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,
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
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
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
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.