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by Peter Moskos

January 30, 2011

1871: Two classes of police officer

This is from an 1871 newspaper article. It seems as if times never change.
The average police officer may be divided into two classes, the honest and untiring patrolman, constantly on post when duty calls, alert in performing his rounds, and courageous when confronted by sudden peril or danger, and the one who shirks his duty and skulks at every opportunity. To walk the deserted streets of a great city at the dead hour of the night, requires more courage than the policeman usually gets credit for. He must keep a sharp lookout for suspicious persons, test the fastening of every door on his route, listen for unusual noises in the houses, alleys, or yards, be ready to detect fires at the earliest possible moment, and render assistance on occasions where the lives or persons of individual are in peril.

The lazy or inefficient policeman is a most deplorable follow. He is always grumbling, now at one thing, now at another. Nothing suits him. If it rains, he is out of temper because he cannot find convenient shelters under awnings. Should it be a fine night, he is dissatisfied because there are so many people out. In warm weather he is too hot to do duty, and in Winter he finds it too cold. You always hear that his captain or the sergeants are hard upon him, and object to his loitering on post or unaccountably disappearing occasionally when in the vicinity of a dram-shop. Averse to honest labor of any kind, the lazy policeman endeavors to cheat his superiors in evading his duties, and invariably finds himself detected and dismissed. From that time forth he predicts the seedy downfall of the system, and secretly wonders how so many men continue to remain in service so long.


Jim Greer said...

Well, at least one thing changed. Apparently they used to dismiss lazy cops?

Jim Greer said...

By the way, all I know about cops I learned from your book and The Wire... so correct me if I'm wrong.

Gotti Rules said...

Hey Pete,
There is actually a third category that the article failed to mention. This category consists of the gay officer who only works for a year and then quits to write a book. What is the old saying, "Those who can't-teach"? Do you think you know anyone in this category??

PCM said...

Gosh, Gotti, no. I can't imagine such a leeching no-good character. Sounds horrible. I don't suppose you have anybody in mind.

And don't forget, "Those who can't teach, teach gym."