The Half A$$ Historian was once a police officer. And a damn good one, though some traffic violators referred to me as a jackass. I took that as a compliment, after all, that is what they called Andrew Jackson. I only left the profession because my body (specifically my back) gave up on me. Otherwise, I'd still be doing it. Sure, it has left me with scars both physical and mental, but there are a lot of happy memories too. Now all this means that I have an interest in the history of law enforcement in the United States since it was a way for me to merge the two things I love the most. (Other than redheads, but that goes without saying.) So let's jump in our trusty time machine and travel back to New York City. Tuesday, June 16, 1857.
To set the scene, New York City had a rather corrupt mayor by the name of Fernando Wood. He tapped in to the masses of Irish immigrants who had arrived steadily over the past ten years to build a political machine like few others. Jobs with his Municipal Police Department were awarded in exchange for votes. Officers could, and did, take bribes from merchants to provide extra protection. The city administration was so corrupt that the New York State Legislature passed a law dissolving the Municipal Police and creating a new agency, the Metropolitan Police. Hilarity would ensue.
Wood refused to cooperate and when the new city Street Commissioner arrived at City Hall, Wood had him tossed out of the building. Mr. Devlin, the Street Commissioner, had an arrest warrant sworn out for Mayor Wood. A captain from the newly created Metropolitan Police Department went to City Hall to serve the warrant. He met with Mayor Wood and told him that he had a warrant for his arrest. The Mayor refused to accompany him. The Captain attempted to forcibly remove him from his office and this is where things went to hell in hand basket.
A couple of hundred Municipal Officers were stationed at City Hall. They grabbed the Metropolitan Captain and literally threw him out the door and into the street. In the meantime, a fifty man detachment of reinforcements arrived to help serve the warrant. When they watched the Metropolitans approach, the Municipals charged out of the building, nightsticks in hand! A person walking down the street would have seen quite a site. Hundreds of uniformed police officers beating the crap out of each other on the steps of City Hall!
Numbers carried the day for the Municipals and the Metropolitan Police were forced to retreat. 53 officers were injured. The newspapers had a field day with the coverage, as you can well imagine. Though is took a little more time, the Metropolitan Police eventually took control of the policing. But the rivalry left us with one of the more interesting anecdotes in the history of law enforcement.
My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian who did have occasion to use his ASP baton, but not on a fellow police officer!