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1921: Jersey City Under Commission Government
A Book of Achievement

Police Department

This Web version:

HE Department of Public Safety, having control of the Police and Fire Departments, of which Mayor Hague was the Director from 1913 to 1917, has greatly increased the efficiency of these forces. For years these departments had been regarded as political auxiliaries to whichever administration happened to be in control. Naturally this had a demoralizing effect on the members of these departments. Commissioner Hague, by reason of his intimate knowledge of the workings of the Police and Fire Departments, finally restored discipline in both departments and secured the confidence of the great majority of the members of these forces.

One of Mayor Hague's first official acts as Director of Public Safety was to combat the then existing Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. This organization at the time was in absolute control of police affairs and practically ran the Police Department. Patrolmen shirked their duty, knowing they would be protected by the Police Benevolent Association. It did not take long for Mayor Hague to change this condition. The Police Benevolent Association is no longer a political machine, and its influence has been destroyed.

The reforms inaugurated by Mayor Hague have been continued and augmented by his successors in that department, Charles F. X. O'Brien and the present Director, John Bentley, with the result that today Jersey City can boast of Police and Fire Departments that rank among the best in the United States. There are larger bodies, of course, but none more efficient.

Flashlight Signal System.

A new red light signal system has recently been put into operation. On various poles throughout the city is a 12-inch globe with a 100 watt lamp. They are generally located at the intersection of streets, and are operated by the desk officer in charge of the police station. If a pedestrian has been held up by a highwayman, or if a burglary has been committed, any citizen can either telephone the facts to the station house or acquaint the officer on the post, who in turn notifies the station. The man in charge of the desk immediately turns on the switch and all red lights are set in operation either by a permanent glow or a succession of flashes.

When the flashlight is shown on the public streets every member of the police department who is in that precinct or observes the flash, whether he is in uniform, on duty or off duty, and no matter what his rank may he, from the Chief down, must immediately go to either a signal box or private telephone and communicate with the station in order that he may ascertain if any action is required.

The Traffic Department.

To this department, in which is combined the motorcycle, horse mounted, fixed traffic posts and street signs, can be attributed the small loss of life and limb in street accidents in our city.

The department has established fixed posts at every street intersection where the traffic is heavy two or more ways. These posts have a man stantioned at all times between the hours of 6 a. m. and 12 p. m. who directs traffic and provides safety at crossings for pedestrians. These posts are protected at night by a spotlight which bring the attending officer out conspicuously, thus providing another safety guide to the riding public. It is mainly through the combined activities of all branches of the Traffic Bureau that Jersey City was recently commended by the Red Cross Society for the comparatively small loss of life on the streets of our city.

Bureau of Patrol.

The Bureau of Patrol recently put into effect in this department is composed of the lieutenants and rounds sergeants working from a central station, and separated from the other stations. These officers work in teams of two and cover the entire city during their tour of duty. Their work is to check the men on patrol, and any man not found in a certain time after his post has been covered, must make a report, and if this report does not give a sufficient reason why he could not be found, he is brought before the Commissioner and is subject to charges.

The night squad, composed of a hand of the younger men of the department, working in teams of two or three, in plain clothes, patrols the city between the hours of 8 p. m. and 4 a. m. These men are detailed to cover different sections of the city, and being in civilian clothes are able to come upon criminals unnoticed, and in this manner make many arrests where the uniformed man would fail. These men are under instructions to keep constantly in touch with headquarters, so that if their services are required they may be able to jump to any point in the city at a moment's notice.

Patroling the City.

The department has lately put into effect a new tour of duty in which the sections going on patrol are so divided that between the hours of 4 p. m. and 4 a. m. the city is covered as it never was before. The number of men on the streets of the city during these hours gives the department an opportunity to cover the streets so thorough that the night jobs are practically eliminated, and the second-story thief and burglar have transferred their operations to other localities.

A comparison of the criminal records of Jersey City shows a continued decrease of crimes of all character since the adoption of Commission Government.

This is particularly noticeable during the past few years when crime has been so rampant throughout the country, and especially in our neighboring cities. Jersey City has apparently escaped this wave.

The absence of crime is attributable to the efficiency of our police and the establishment of the Bureau of Patrol. Jersey City is the only city in the country that has a branch of its department doing special work of this character. It is the duty of the men attached to this bureau to see that all patrolmen are patroling their posts and performing full police duty. This keeps the men upon the street at all hours of the day and night and with a policeman always in sight criminal, instinct is kept under control.

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