Sherlock Swann

The detective squad officially launched the mask method yesterday (28 July 1908) so investigators could study criminals covertly. The investigators wore standard white domino masks with muslin draped over the lower portion of the face. An elastic band that is put over the back of the head is used to adjust them. Hymen Movitz, an 18-year-old Caucasian boy charged with pickpocketing, was the first prisoner placed in front of 20 detectives.


Col. Sherlock Swann
Head of the Board of Commissioners

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Must “Face the Mask”
Col. Swann to Introduce New Plan with Prisoners.

Wednesday, 6 May 1906

The common consensus is that it would be undeniable that Col. Sherlock Swann had been "on the job" after his term as president of the board of police commissioners had ended. Col. Swann has already demonstrated his enthusiasm, and those who know him well predict that he would increase the department's efficiency and implement the necessary improvements. In fact, the Col. had considered making a number of changes to the department. One was this invention of "Facing the Mask," as it is known in the New York Police Department. All criminals who are apprehended by members of the department are introduced to the Detective Squad in this way. The detectives would stand in a row, or in one of several rows while inspecting the prisoner(s) at headquarters as they dawned the masks so they will recognize the criminal(s) but avoid being recognized themselves whenever they were to appear in town.

It used to be customary in New York to have the detectives present without masks, but it was quickly discovered that this served the criminals' interests just as well as the cops', as it gave them a chance to get to know the detectives and better dodge them. When a prisoner is captured in Baltimore, the detectives hardly ever get to see them; instead, they have to rely on the photograph that the Bertillon department takes of them. Also, Col. Swann plans to enhance the Bertillon department. In addition, the detective headquarters will be relocated to a room with more natural light. Col. Swann visited the headquarters yesterday and quickly came to the conclusion that the rooms supplied for the investigators were inadequately sized, gloomy, and ventilated.

Also, he learned that the Baltimore Savings Bank was ready to donate the rooms he used to the board of police examiners, who rarely met. He immediately spoke with Capt. Pumphrey, the examiners' board members, the mayor, and the superintendent of public buildings. As a consequence, everyone was on board, including building inspector Preston. The examiners will likely receive the outside offices of the current headquarters, and the Bertillon Department will likely move into the remaining rooms currently used by the detectives. It is likely that detective headquarters will soon occupy the rooms used by the bank. Lieut. Casey and his aide currently work out of cramped quarters with limited room for records to be filed properly. Lieut. Casey will have a room in the new digs where he can set up a unique light he wants to utilize for snapping pictures. The Rogue's Gallery will be retained in his division as well.

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Detectives Oppose the Bill 
They Say They Fear Politicians Could Have Them Reduced.

2 March 1908

Col. Sherlock Swann, who is seen as the successor to Police Board President George R. Willis, was expected to lead the legislature in approving the police bill, which has several detectives concerned. According to what he told the Sun, the bill gives the commissioners the option to promote personnel from the ranks to the plainclothes detective department or to demote a detective to the uniform level. When the identical idea was put up in the previous legislature, the detectives opposed it on the grounds that if the board listened to politicians, they could have them fired. Some detectives feel that before the board would have the authority to reduce them, they should be given a trial and shown to be insufficient. According to President Willis, the board should remain in place and there is nothing to worry for a man who carries out his duties as a detective. The same view is shared by Col. Swann.

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The Police Bill Will Improve the Service – Pass It.

13 March 1908

The most significant of the bills Col. Sherlock Swann had submitted to the General Assembly to improve the effectiveness of the police force was probably the one granting the Police Commissioners the authority to transfer officers from the Detective Force to the Uniformed of Force and vice versa. Police Commissioners have long called for the adoption of such a law, and the current board chairman, Mr. George R. Willis, has been particularly vocal about how vital it is that this legislation be passed. The Regular Police Force provides numerous opportunity for the development of the unusual traits required of an effective Detective. These traits are very uncommon, so the Police Commissioners feel they should have the power to make the greatest use of one of the men in uniform who demonstrates them by promoting him to the regular Detective Force right away. It is argued that the opportunity and hope of promotion to the Detective ranks would encourage men to their best endeavors and generate exceptional outcomes, making employment in this force more desirable than in the uniform ranks. Maintaining the two parts of the service as completely separate from one another as to make it difficult and require examinations and red tape to transition from one to the other does not seem acceptable.

The same defense might be used to support Col. Swann's bill's second provision, which grants the Board of Commissioners the power to promote a Detective to the uniform ranks. The board asks for permission to offer a man the chance to serve as a policeman even though he doesn't have any of the traits that make a detective. A Detective may be entitled to the possibility to pursue a career in Law Enforcement if he is unsuccessful in The Detective Force. In accordance with the law as it is currently written, the only option available if a detective fails or does not perform as expected is to fire him. Col. Swann contends that it would be more fair and beneficial for the service to move the man to a post whose responsibilities he might be better equipped to carry out. Col. Swann's bill ought to be approved, in the opinion of the men who have served on the Police Board and are best suited to make that determination. Any legislation that promises to increase the effectiveness of the police force in this wonderful city should be swiftly passed by the General Assembly.

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Col. Swann “At School”

Saturday, 14 Mar 1908

Head of the Next Police Board Sees Review of “Crooks.” -  A Special Dispatch to the Sun Last Night from New York Says;

Col. Sherlock Swann of Baltimore was one of the curious onlookers as the Detectives at the Central Office poured into their assembly room this morning—more than 100 of them—each man wearing a mask—for the daily lineup of "Crooks." He arrived at headquarters before everyone else since he was continuing his research into the New York police system. This morning, he arrived to Commissioner Bingham's office before the latter or his secretary. Col. Swann observed roughly 40 inmates lined up in front of the assembled detectives at the Detective Bureau, where he had been invited by general Bingham. Inspector McCaffrey attracted attention to those whose records were known to the police. Col. Swann attentively examined the individuals and, when transported to the Rogues Gallery, was able to recognize one of the images there as belonging to the prisoner who had appeared in the lineup today thanks to his memory of faces. Col. Swann examined the operation of the Battalion System of identification for the entirety of the morning in the central office. Col. Swann also invested several hours in a thorough examination of the traffic control measures at the congested street crossings. His visit has strengthened his resolve to push for the traffic regulation law that is currently before the Maryland Legislature as well as a bill that will integrate the Baltimore Detectors force into the regular police department, as has been done in New York City.

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Col. Swann Returns

Monday, 16 Mar 1908

Head of Next Police Board Spent a Week in New York

“Going to School,” He Said

He claims that Commissioner Bingham is the right person for the job. may experiment in this city. Col. Sherlock Swann, the police board's new president who will succeed George R. Willis, arrived home yesterday on a week-long study trip to New York City's Metropolitan Police Department. Despite the fact that his visit was brief, he claimed to have learnt a lot and expressed the hope that his knowledge will be useful to him in his role as president. Col. Swann thinks New York has a treasure in Commissioner Bingham's eyes. He had a lot of praise for Commissioner Bingham's efforts and the way the New York agency is run. Col. Swann was evasive when asked if he would implement some of the New Yorkers' strategies in the Baltimore division. He only stated that he is still "going to school" while grinning. ” Mayor McKellen, an old friend of mine, received me after a 26-year hiatus, and I was treated well, the colonel remarked. pleasantly and made every effort to teach me the things I wanted to see. He handed me over to Commissioner Bingham, who gave me as much time as I needed and showed me around to check out the situation. He is unquestionably the best candidate for the position and is fully qualified. The nicest part is that the men I met have high opinions of them because they understand that he treats them fairly. Of course, the scale of the departments in New York and Baltimore differ significantly, but Mr. Bingham is a great attention to detail and has established some wonderful customs. The morning lineup of thieves at headquarters was one of the most amazing sights I had ever seen. All of the criminals who had been detained the day before are shown before the detectives. Since the investigators are disguised, the criminals are unable to study their features. When asked why the masks were used, Commissioner Bingham said that many thieves "would have themselves arrested upon some Pro tax or another simply for the chance to study in our detectives' faces. The first query from Col. Swann concerned the status of the detective law, which is now being handled by a legislative committee. He is very interested in it and thinks the police board should have the authority to promote a guy from the ranks to the Secret Service department and to demote a detective to the uniformed police without a hearing or investigation. The strategy is popular in New York, and according to Col. Swann, Commissioner Bingham has a lot of faith in it. Besides New York's practices and traditions. Col. Swann gained valuable insight on commanding a sizable army. He expressed his satisfaction with Bertelli and Bureau and claimed to have recognized how old a large city's police department is. Baltimore boasts one of the best Brazilian Bureaus in the nation. The police force in Baltimore does not use many of the new additions made in New York, although some of them might be useful here.

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For Disguise Department

8 July 1908

Police May Use Greasepaint and False Whiskers Soon

There is a slim chance that they were aware that a department with the official moniker "department of disguise" will soon be established, even if acting Marshal Manning vehemently denies it and other police officers laughed warmly when it was stated. It will cooperate with law enforcement to acquire access to saloons that serve beer on Sundays.

Some of the policemen effortlessly entered a tavern that served illegal alcoholic beverages several Sundays ago by disguising themselves as longshoremen. It is now advised that the cops take things a step further and don additional masks so they can enter the wet goods dispensaries with ease. It is likely that third assistant Ad-Jutant General John Swikert, Jr., who is now the clerk to the Marshal, will be put in charge of the new department if it is established.

Mr. Swikert was an actor before taking on the role of keeper of the public peace and the secrets Marshall Farnan sought to keep hidden, and as such, he would be well suited to oversee such a novel endeavor.

It is suggested that the police board purchase a stock of costumes along with a stock of greasepaint, creep hair, liners, imitation moles, warts, and extra red for the policeman's noses. It is anticipated that Mr. Swikert may be persuaded to lend the new department some of the older homes he utilized in 1876 or thereabouts when he was supporting some of the major stars.

The proposal's proponents claim that each Captain can assign a set number of men from his district to work on Sunday mornings on liquor offenses, and that when these are reported to the "department of disguises," Mr. Swikert will be ready with the paint in his shirt sleeves. A good-looking police officer with a wife and three kids who has never caused trouble in his life would, by the time he reaches the age of greasepaint, turn into a black-eyed, untidy "bum" and go after the Wiley saloon owner.

Mr. Swikert can quickly create up to 100 different disguises.


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For More Detectives

24 February 1919

Marshall Carter and Police Board Planning Reorganized Bureau - A Need for Men is Imperative -  City’s Growth Makes The Necessary - Greater Force Of Plainclothes - Men To Handle Increase In Crime

Marshall Carter and the police board are drafting a police bill that will be submitted to the next legislature with plans for the reorganization of the detective bureau, which would add 25 more men and new facilities. Marshall Carter and the police commissioners have known for some time that the detective division of the police department lacks men, and now that the city is twice the size it once was, the need for effective plainclothes officers is critical. No changes to the Bureau's general staff are anticipated, but Marshall Carter has long acknowledged that the department as a whole has been somewhat handicapped due to a shortage of detectives to handle the rise in crime — a natural phenomenon with the growth of a metropolis.

The work of Detective Capt. McGovern's division of the agency grew to the point that there weren't enough men to do it adequately during his ten years as Executive Director of the Bureau. Men are regularly moved from one case to another, and they are not given enough time to complete one task before being given one else. This method prevents the guys from focusing as their superiors would like. Marshall Carter and Police Commissioner E. F. Burke concur that the Bureau should have 50 men. The legislature will be requested to establish new ranks and the men will need to be paired up. Marshall Carter and Mr. Burke do not want the Bureau to be overrun by people holding the position of detective lieutenant. The Marshal suggests retaining the current Bureau personnel as detective lieutenants. The additional personnel chosen to work as detectives will join the Bureau as detective sergeants or as regular plainclothes patrolmen.

Would Put Men on Mattie

Detective sergeants or regular detectives might then handle a large portion of the routine work currently assigned to detective lieutenants. When the Bureau created its three ratings. Excellent outcomes, in the opinion of Marshall Carter and the police board, will follow. By performing well in the capture of criminals, the undercover detective would have the opportunity to advance to the rank of Detective Lieut. According to Marshall Carter, the method would ensure that the department's greatest talent had a chance to create outcomes. Less than a score of detectives are typically on duty in the city on any given day; accommodations must be arranged for the guys who are off duty. People who are ill or traveling to other cities bring back alleged criminals. Capt. McGovern frequently finds himself forced to take reports and furnace information that belongs in the hands of a subordinate.

Some detectives might be opposed to the three grades being established in the Bureau because they fear that they could be demoted from the highest grade to the lower grade, but it is understood that a clause will be made to ensure that no detective with the rank of detective Lieut. cannot be reduced if charged. The men are undoubtedly protected by this clause, but detective sergeants and plainclothes personnel are exempt. Men assigned to the Bureau who didn't perform satisfactorily after a reasonable amount of time would simply be sent back to the uniformed force, and new people would be named to take their positions. According to Marshall Carter, there should be at least five detectives assigned to the motor division, five for the combustibles division, six for the special I classwork, and 25 for burglaries, small-scale larceny, and general complaints.

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It Was a Time Before the Two-Way Mirror Was used in Law Enforcement

Emil Bloch created the first two-way mirror, which he originally termed "The Transparent Mirror." When he filed a patent application for his "Transparent Mirror" on February 17, 1903, he was of Russian ancestry and a resident of Cincinnati, Ohio. Years would pass before Emil's innovation would be used in law enforcement in the manner it is today. Emil's design was somewhat reminiscent of what we now refer to as a two-way mirror. The Two-way Mirror wouldn't be utilized by the Baltimore Police Department until the mid- to late-1990s. Prior to the 1990s, Baltimore employed the Mask System that Col. Sherlock Swann had brought back from his visit to the NYPD in 1908.

Bright lights, dark rooms, and huge screens come next, making it difficult for subjects or suspects in a line-up to see potential witnesses or victims looking at them. A spot light was used at night to prevent the suspect from seeing who was identifying them because we had the witness or victim stand in the dark behind the bright spot light, making it impossible to see through or past the light from the suspect side. This was done while working cases on the street where potential witnesses would make positive identifications from the backseat of an unmarked, or even marked, police car. I know of a couple men who, while working for an investigative company, employed cheap Halloween masks worn by witnesses or informants, along with a police raincoat, to conceal their attire as we drove them around a neighborhood looking for suspects or a specific suspect. We frequently depended on witnesses and victims covering their faces with masks during the day shift to keep prospective suspects from spying on them.

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