Theodore Roosevelt Becomes President of the Board of the NYC Police Commissioners

Roosevelt became president of the board of New York City Police Commissioners in 1895.

During his two years in this post, Roosevelt radically reformed the police department. The police force was reputed as one of the most corrupt in America. The NYPD's history division records that Roosevelt was "an iron-willed leader of unimpeachable honesty, (who) brought a reforming zeal to the New York City Police Commission in 1895." Roosevelt and his fellow commissioners established new disciplinary rules, created a bicycle squad to police New York's traffic problems, and standardized the use of pistols by officers. Roosevelt implemented regular inspections of firearms and annual physical exams, appointed 1,600 new recruits based on their physical and mental qualifications and not on political affiliation, established meritorious service medals, and closed corrupt police hostelries. During his tenure, a Municipal Lodging House was established by the Board of Charities, and Roosevelt required officers to register with the Board. He also had telephones installed in station houses.

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Always an energetic man, Roosevelt made a habit of walking officers' beats late at night and early in the morning to make sure they were on duty. He became caught up in public disagreements with Commissioner Parker, who sought to negate or delay the promotion of many officers put forward by Roosevelt. As Governor of New York State before becoming Vice President in March 1901, Roosevelt signed an act replacing the Police Commissioners with a single Police Commissioner.

There is nothing of the purple in it. It is as grimy as all work for municipal reform over here must be for some decades to come; and is inconceivably arduous, disheartening, and irritating, beyond almost all other work of the kind...It is not work to be done in a rose-water basis.”

— Theodore Roosevelt