Police Commissioner Bill Bratton with Theodore Roosevelt’s desk – Photo via Twitter/CommissBratton
Before Theodore Roosevelt became the nation’s 26th president, he was president of the board of the New York City Police Commissioners from 1895 to 1897 and palled around with reformer Jacob A. Riis. During this time, Roosevelt enacted reforms to fix the police department, which was one of the most corrupt in America at the time. Though Theodore Roosevelt died in 1919, a piece of him still lives on in 1 Police Plaza: his 121 year old desk.
Theodore Roosevelt as police commissioner. Photo via TR Center
The New York City Police Department (NYPD) was established in 1845 by George W. Matsell, the superintendent until 1857. Before its inception, New York had a “night watch” system where groups of watchmen were in charge of patrolling the streets and preventing crime. The police department started to become a professionalized organization when Roosevelt became president of the board of the New York City Police Commissioners. He enacted a number of reforms to improve the NYPD including regularly inspecting firearms, replacing the board of police commissioners with a single police commissioner and walking the officers’ beats to ensure they were on duty as depicted in Jacob A. Riis’ autobiography The Making of an American.
Roosevelt held a number of roles after his two-year stint as police commissioner, including the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, the Governor of New York, the Vice President of the United States and finally President of the United States. His desk has been in the police commissioner’s office since his time there and has been used by modern day commissioners like Ray Kelly and Bill Bratton.
Now, check out The Secrets of Gracie Mansion (with a fireplace in front which Alexander Hamilton died) and Vintage NYC Crime Scene Photos from the NYPD to be Released to the Public. Contact the author @jen_bagcal.