Today in History, May 6: 1895 – A former New York State Assembleyman who had been serving in DC of late is sworn in as a NYC Police Commissioner; one of several on the board. He would quickly be voted to be the President of the Police Commission. Notably, he served on the commission with Frederick Dent Grant, son of former General and President US Grant.
Theodore Roosevelt was out to make a name for himself, but also do some good; reform minded in light of recent events in the NYPD.
He soon became a scourge for the officers as he began to conduct frequent walks through the streets at night, finding officers asleep or spending their time in bars rather than on patrol. He also worked to weed out corruption, finding himself at odds with those that padded their salaries with bribe money.
Roosevelt also found allies amongst those who appreciated his efforts not only for reform, but also to provide much needed training and equipment for the officers who wanted a more professional agency to emerge.
He made a huge mistake in attempting to enforce a law in which bars must be closed on Sundays. Immigrants in the city worked 6 days a week, with only Sunday off to socialize and drink. The backlash cost TR’s Republican party in the next elections.
Roosevelt would also be shaped during his midnight patrols and other tours. He would see the squalor that many lower income families endured, which would help drive his battles for better working conditions as President.
Roosevelt would spend two years as NYPD Police Commissioner. The whirlwind that was his life would continue. Back to DC as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, where he would drive the building of a 20th Century force, the Rough Riders and Cuba, Governor of NY, Vice President, then President…all by Sept 1901.