The 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.
He 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).
District 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.