Q&A: Roosevelt Biographer Recalls an Earlier Top Cop

tags: interviews, WSJ, Edmund Morris, New York City, Theodore Roosevelt



...But with a crowded race for City Hall this year and some likely candidates suggesting they would like appoint a different top cop, it remains unclear what’s might come next for the long-time commissioner. Metropolis spoke with historian Edmund Morris, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a trilogy about Teddy Roosevelt, on how  Kelly compares with New York’s other famous police commissioner. Here is the edited interview:

Metropolis:  What drew TR into the police force? And how was policing different back then?

Morris: TR came back to the city of his birth in 1895, after six long years as a civil service commissioner in Washington, ambitious to be a moral force in the reform administration of Mayor William L. Strong.

Ironically, his restless progressivism ran into even more opposition here than it had been in the nation’s capital. This was partly because TR was just one member of the city’s four-man board of police commissioners (as president of the board, he had only titular preeminence). But it was also because he seemed to go out of his way to alienate such entrenched, conservative interests as the saloon industry, Wall Street, and indeed the corrupt ranks of the police force itself.

Although his decent idealism and flamboyant ways of enforcing discipline (such as prowling the city streets at night to spy on malfeasing cops) endeared him to the majority of New Yorkers, two years on the job were more than enough for him, and it proved to be the only one in his career that he quit with a sense of failure....



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