  the first, in importance perhaps, is a POLICE STATION.

     At present one dingy room in the Court House is used for the Marshal's and Recorder's office and for a police station.  Of course this accommodation is totally insufficient.  There are also two small frame lock-ups, one in McGee's addition, and the other in the bottom, near the State line, used for the temporary keeping of prisoners arrested during the night.

     A new lock-up is a crying necessity.  The present cells under the Court House are not only too small, but are absolutely unfit for their present use.  They are neither heated, drained or ventilated, and it is a blot upon the name of our city that men convicted of no crime shall be thrust into such a pest hole.  A building should be erected for a police station that would afford accommodations for a lock up and Marshal and Recorder's office.  It could be done at a trifling cost, and its necessity must e apparent to every one conversant with the sad state of affairs.

     A reform is needed also in our police force.  In the first place, our citizens cannot expect to secure the service of competent policemen possessing all the Christina virtues, and civility besides, for $75 per month in scrip.  Let our policemen be paid to do their duty, and let them understand that they will be required to do it faithfully and well.  Then again, policemen should not be subject o removal  the caprice of some petty politician.  Good me should be appointed , and they should hold their position during good behavior, and only removed upon charges, to be preferred against them by the Marshal or Chief of Police, and evidence heard before the police committee of the Common Council, who should give an impartial decision.  Such a course will secure the city the services of honest and capable men, who will then have some incentive to a faithful performance of their duty.

     The police should be uniformed.  At present every man dresses as he will, and the only badge of authority is a small star, those of no two policemen being alike.  The police should be uniformed, and the city should furnish a star bearing a uniform inscription, and a serial number.  This would prevent thieves and loafers from representing themselves as policemen, which is now a frequent occurrence and would also be a safeguard against misconduct, on the part of the policemen themselves.  Besides, it has been found by the experience of other cities, that a uniform not only increases the self respect of the wearers, but is also a protection.  A drunken man who would resist a policeman in citizens clothes, would be as meek as a lamb in the presence of a uniformed official.  Let our police be uniformed by all means.

     A record of arrests should also be kept, upon which ought to be entered the name of every person arrested.  The name of the official making the arrest, the hour of arrest, the crime, description of property found upon the prisoner, and the final disposition of the case.  At present the names are written upon a slate, and transferred to the Recorder's docket, and there is hardly any means of obtaining information, except by wading through that volume, which is a weary and ungrateful task.  Marshal Keck reports that last year his men arrested 2055 persons for various offenses.  If such a record had been kept we could have presented our readers with valuable criminal statistics.

     In conclusion we wish to return our sincere thanks to our efficient Marshal, John S. Keck, for the information woven into this article.  Mr. Keck is one of those public officials whose u rban9ity and readiness to oblige.  It would be well if all public offers would imitate him in that regard.  We also acknowledge our obligations to Mell H. Hudson and Dennis O'Brien, City Clerk and Auditor, for favors received.

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