Posts Tagged ‘corrupt NYPD cops’

A corrupt city cop is sent to the electric chair

November 25, 2013

CharlesbeckerThe NYPD has fielded lots of bad-apple police officers, especially in the notoriously crooked late 19th century.

But Lieutenant Charles Becker (left) went down in history as one of the most rotten.

Born in upstate Sullivan County, Becker worked as a bouncer at popular beer garden the Atlantic Garden on the Bowery.

After meeting corrupt state senator and Bowery fixture Big Tim Sullivan, he was able to buy an appointment on the force in 1893 for $250.

Like so many others, Becker became a cop on the make. Appointed to the vice squad, he patrolled the infamous sin district the Tenderloin, centered roughly between 23rd and 42nd Streets from Broadway to Eighth Avenue.

Hotelmetropole1900mcny2He took thousands in kickbacks from gambling houses and brothels in exchange for agreeing to keep police off their backs.

Then, in 1912, a minor gangster and casino owner named Herman “Beansy” Rosenthal blew the whistle on Becker.

Rosenthal and Becker had agreed that for a price, Becker would steer clear of Rosenthal’s Hesper Club casino on West 45th Street.

But Becker decided to have the private club raided to get on the good side of new police chief Rhinelander Waldo, a progressive reformer.

Two days after Rosenthal’s story hit the press, he was gunned down by four mobsters inside the Hotel Metropole on 43rd Street in Times Square (above, photo from the MCNY).

CharlesbeckersingsingDistrict Attorney Charles Whitman was sure Becker was behind Rosenthal’s murder. He had Becker transferred to desk duty in the Bronx, then placed under arrest.

After two first-degree murder convictions—the first verdict was overturned on appeal—Becker was brought to Sing Sing (left, heading from New York to prison).

In 1915, two years after the gangsters he hired met their fate in the electric chair, Becker was electrocuted as well. Charles Whitman, now governor of New York, signed his death warrant.

He execution lasted several minutes and surely caused Becker agony in his final moments. He maintained his innocence until the end.

Cop vs. cop: the bloody NYPD riot of 1857

August 29, 2013

New York’s police department got its official start in 1845. Before then, night watchmen guarded the city.

Known as coppers (from the star-shaped copper shield each officer wore in lieu of a uniform), these new policemen were up against rising crime and tough street gangs.


They were also regarded as corrupt. So in early 1857, the state passed a law breaking up the city force, the Municipal police, and replacing them with a new organization, the Metropolitan police.

But the Municipals weren’t about to disband. Supported by Mayor Fernando Wood, they continued to patrol the city—while the new Metropolitans took control as well.


Can a city successfully have two police forces, one run by the mayor, the other the state? Not really.

Municipal cops would arrest criminals, only to have them set free by the Metropolitans. Municipals began demonstrating outside Metropolitan stations.

Policeman1896In June, “the state-appointed police commission ordered the arrest of Mayor Wood, on the grounds that he had not complied with the legislative mandate to disband the Municipals,” states

“The next day, the Metropolitans attempted to arrest the mayor at City Hall, defended by scores of Municipals, who had hastily fortified the building.”

On June 18th, a riot among hundreds of men ensued at City Hall (top sketch). The Metropolitans retreated.

All summer, the rivalry between the two forces persisted. Finally in the fall, a state court ruled that the Municipal police had to go.

Mayor Wood disbanded them—but at least the Metropolitans agreed to wear uniforms (in 1871, above, and 1896, left).

The NYPD’s infamous “Clubber” Williams

November 16, 2009

Alexander “Clubber” Williams was an NYPD inspector in post–Civil War New York City; as captain of the precinct on 35th Street, he’s credited with breaking up the fearsome Gas House Gang that lorded over the East 30s, then known as the Gas House District.

ClubberwilliamsIn 1876 he was transferred to a precinct on West 13th Street, where he’d have jurisdiction over a high-crime area centered around Broadway from the 20s to about 42nd Street thick with theaters, gambling dens, and prostitutes.

Remarking on his new assignment, he supposedly told a friend, referring to the protection money he was likely to receive from gambling operators and madams, “I have had chuck for a long time, and now I’m going to eat tenderloin.”

The name Tenderloin stuck for this seedy neighborhood. Formerly known by the fantastically colorful moniker Satan’s Circus, it was one of the city’s worst. Williams earned the title “Czar of the Tenderloin” for his rough and ready crime-prevention tactics.

Brought up on corruption charges several times over the years, Williams always beat the rap. And when accused of using excessive force, he replied, “There is more law at the end of a policeman’s nightstick than in a decision of the Supreme Court.”

In 1895, Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt had him retire. Williams insisted until his death in 1917 that he’d never clubbed anyone “that did not deserve it.”