Col. Sherlock Swann

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The mask system, which enables detectives to examine crooks without being recognized, was inaugurated yesterday (28 July 1908) by the detective department. The masks worn by the detectives were of the ordinary white dominoes, with muslin covering the lower part of the face. They are adjusted by an elastic band, which is slipped over the back of the head. The prisoner put under the eyes of 20 detectives was Hymen Movitz, 18 years old, white male who is charged with being a pickpocket.


Col. Sherlock Swann
Head of the Board of Commissioners

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Must “Face the Mask”

Wednesday, 6 May 1906


Col. Swann to Introduce New Plan with Prisoners.

It is growing to be the general opinion that when Col. Sherlock Swann has completed his term of office as president of the board of police commissioners it will be evident that he has been “on the job.” Already Col. Swann has made his energy felt, and those who know him best believe that he will bring the department up to a high state of efficiency and introduce not just a few needed reforms but many needed changes. Indeed, the Col. now has in mind several changes for the department. One will be the innovation here of what is known in New York’s Police Department as “Facing the Mask.” This is the custom of confronting all criminals arrested by the members of the department’s detective force. The prisoner is taken to headquarters and the detectives with their faces masked will stand in a row or in one of several rows while looking them over so that they will know them whenever they show up in town.

At first, it was the custom in New York to have the detectives present without their faces covered, but it was soon found that this was of as much benefit to the crooks as it was to the detectives, they were being given an opportunity to become familiar with and better evade the detectives. In Baltimore when a prisoner is arrested the detectives seldom see them, their only opportunity of becoming familiar with their features was the picture taken by the Bertillon department. Col. Swann also expects to improve the Bertillon department, and incidentally, the detective headquarters will be moved to brighter and larger rooms. Col. Swann yesterday visited headquarters and soon decided that the rooms provided for the detectives were too small, too dark and not well enough ventilated.

He also heard that the board of police examiners, which met seldom, was about to be given the rooms he used by the savings bank of Baltimore. At once he talked to Capt. Pumphrey, members of the examiners' board, the Mayor and Superintendent of Public Buildings, with the result that all being agreeable, including building inspector Preston. It is probable that detective headquarters will soon occupy the rooms used by the bank, and that the examiners will be given the outer offices of the present headquarters and the Bertillon Department will be moved to the remaining rooms now used by the detectives. The present rooms used by Lieut. Casey and his assistant are small and there is little space for the proper, filing of records. In the new quarters Lieut. Casey will have a room where he can install a special light he wishes to use in taking photographs. In his department also will be kept the Rogue’s Gallery.


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Detectives Oppose the Bill

2 March 1908


They Say They Fear Politicians Could Have Them Reduced.

Some detectives are not pleased with the prospect of the legislature passing the police bill in the hands of Col. Sherlock Swann, who is regarded as the successor President George R. Willis, of the police board. As he has told the Sun the bill provides that the commissioners shall have the power to reduce a detective to the uniform rank and to promote men from the ranks to the plainclothes detective department at their discretion. The same bill was offered in the last legislature, and the detectives opposed it because they said politicians could have them removed if the board would listen to them. It is the belief of some of the detectives that they should be given a trial and proven insufficient before the board would have the power to reduce them. Pres. Willis is of the opinion that the board should stand as it is and that the man who performs his duty as a detective would have nothing to fear. Col. Swann is of the same opinion.

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The Police Bill Will Improve the Service – Pass It.

13 March 1908

Among the bills designed to promote the efficiency of the police department which Col. Sherlock Swann has presented to the General Assembly, perhaps the most important is that giving the Police Commissioners the power to transfer men from The Detective Force to the Uniformed of Force and vice versa. The passage of such a measure has long been urged by Police Commissioners in the past, and the present chairman of the board, Mr. George R. Willis, has been especially urgent for the enactment of this bill. Service on the Regular Police Force offers many opportunities for the exercise of those peculiar qualities necessary for the efficient Detective. These qualities are somewhat rare, and when one of the men in uniform proves that he possesses them and that he is a good Detective, the Police Commissioners believe they should have authority to make the best use of him by an immediate transfer to the regular Detective Force. Employment in this force is considered more desirable than in the uniform ranks, and it is argued that the possibility and hope of promotion to the Detectives would stimulate men to their best endeavors and produce excellent results. It does not seem reasonable to maintain the two branches of the service so entirely distinct from each other that transfer from one to the other should not be easy and without the intervention of examinations and red tape.

The same argument would favor the other feature of Col. Swann’s bill, namely, that which gives authority to the Board of Commissioners to transfer a Detective to the Uniform Ranks. A man who possesses none of the qualities of a Detective might make an excellent Policeman, and the board desires authority to give him an opportunity to serve in this capacity. If a Detective is not successful in The Detective Force, he might deserve a chance to continue a career in Law Enforcement. Under the law, as it is now written, if a detective fails or does not prove excellent, the only thing that can be done is to discharge him. It is urged by Col. Swann that it would be more just and better for the service to transfer such a man to a position whose duties he might be better able to perform. According to the judgment of men who have served on the Police Board and are best qualified to judge of the matter, Col. Swann’s bill should be passed. The General Assembly should be quick to enact any Legislation which gives promise of improvement in the efficiency of the Police Force of this great city.

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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;

“When the Detectives at the Central Office filed into their assembly room this morning – more than 100 of them and every man wearing a mask – for the daily lineup of “Crooks” one of the interested spectators was Col. Sherlock Swann, of Baltimore. He was pursuing his studies of the New York police system and was an early arrival at headquarters. He reached Commissioner Bingham’s office this morning before either the Commissioner or his secretary had arrived.“At the Detective Bureau, which he visited on general Bingham’s invitation, Col. Swann saw about 40 prisoners standing in line before the assembled sleuths, while Inspector McCaffrey called attention to those whose records were known to the police. Col. Swann observed the persons carefully and, when taken to the Rogues Gallery, his memory of faces enabled him to identify one of the portraits there as that of the prisoner who had appeared in the lineup today. Col. Swann spent the entire morning at the central office examining the working of the Battalion System of identification. Col. Swann also devoted several hours to further inspection of the system of traffic regulations at the crowded street intersections. As a result of his visit, he is more determined than ever to urge the traffic regulation bill now before the Maryland Legislature, as well as a bill making the Baltimore Detectors force a part of the regular police force, 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

Commissioner Bingham, he declares, is the man for the place. May try methods in this city.Col. Sherlock Swann, who will succeed Pres. George R. Willis, of the police board, returned yesterday from New York, where he spent a week study in conditions in the police department of the Metropolis. Although he said the stay was a short one, he learned a good deal and hoped his information would stand him in good stead during his administration. In Commissioner Bingham’s Col. Swann believes New York has a jewel. He is much pleased with Commissioner Bingham’s work and the manner in which things are conducted in the New York department. As to whether or not he would try some of the methods of the New Yorkers in the Baltimore department, Col. Swann would not commit himself. He merely said with a smile that he is still “going to school.”I was treated nicely,” said Col. Swann, “Mayor McKellen, who is an old friend of mine, receives me, after a separation of 26 years. In a pleasant manner and did everything he could to show me what I wanted to learn. He turned me over to Commissioner Bingham, who not only gave me as much of his time as I wanted but took me around to look things over. He is certainly the man for the place, and he is right on the job.” But, best of all, the men I met, think a great deal of them, for they realize that he is fair to them.“Of course, there is a great difference in the size of the department of New York and Baltimore, but Mr. Bingham is a great man for detail, and he has inaugurated some fine customs. One of the greatest things I have ever witnessed was the lineup of the crooks at headquarters in the mornings. All of the crooks who have been arrested the previous day are brought out before the detectives. The detectives are masked, and the crooks have no opportunity to study the features of the detectives. Commissioner Bingham explained the use of the masks by saying there were many crooks who would have themselves arrested upon some Pro tax or another just for the chance of study in the faces of our detectives.”Col. Swann’s first question was as to the progress of the detective bill which is now in the hands of the committee of the legislature. He is deeply interested in it and believes the police board should have the power to reduce a detective to the uniformed police and to promote a man from the ranks to the Secret Service department without trial or examination. The plan is in vogue in New York, and Col. Swann says Commissioner Bingham has a great deal of faith in it. Aside from the customs and methods used in New York. Col. Swann learned much regarding the handling of a large force. The Bertelli and Bureau pleased him, and he said he realized the great age it is to the police of a big city. Baltimore has about as good a Brazilian Bureau as any in the country. New York has added many things not used by the Baltimore police force, and some of them may be applied here.

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For Disguise Department

8 July 1908

Police May Use Greasepaint and False Whiskers Soon

While acting Marshal Manning vigorously denies it and other police officials smiled broadly when it is mentioned, there is just a possibility they knew department will be created soon with the official cognomen of “department of disguise.” It will act in conjunction with the police in gaining entrances to saloons where beer is sold on Sundays.

Several Sundays ago, some of the policemen disguised themselves as longshoremen and easily gained access to a saloon that was dispensing prohibited libations. Now it is suggested that the police go further and adopt other disguises in which they can easily gain entrance to the wet goods dispensaries. It is probable that if the new department is started third assistant Ad-Jutant – General John Swikert, Jr., now clerk to the Marshal, will be placed at the head of it.

Mr. Swikert, before becoming a guardian of the public peace and the secrets that Marshall Farnan wished not to forget, was an actor and as such would be splendidly fitted to preside over such a new venture.

It is proposed that a stock of greasepaint, creep hair, liners, imitation moles, warts and an extra amount of red for the noses of the policeman be bought by the police board, along with a stock of costumes. Mr. Swikert has some old one’s home that he used in 1876, or thereabouts when he supported some of the leading stars, and it is hoped that he can be persuaded to lend them to the new department.

Those in favor of the idea say that on Sunday mornings each Capt. can detail a certain number of men from his district for duty on liquor violations and these reported to the “department of disguises” will find Mr. Swikert in shirt sleeves waiting with the paint. A nice-looking policeman with a wife and three children, and who never did any harm in his life, will, by the age of greasepaint, be transformed into a blackened eyed, unshaven and unkempt “bum” and go out to catch the Wiley saloon keeper.

Mr. Swikert has as many as 100 disguises he can reproduce at short notice.

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Masked Detectives Before the TWO WAY Mirror 1i

Sleuths Have Masked the System

Wednesday, 29 July 1908

First Prisoners Subjected to Ordeal Turns Pale

The mask system, which enables detectives to examine crooks without being recognized, was inaugurated yesterday (28 July 1908) by the detective department. The masks worn by the detectives were of the ordinary white dominoes, with muslin covering the lower part of the face. They are adjusted by an elastic band, which is slipped over the back of the head. The prisoner put under the eyes of 20 detectives was Hymen Movitz, 18 years old, white male who is charged with being a pickpocket. He was placed on a platform in the assembly room of the courthouse by the Captain of the Detectives Pumphrey, who was not masked, who told the detectives who the man was and what he was arrested for.“I want you men to examine this youth closely,” he said. The 20 detectives scrutinized the youth. The lad grew pale and seized the brass railing under the ordeal. During the examination Col. Sherlock Swann, president of the police board, stood by and took in the proceedings with interest. Col. Swann brought the idea from New York, where he went last spring to familiarize himself with the methods adopted by the police of that city. He was greatly impressed by the scheme, believing it an excellent means of having detectives identify prisoners or suspects without themselves being scrutinized. Movitz, who faced the detectives yesterday, was arrested Monday night by the patrolman Woolford, of the central district, on the charge of picking the pocket of Adolph Ettner, 1500 North Chapel St., and stealing seven dollars. He was committed to court by Justice Grannan, at the central station.

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Police Use Spotlight - Pugilistic Aspirant Plants One Subjected to Ordeal

Friday, 31 July 1908

He was a meek-looking little fellow as he was hustled into detective headquarters yesterday morning and he said he was 17; but when he gave his name – Michael Romano, a son of “Sunny IT” – the sleuths stood back for a careful survey. They knew him as a prizefighter – a lesser star in the pugilistic firmament – who once called himself “Jack O’Brien the second.”Never had they seen the boys flinch in the ring, but when 20 pairs of eyes peeped through 20 white masks and focused on him, Michael, whose true name was Michaelini, grew nervous. And then someone turned on the spotlight and explained to these 20 men behind the masks that he had been arrested on the charge of picking the pocket of Mr. Adolf Ettner, 1500 North Chapel St., on 27 July and stealing seven dollars, and that he stood committed for court. They twisted and turned the boy about from one position to another so that the masked onlookers might see him in every possible position, and the lad quivered at the strange sight. He did not know there were two eyes centered upon him that had seen him from the time he was a “we” bit of a baby. But there were and they belong to Detective Peter Bradley. The sleuth knew the prisoners' whole history. But from now on every man in the detective department – some of whom Michael does not know and had no chance, to see – will know him by the site. The lad was arrested by the police of the central district. A few days ago Hymen Movitz, another pugilistic aspirant, was arrested on the same charge. It is said the two boys and a companion were together when Mr. Ettner lost his pocket-book. Movitz was the first person to be put under the spotlight and shown to the masked detectives. He, too, was committed for court.

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Police “Mugg” the Governor - Stitch Executive Inspects the Department and is Enthusiastic

Sunday, 6 December 1908

According to Col. Sherlock Swann and Mr. John B. A. Weddle, of the police board, Governor Crothers yesterday inspected the police department. The governor was accompanied by his secretary. Mr. Emerson R. Crothers, and upon his return enthusiastically expressed himself and approval of what he has seen.“The system,” he said, “is splendid. I liked the thoroughness with which every detail is provided for and the whole business impressed me with its efficiency. The police department is modern and up-to-date.”The governor was first taken to the detective department, and there witnessed the interesting incident of the bringing in of several prisoners who were confronted by the detectives wearing their white masks.Lieut. Casey “mugged” the governor, taking pictures of his profile and full face, but promised not to place the photographs in the rogue’s gallery. The governor also submitted to having been measured, according to the Bertillon System, and spent nearly an hour in going over the records of the department.

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Col. Swann Declines - Refuses Reappointment as President of Police Board - May Have Mayoralty in Mind

21 April 1910

“That Bridge Can Be Crossed When We Come to It,” He Says in Reply To Question.Col. Charlotte Swann, president of the Police Board, wrote to Gov. Crothers yesterday that he would be unable to accept reappointment to that office, which had been offered him by the governor.Col. Swann’s action was a surprise in political circles and many persons were inclined to think he meant that the Col. was preparing to become a more male real candidate.Asked his reason for declining reappointment, Col. Swann said: a “my letter to the governor answers that question. I will say, however,” he added, “that I try to practice what I preach. Baltimore hopes to become a manufacturing city. I think that it is its destiny. I have gone into the manufacturing business, and hope that I can assist in some small way in reaching that desired goal.”Does your retirement from the police department mean that you will be a candidate for the Mayor? ”I have no other thought at the present time than the success of the business in which I am engaged. The Mayor bridge can be crossed when we come to it, but that is too far off for consideration just now.”Col. Swann’s letter follows:“to his Excellency, Austin L. Crothers,governor of Maryland:“Dear Sir – one of the officers of the Druid Oak Belting Company, Inc., – of which company I am president – who has in the past relieved may of the branch of the work I should have performed for it, will leave very soon for an extended stay abroad, which will make it impossible for me to devote the necessary amount of time to properly administer the office of Police Commissioner. I have always made it a rule to faithfully try to perform to the best of my ability the duties of any public office as I may assume. The one I now occupy requires of the incumbent his undivided time if the best results are to be obtained.“It is, therefore, with the utmost reluctance and sincere regret that I must decline the reappointment to the office of Police Commissioner for the Baltimore city police, with which you have honored me, and I most respectfully notify you accordingly.“This severe and is of my official connection with your administration, with my colleagues and the members of the department, is one of the heartiest acts I’ve ever been called upon to perform.“Assuring you of my deep gratitude for the confidence you have proposed in May and trusting that I have in the past two years, in some small way, contributed to the welfare of the people of this city, I am, “very truly yours, “Sherlock Swann.”

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His Record on Police Board - Col. Swann Has Done Much to Improve the Force

21 April 1910

As President of the Police Board (Board of Commissioners)  Colonel Sherlock Swann took the initiative and many reforms that resulted in a benefit to the people and efficiency in the department which in no small measure was revolutionized under his administration. At the time Baltimore was considered to be one of this country's finest police departments, a title with which came respect, and envy of many other big-city police departments. This honor also instilled pride in its men and women that would last into the millennial. Some would argue we no longer hold the titles or envy once given to us by other agencies, but from a viewpoint of your average street officer, and from talking to those working the streets. Today's police don't have what we had just 15 years ago. Today police don't have support from the top; this was something that started at the top and even less from city hall and the media. For the most part, our police are all joining for the same the reasons they want to help those in need of our help. The public knows they need them, but the politicians, media and to some extent their departmental leaders are opening their hands.  We used to have what was called Good faith, and as long as you were acting in good faith, you would be OK. But nowadays, they have no support, even with a video showing a suspect resisting, the public is siding with the criminal. When police don't get support, they stop risking their jobs and give the public what they ask for. From that come higher crimes. If we want to reduce crime, we need to enforce laws, all laws, that means anything short of compliance during an arrest is resistance. Col. Swann was said to have been the first president of the Board of Commissioners (BOC) who has ever given his entire attention to the office. He has taken the deepest personal interest in his duties and devoted not only all of the business day of each week to them, but was often “on guard” Sundays, holidays and at night.Every vote taken by the board has been a unanimous one, and the commissioners worked in perfect harmony. This is possibly the greatest cause of the success of the board and checking crime and in helping to place Baltimore in the first rank of well-governed cities from the standpoint of police protection.And speaking of is two years experience as head of the BOC, Col. Swann said: “Before taking hold of the police department, I went to New York and studied the situation there, so when I took office, I did not do so as an absolute greenhorn. Also before going in the one thing that struck me, although a novice, that was most remarkable was the fact that the Detective department was a separate and distinct body of men from the regular police. I got a law through the legislation of 1908 making Detective part of the Police Department whereby men could be transferred into the Detective Department and out again at the will of the commissioners, and also that no man could become a member of the Detective Department unless he was first a member of the Police Department. Doing away entirely with the old system of taking men up off the street, usually for political reasons, and making detectives out of them.“One of the greatest improvements made here was the passage by City Council of the Swann Traffic Ordinance to regulate the traffic on the streets of the city. As soon as this was passed, I opened a school at headquarters, and with the aid of little toy cars, to teach each of our traffic men their duties. At first, it was rather laughed at, but at present, I think of all of the merchants of the city, and the people involved appreciate the safety and acceleration that have taken place in handling the traffic.“Before we came into office the commerce in cocaine had reached alarming proportions, and it was through the prompt action of the board and the passage of the Swann Cocaine Law that it has been entirely wiped out of the city. An attempt was made to extend this law through the action of the last legislator to the entire state but was met with defeat. It is only a question of time before it will be taking up and passed, for it is a subject that is disturbing even the national government.“We got an act recently passed enabling a million-dollar loan so that many of the police stations can be rebuilt, and others added, and the eventual construction of a new Police Headquarters and Central District House combined. A place where the entire police department's business can be segregated and carried on. A place where a courthouse will have the accommodations are what they should be. As it was then, the court's business was getting so busy that all the space in the courthouse was required.“We also had passed a bill limiting to one year all eligible lists, either, "appointment on the force" or, "promotion in the force." Under the old system, men would take an examination test and that list would remain in effect until the men were either appointed or rejected, which in some cases could last as many as three to four years. Now every man will get a chance every year to reach the top of any eligibility list.“Another law we had passed was a very drastic one against the carrying of concealed weapons. This will bring quite a little income into the department, for a certain charge will be made for all persons whose duties require the carrying of weapons, and the board has power under this law to permit them to do so. We also had passed a law whereby all private detectives must be licensed by our police board. Which will do away with blackmailing and graft? This too will bring a recurring income to the department, as there is an annual charge for such a privilege.“We had passed a law giving the BOC the right to regulate the charges of taxicabs and giving the owners of those companies an equal standing with the passengers to enforce collection of charges.“It has been the idea of the present BOC that all grades of the department should be within themselves graded; in other words, a man should always have something he can look forward too. The law recently introduced in the legislature to carry this out and at the same time to give an additional number of men, who are sorely required, was defeated. This bill established three grades of Patrolman, and it was the idea to eventually have two grades of Sergeants two grades of Detectives, a Round Sergeant and two grades of Lieutenants, with the single grade of Captain. Col. Swann said, "A man always has to have something to work for and another step to climb in the latter of promotion."Another law that was defeated was that giving the board power to pay a man a sum of money not exceeding one-year salary who had served less than 16 years who had some incurable malady, and not compel the board to appear heartless by the preferring charges of inefficiency against such a man in order to drop them from the department.""Still another law that was defeated was one requiring all pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers to report daily to the police department all things pledged with them. This law is in effect in almost all the principal cities of the country, and here it would have saved the services of 10 to 12 detectives/officers daily, who could have given their time to other duties.”Here are some of the things done by the board during the two years Col. Swann has been at the head of it.Merit system followed as far as civil service law permits, and politics kept out of the department.A system of maps instituted for each police district, whereby the use of tacks with different color heads necessary information can be obtained at a glance. A new form of printed “lookout sheet” or special daily information for the men. The issues of a week or two can easily be carried. Substituted for the old typewritten, bulky ones, which were cumbersome to carry and difficult to read. These would be printed on a small sheet small enough to fit in your pocket.  [This sounds like he is describing what we used to know as a "Lookout sheet/book"]  New Detective headquarters established. New rooms for Bureau of Identification. Partitions, Telephone booths, etc., at Headquarters.Adoption of mask system by detectives, whereby all Detectives can see criminals, yet the criminals cannot see them. Before this was put into practice, only a few Detectives would ever look at the offenders.Proprietors of one-half of the saloons in the city prevailed upon to remove blinds during prohibited hours of selling simply by request.Acknowledged long service of 40 years by a special insignia.Adopted insignia to show details of Traffic, Marine, and water services.Donated Swann Gold Medal for Bravery [not yet won] Protection of men against members of their families running them into debt without their knowledge or consent.Assignment of men near their homes and to congenial duties as far as possible, on the principle that a man always does better under those circumstances.Adoption of a complete check system for all possible payments.Kept records of men, crediting them only with convictions secured and no arrest made. The latter would often lead to unwarranted arrests.Pistol practice is given, resulting in about 80% of the men now being able to shoot with accuracy. Before that many had never fired a shot in their lives.Had arranged for the teaching of each man the A B Cs of “first aid to the injured,” which may at times be the means of saving lives.A relentless war against bookmakers and gamblers.Rigid enforcement of liquor license laws.Establishment of an absolute legal system for the measuring and photographing of criminals, and the humane use of such a right.Insulation of motor patrol wagons, which do twice the mileage and one quarter the time and that one half the expense of horse-drawn wagons.Installation of an automobile for the Marshal and Deputy Marshall. Before this was put in service not more than two or three districts could be inspected in a day. Now all eight are visited daily.Adoption of winter caps instead of helmets, to which can be attached short caps, protecting the men in bitterly cold weather. Adoption of state crest emblem, with men’s number, which any citizen can plainly see.  [NOTE; Current hat device] Adoption of quark helmet for summer, which protects the men from heat prostrations. Adoption of belts and dress sticks white stripe down patrolman’s trouser and winged collars.Christmas presents entirely barred out, which saves the men from contributing when they often could not afford it.Almost complete weeding out of drunkards and drunkenness within the department.Instilling in the minds of the men that they should look upon the profession of the policeman as an honorable one. Advocating what is known as "esprit de corps."Finding the men days of holidays and punishment instead of money, so that they themselves must pay the fine and not their families.  [The reason they used to take days instead of money began here] Established Museum of tools used by burglars, etc., so that men can see and know what such things are if they see anyone with them.Establishment of a motorcycle squad, to enforce traffic laws.Publication in the lookout sheet of every man’s name before he is appointed a member of the force, and requiring a complete inquiry into his character, etc., in order to avoid the possibility of men of a bad character getting on.Partially solving the traffic problem on Pratt Street, which the laying of the car tracks on the north side, instead of in the center of the street, made most difficult.Placing of canopies over traffic men at certain street intersections in the summer where they can obtain protection from the sun rays.Construction of sleeping quarters at headquarters for detectives, so they can rest comfortably until needed, and not be compelled to sit up all night and chairs. This has been the means of adding the services of two men previously lost.Handling of traffic problem and protection against the danger of accident on Mount Vernon and Washington places.Adoption of a system of telephoning to and keeping on record at headquarters happenings in each district.Placing of thermometers and sell rooms at each station house, so that proper temperatures can be maintained in winter.Employment of telephone clerks and station houses.Handling of traffic at theaters.Instituting an order that injuries to men be reported in 24 hours so that record can be made, whether such was received in the line of duty, or of duty in order that if an application is afterward made for retirement with a pension, the records will show whether deserved or not.Conveniences for newspaperman at headquarters.

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A Lineup of Crooks Stopped - No More will New York Execrate Ancient Byrnes Institution.

Sunday, 13 Aug 1911

Special Dispatch to the Baltimore Sun

New York, August 12 – The ancient “Line-Up” of crooks, an institution invented by Inspector Byrnes and regarded with veneration by police headquarters for 25 years, was eliminated today by order of inspector Hughes. No longer will Detectives from Wakefield and Tottenville waste two hours of their working time coming to the headquarters to look at wiretappers and “Moil buzzers.” No longer will 482 men and mask trample on each other’s heels to look over a crowd of supposed criminals, in which not one 10th of them could have the slightest interest. The old system was devised by inspector Byrnes for a Detective Bureau of 40 men. The Bureau has outgrown it. Hereafter detectives will only be called to headquarters to see prisoners who may be of particular interest to them. The fingerprint and battalion men will attend to general identifications. The system has come to be execrated by all New Yorkers in private life.

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Alleged Theft Silent

7 December 1913

William Myers Fearless of Masked Detectives

William Myers, male white 30 years old, alias “Bill” Morris, and known among his pals as “Brigham,” stood under the spotlight in the detective bureau yesterday and defied the detectives when questioned. Myers is accused by detective day and Davis as well is patrolman Don, of the Northwestern district, of robbing the suburban homes of Mr. Henry Berg under an L. G. Peppler on 22 November at the Northwest police station yesterday morning Myers was charged by Capt. Henry with robbing the home of trolls E. Hill Gardner, 3503 Fairview Ave., 122 November

Three men are now held in Philadelphia on the charge of receiving stolen silverware alleged to have been taken to the Quaker city by Myers. Myers was arrested after a battle with Patrolman Don Friday night.

“I will tell you nothing,” Myers snapped at the detectives one subjected to a grilling. “Don’t waste time asking me questions, I don’t tell things to people I don’t know.” The 40 eyes of the detectives peered at Myers from behind their white masks, the experience was not a new one for the prisoner and he nonchalantly gazed about the room while being “sized up.”

He was first photographed and “taped” [measured] for the Rogue’s Gallery six years ago. Myers was delivered to the Baltimore holding cell authorities after his visit to headquarters. 

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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

Plans for the reorganization of the detective bureau, which will include an additional 25 men and new quarters, are being worked out by Marshall Carter and members of the police board, and it will be contained in a police bill to be presented to the next legislature. For several years Marshall Carter and the police commissioners have realized the lack of men in the detective branch of the police department, and now that the city is twice its former size, the need of efficient plainclothes men is imperative. No change is anticipated in the general personnel of the Bureau, but Marshall Carter has long since recognized the fact that the department, in general, has been somewhat handicapped because of lack of a sufficient number of detectives to meet the increase in crime – a natural thing with the growth of a metropolis.

Detective Capt. McGovern, who has been executive Ed of the Bureau for 10 years, has seen the work of his branch of the service grow until there are not enough men to handle it properly. Men are frequently switched from one case to another and are not given sufficient time to ferret out one job before another is assigned to them. As a result of this system, the men cannot concentrate as their chiefs would have them. Police Commissioner E. F. Burke and Marshall Carter have agreed that 50 men are a reasonable number for the Bureau. The men must be arranged in couples and the legislature will be asked to create new ranks. It is not the intention of either Marshall Carter or Mr. Burke to have the Bureau cluttered with man ranking as detective Lieut. The Marshal proposes to allow the present members of the Bureau to remain as detective lieutenants. The additional men picked for detective work will go to the Bureau as detective sergeants or as an ordinary plainclothes patrolman.

Would put men on Mattie.

Much of the ordinary work now assigned to detective lieutenants could then be given detective sergeants or ordinary detectives. In establishing three grades in the Bureau. Marshall Carter and members of the police board believes that excellent results will follow. There would exist and incentives for the under detective by good work in the apprehension of criminals to rise to the grade of Detective Lieut. Marshall Carter is convinced that the system would result in the best material in the department being given an opportunity to produce results. Any day of the week will find less than a score of detectives on duty in the city allowances must be made for the men off duty. Those sick and those in other cities bring back alleged malefactors. Capt. McGovern is himself frequently obliged to take reports and furnace information which should be done by a subordinate.

Some of the detectives may be opposed to the establishment of the three grades in the Bureau, due to their belief that they may be transferred from the highest grade to the lower grade but it is understood that a provision will be made that any detective rating as detective Lieut. cannot be reduced accepts on charges. This provision clearly protects the men, but it will not apply to detective – sergeants and the plainclothesmen. If men assigned to the Bureau failed to measure up after a reasonable time, they simply will be transferred back to the uniform force and other named to fill their places. Marshall Carter said that there should be not less than five detectives in the motor division, for in the combustibles division, for in the homicide division, for in the bogus check division, six for special I classwork and 25 men for burglaries, petty theft, and general complaints.

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Facing the Mask - Looking for Answers

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An outstanding webpage was pointed out to us to help find answers to questions about the following photo, we will do our thing which is to conduct an investigation, only now that I am retired we call it research, so we'll research to pick, try to come up with who what when where and why.. typical rules for police work when conducting an investigation, reporters while writing an article, and moms and dads when their kids do something stupid... The difference between police and moms and dads, or the media's "who what when where and why" we would need to be able to go into a courtroom and show how we came up with our conclusion, we need evidence, witnesses have to be sworn in and testify too. Also, we are not allowed to speculate. Thinking back to Dragnet when the detective would say, "Just the facts!" LOL. Anyway, we'll include the photographs and their source. The Source is a Baltimore Police History Book released in 1907 and then again in 1909. The issue was the 1907 version had photographs of working detectives, the 1909 version is the same book, but they included some gold paint over the detective's faces. Two points about this gold paint and the year 1909, first the gold pant is telling, it's a lot like the white masks (called a Domino Mask) but these domino masks had white napkins attached to them, via staples or tape, two napkins the first held in place by the mask, the second taped or happened beneath the mask or possibly it was unfolded to help cover both the sides of the mask around the eyes and under the mask hiding the mouth. Similar to the gold pant in the 1909 book was to hide the identity of our detectives. The next thing we know this occurred prior to 1907 otherwise it wouldn't be in the McCabe Book (somethings are so obvious they almost don't need to be mentioned, but the mentioning of them does help with research/investigation. While researching Marshal Farnan of the Baltimore Police Department we came across a 1907 newspaper article that would indicate Baltimore's Police Department was the first in the United States to use fingerprinting to catalog criminals in our country. The 1907 article went on to report the following; "In line with this tendency in the ancient trade is the fingerprint method of identification, invented by E. R. Henry, of Scotland Yard, London. Shortly after its introduction, it was tried and put to use Baltimore. On 26 November 1904, when Sgt. Casey, chief of the local Bureau of Identification officially printed  John Randles, a suspect being held on a theft charge. Randles had a criminal record and became the first person in the United States that was officially printed under this new system. Before this, they used the Bertillon system. The initial thought was to use both systems side by side, but time, cost and accuracy had us dropping the Bertillon System, which was also cut by other agencies around the country and the world for that matter when before long the only country using both systems was France, Alphonse Bertillon's home country was from. This would have been done in the early 1900s started in New York, we didn't have two-way mirrors until 1903 so we had to have a way fo hiding faces while looking at suspects. So every morning detectives would put on these cheap domino masks and use a paper napkin to hide the rest of their faces, while everyone arrested overnight was brought by one by one to let the detectives have a look at them. With this the detectives got a look at their local pick-pockets, car or horse thieves, burglars, etc. and the suspects didn't get to see who would be coming after them. They hoped it would have the criminals think twice before committing a crime In one article they leave the room showing this technique to a reporter, to go over to a Ruge's alley, in the books they see a young lady that looked like a school teacher, turned out she was a horse thief. This practice was stopped because photos were becoming more easily accessible, two-way mirrors were available and marching prisoners by one by one every morning was becoming a waste of a lot of time. A couple of things this had in common with the two-way mirror or physical line up was, the suspect was under brightest lights while the witnesses/detectives were put under a dimly lit part of the room. So this was the predecessor to the physical line up and the two-way mirror. We'll use the same close-ups provided by our reader in their questions to us about these photos

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Here we have Detectives with their faces covered using White Napkins and White Domino Masks

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Looking more closely a the photo we see the top white napkin is held in place by the white Domino mask, the bottom napkin held on by tape or staples, the idea is just to disguise the detective and hide his identity from the subject in the room. 

Here we have the suspect, basically in the old days prior to the early 1990s police stations had courtrooms inside the station. Then until the mid to late 1990's Police Stations in Baltimore had holding cells, so when an officer made an arrest, the subject was held in the station house cell-block until they saw a court commissioner and then they were either released, or sent over to Baltimore City Jail t be held until their court date. In the early 1990's we had East Side courts opened and our station house courtrooms closed up, then in the late 1990s the cell blocks closed up when we opened what was called CBIF (Central Booking Intake Facility) This picture being taken back in the early 1900s prior to 1904 the year the book was first released, we know they were still using police station courtrooms and cell blocks. We have shown this to police friends just to see what they may have heard, or just what they might think is going on. We got a lot of people suggesting it was either prior to the two way mirror, or the two way mirrors would have been too expensive so we covered faces of witnesses and detectives so the suspect couldn't tell who was picking him or her, then one at a time a half dozen or so inmates would be brought through in hopes of one of them being identified by the victim.  Others said they have heard of this and t was a system from back in the early 1900s in which suspects arrested overnight would be brought out one at a time in front of the district's detectives, so the detectives would get to know their pick-pockets, horse or car thieves, robbery suspects, burglary, shoplifters, etc. The idea was the detectives would know who they should be looking for, the suspects would not get to know who their districts detectives were. The men without masks were known detectives, maybe the arresting, or supervisors. So these were the two most common answers. So that is where we needed to start. 

We'll start with the two-way mirror and the history of same - The first two-way mirror called the 'transparent mirror' was invented by Emil Bloch. He was a Russian who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio when he patented his 'transparent mirror' on February 17th, 1903. Emil's design was close to what we call a two-way mirror today. It had a thinner layer of reflective metal on it so that in certain lighting conditions it could act as a window, while in regular lighting conditions, it acted as a regular mirror. So if the two-way mirror was invented in Feb of 1903 and these shots were published in 1907, chances are the Baltimore police department was not using a two-way mirror yet. So this white mask could have been used for both witness identification, and detectives to get to know what suspects might look like. In the last 1800 we started and refined one of the best Battalion systems in the country, Alphonzo Battalion was a French Police officer that developed a system of measuring and photographing prisoners for identification. Of his system, the only thing that is still used today is the Mug shots, front-on, and a profile. Back then they called it being "mugged," for "Rogues' Gallery".  In 1904 Marshal Farnan went to the Chicago Worlds Fair and Chiefs of Police meeting where he sat in on a fingerprint course, developed by English Police Sir Edward   

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Our Findings

Here are our finding based on media reports of the times. Their stories tell us where the system came from when we started using the system, and what the system developed into. There was a method of viewing suspects while keeping their identity anonymous. The two-way mirror was invented in 1903/04 and wouldn't make it's way into Baltimore Police buildings for some 90+ year with the addition of the annex building named after Commissioner Bishop L. Robinson. Before this, but after the White Mask System, we had a Black Screen System in which had bright lights over the suspect(s) in a physical line up not only lit the suspect for better identification but made it hard for them to see out into the darkened portion of the viewing area. The White Mask idea that came to us from New York Police would only last a few years before it was dropped here too. The idea brought to us by the President of the Board of Commissioner; Colonel Sherlock Swann. While it was an odd idea for detectives to view suspects, it was a nice idea for victims to see potential suspects and pick them from a line up of as many as six similar-looking suspects without fear of being identified by the suspect. Dropping the masks, relying on lighting and a black cloth screen, the White Mask system developed into a system that would be used into the year 2000/01. Other ideas as you have no doubt already read above that were brought to us by Col. Swann, who by the way was only on the board for two years will have been found above. He brought us, two motorcycles to work from our traffic division in 1908 a full six years before we had our own Motor’s Unit. He produced, “Look Out Books,” merged the Police Department with the Detective Department. He wanted to be able to promote officers to become detectives and put detectives not worthy of the job, in a uniform. He believed in not punishing a family for the shortcomings of the father/husband, and with that felt giving a man an opportunity, to a point where he came up with the idea of taking days over fining officers for violating general orders. He devised a system of using toy cars to help train traffic police. These ideas and others were hopefully already read in the writings above. Col. Swann may have been a little odd, but he brought our department some of the better rules and regulations, as well as equipment. I think the mask idea was strange, but what it developed into was helpful in solving many crimes over the years. Likewise, he admitted at the time his system of using toys cars to train traffic officers was at first, "laughed at," but then found to be extremely helpful, it too has been used for years in training, developing traffic patterns and even courtroom testimony. The above articles should have explained where we gathered much of this information, we hope you have or will read it and enjoy it. Also, stop back from time to time as we plan on adding information as it comes in. 

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Note -  The first two-way mirrors, were called the 'Transparent Mirror' was invented by Emil Bloch. He was a Russian who lived in Cincinnati, Ohio when he patented his 'transparent mirror' on February 17th, 1903. Emil's design was close to what we call a two-way mirror today. It had a thinner layer of reflective metal on it so that in certain lighting conditions it could act as a window, while in regular lighting conditions, it acted as a regular mirror. Since this was invented in 1903, it would have taken a few years, for it to begin use in law enforcement, and in fact maybe into the '70s before it was seen used in police buildings. Before this, they used dark rooms, screens, and lighting to prevent suspects from seeing witnesses, or undercover police well enough to identify or recognize them. Before this, a system developed in the NYPD was used, in which a white lone ranger's looking mask called a "Domino Masks" were used. These only covered around the eyes a little, so the detectives were known to staple paper napkins under the mask to prevent their cheeks, and mouths from being seen. This was particularly useful for witnesses that wanted their identities protected.  


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Last modified on Saturday, 09 May 2020 08:36
Baltimore Police Historical Society

Baltimore Police Historical Society put the articles found on this site together using research from old newspapers, old books, old photographs, and old artifacts. We rely more heavily on information written at or near the time of the incidents or events that we are researching. We do not put too much weight on the more recently written historic information, or information that has been written with a biased opinion, or agenda. We will not tell our readers what to think about our past, as much as we will tell a story as it was written with the hopes of our readers forming their own opinions. We tell a story about what happened, and not why it happened. That said, ever so often we might come across a story that to us is so exciting we might express that enthusiasm in our writings. We hope the reader will still form an opinion of their own based on the information written at the time, and not information more recently written that has a so-called "filtered past" that has been twisted and pulled in the direction of a storyteller's personal agenda.