THE BLUE PARADE by Thomas A. Reppetto
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Reppetto's long, winding procession of jolly coppers reaches from 18th-century London where Jonathan Wild the famous ""Thief Taker General"" showed the authorities how, to New York in the riotous days of the Dead Rabbits and the Bowery Boys, to Chicago where hoodlums Jim Colisimo and Al Capone held the police in a hammerlock embrace. His thesis, fleshed out with an assortment of grafters, hit-men, gangsters and vice moguls, is that every city gets the policing it deserves and, moreover, that the police force--no matter how constituted--is politically controlled, its modus operandi and make-up dependent on which social elite is in power. By way of example, Reppetto, who is Dean of Graduate Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, begins his case histories with the rip-roaring tale of cops under Tammany which considered the police a graf-collecting, strong-arm auxiliary to the politicians. By contrast, Boston in the era of commissioner Stephen O'Meara (1906-1918) closely approximated the London model with police enjoying relative freedom from both the Irish pols and the Beacon Hill Brahmins. But such administrations, as Reppetto so entertainingly demonstrates, were short-lived exceptions--in 1919 there was hell to pay in Boston. Ranging across the country, Reppetto identifies two other models of policing besides the community service, bobby-on-the-beat kind: the ""constabulary,"" a paramilitary force such as the US created in the Philippines to quell native revolts and later copied in the person of Pennsylvania state troopers, used to control immigrant miners; and the ""crime attack"" roving force which derived from Continental models. The latter, which sought to ""professionalize"" the cops and introduced so-called scientific administration, was developed in California under Augustus Vollmer and Earl Warren, and represented an attempt--often a sham--at policing without regard to party, class, or ethnicity. From Teddy Roosevelt to Jacob Riis to Alan Pinkerton, Reppetto pulls everyone into this rousing social history of flat-foots and supplies a keen analysis of how cops function besides. One only regrets that in the interest of historical objectivity he stops his chronicles in 1945.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1978
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan