REPORT TO THE 1937 GRAND JURY
ON GRAFT IN THE SAN FRANCISCO POLICE DEPARTMENT
Respectfully submitted by
ATHERTON AND DUNN INVESTIGATIONS - MARCH 17, 1937
Released by Superior Court Judge Franklin A. Griffin in April
transcribed by Hank Chapot - 2011
Free for wide distribution
Thanks to the San Francisco Library History room
transcribed by Hank Chapot, written by Edwin Atherton, made public
property by Superior Court Judge Franklin A. Griffin in April 1939 as
published in the local papers.
In 1937, private investigator Edwin Atherton was hired by San Francisco
politicians to investigate graft and corruption in the San Francisco police
department. He delivered his 70-page report to a superior court judge who
handed the much-anticipated bombshell to the public. It caused an uproar of
civic indignation and lead to the fall of the House of McDonough, the last
San Francisco boss.
Within a year the report disappeared from the county clerk's office at city
hall when a local attorney came looking, the county clerk had to request a
superior court judge to certify the report as published in the local papers
was the true and actual text of the missing graft documents.
Here, for the first time, the text as transcribed from the San Francisco
Examiner and Chronicle is made available. Though the newspaper special
inserts have existed in newspaper vaults, they have been forgotten, until
As the Examiner writes; Here is the complete text of the long awaited
report on graft in San Francisco by investigator Edwin N. Atherton as it was
made public yesterday by Superior Judge George J. Steiger.
INTRODUCTION - by Edwin N. Atherton
On November 21,1935, I commenced an investigation into charges of
graft in the San Francisco Police Department, pursuant to employment
by you (District Attorney Matt C. Brady) and under authority of an
ordinance enacted September 23, 1935.
As you know, at the time of my employment, the firm of Atherton and
Dunn was being organized and, shortly afterwards, the investigation was
taken over by this firm.
This investigation continued actively for more than a year with no new
lines of inquiry being undertaken after December 1, 1936. All activity has
now been definitely terminated so we are submitting this as a final report
on the case.
The total amount of money received by us for our fees, salaries and
expenses, including supplemental services performed up to and
including January 31, 1937 is 60,660.84. A complete statement of
disbursements, together with vouchers, is being submitted under a
Purpose of Report
In preparing this report, no attempt shall be made to review the
investigation step by step as it would be an almost endless task to detail
the work during the past year and would serve no practical purpose. The
object of the report shall simply be to set forth certain findings in
connection with the volume and extent of police graft, sum up the results
of a concrete nature and make such comments and observations as
may seem pertinent and constructive.
Objectives of the Investigation
Instructions given to us at the beginning of this case were to investigate
the allegations of graft in the San Francisco Police Department and to
develop as much in the way of facts and evidence as possible on this
subject. We were permitted to outline our own procedure so we
determined upon a three-point program, as follows:
1 - To ascertain whether there was a substantial foundation for the
allegations against the department.
2 - To purge the department of the maximum number of corrupt officers.
3 – To prosecute such officers wherever possible.
The first objective was, of course, a fundamental one, with action on the
other two largely contingent thereon, so it had to be determined first. In
this regard it might be pointed out that there was apparently no specific,
dependable data available on the volume and extent of the alleged
corruption or on the identities of the sources and beneficiaries of such
corruption, if any. Therefore we had to start from "scratch" and develop
these data ourselves as a predicate for any further action one way or the
In this connection it was our intention to recommend against
continuance of the inquiry if it were found that there was only limited
amount of graft and that only a few members of the department were
corrupt. This was considered the practical position to take because of
the realization that no police department in a large metropolitan center
is, or probably can be made, entirely free of graft. Therefore we felt we
would not be justified in carrying out an extensive investigation of a
situation which did not present a serious problem. As you know, the
revelations produced by the first phase of the investigation reflected
such a grave condition in the police department that we were not called
upon to decide whether or not the undertaking should be continued. This
question was answered by the public and press, which demanded
vigorously that the investigation go on. In proceeding with objective No.
1 of our program, we naturally knew from experience that police graft
has its origin in vice activities and other unlawful enterprises or
"rackets." In other words, that persons engaged in violating the law must
pay so-called "protection money" for the privilege of doing business. We
therefore took a survey of these activities in order to ascertain the
location, approximate number, volume of business and the identity of the
operators. This survey was not as exhaustive as it might have been and
did not go into some activities as well as others, due to our
comparatively small staff and the persistent pressure on us to produce
indictments. If we had been engaged simply in assembling data for a
"Wickersham Report" we would have covered the field more thoroughly
and in greater detail. However, it was sufficiently comprehensive to
provide an illuminating background for the entire graft picture.
At this stage it should be pointed out that, when we were employed we
were informed this investigation was not intended be a moral crusade in
the sense that it should bring about the closing of unlawful businesses,
as such a course was contrary to the desires of the great majority of San
Franciscans. From previous residence in the city, we were aware that
the bulk of the people wanted a so-called "open town" and that the
history of San Francisco reflected a public attitude of broadmindedness,
liberality and tolerance, comparable probably to only two other American
cities, namely, New York and New Orleans. Consequently, we readily
accepted this policy and adhered strictly to it throughout the
investigation. In fact, on several occasions, we took issue openly with
the police department when it sought to close certain districts and
activities for reasons which did not impress us as being sincere. This is
not as paradoxical as it may appear, for we felt, and still do, that the
people should, and can, have any type of city they wish without being
subjected to police extortion for the privilege. In retrospect, we
sometimes question whether the policy followed was a sound on. It
probably was a double-edged sword, having both advantages and
disadvantages. In any event comment shall be continued to the former
feature for the moment. This policy enabled us to gain the confidence of
many people among the so-called "sporting element" and in the
underworld who "opened up" and talked frankly to us about the graft
situation generally as well as their own individual dealings with police
officers and the others who participate in the corrupt system. This is
mentioned here in explanation of, and as the source and foundation for,
some of the findings and observations set forth in this report. In other
words, our subsequent statements are not based on fantasy surmise or
conjecture, but on first-hand information given us by many people with a
variety in that "world" which is preyed upon by the forces of graft. The
information supplied us by these people has been supplemented by
other information given us by active and former members of the San
Francisco Police Department, reputable citizens who have come in
contact with one form or another of this corruption, and by our own
An incidental reason for mentioning the policy discussed above is to
answer, through you, the many anonymous letters and telephone calls
giving us addresses of and information on many illegal establishments
and asking that we take steps to close them. It was quite obvious, from
these communications, that many people did not understand our
position in this matter.
Volume and Extent of Vice and Police Corruption in San Francisco
We found that there were approximately 135 regular, old established
locations in San Francisco where prostitution was carried on. We have
addresses and photographs, together with the names of the property
owners, licensees and landladies, or male operators to support this
statement, in the great majority of instances. These places were
concentrated largely in three police districts, with a scattering few
elsewhere, as follows:
Western addition, 4
In the Central District, within one police beat alone – the one covering
Kearny Street from California to Broadway, and formerly patrolled by
Officers David J. Dillon and Joseph S. Murray – There were twelve
houses of prostitution.
All of these twelve resorts, plus several others on different streets, were
within a radius of three blocks of the Hall of Justice. There were 5
houses in one block on this street and it was not unusual, in several
localities, to find two or more in one block. A considerable number of the
locations in the northern end of the Central district were Oriental houses,
that is, where white girls serve an Oriental trade exclusively. Police
control rarely permits the mixing of white and Oriental customers,
undoubtedly because of the danger of brawls and violence which would
attract public attention and necessitate aggressive action toward closing
the places. Outside of the Kearny-north Beach area, the balance of the
houses of prostitution, in the Central district, were mostly contained
within that section frequently described as the downtown "tenderloin."
Houses of prostitution have been so plentiful in a section of the North
Beach area that tenants in some buildings have been forced to put signs
on their front doors announcing the fact they are private residences.
In the Ellis-Polk district, there was a scattering of these houses with the
heaviest concentration in the Fillmore area. There were some Oriental
houses also in this district.
In the Southern district, these establishments were confined, in the
main, to the first two blocks on Sixth Street.
In the Western Addition, Steiner Street was the popular location for
these places but they were not operating very regularly during the
This form of prostitution in San Francisco was found to be in the hands
of foreign-born people, mostly French and Russian or German Jews,
with the French greatly predominating. This nationality appeared to have
a class of people who were born to this business and carried it on as a
family "profession" with a definite code of conduct. A great number, if not
the majority of them, were residing illegally in this country and were in
such constant dread of being deported that they lived a sort of furtive,
undercover life within their own circle. In addition, they were very
susceptible to fear of physical vengeance with the result that they were
extremely suspicious and non-communicative. Very few violated the
cardinal principle of their code, which is, DO NOT TALK. They have
some basis for this fear for one of their number was murdered and
mutilated several years ago because he was guilty of a "breach of
ethics." This crime has never been officially solved. In view of these
circumstances, it was not surprising to find that the French group, or
"syndicate" as it is sometimes referred to by the sporting fraternity, and
become the most highly organized unit in the entire graft set-up.
Americans engaged in the prostitution business were, as a class, much
less suspicious and therefore more accessible and more amenable to
reason. Some of them were quite willing to discuss matters very freely
and frankly with us at any time. They did not have the same fear of
physical violence as the foreigners but they were afraid to identify
themselves with this investigation for business reasons. They asserted
that the French were given more liberties and favors by the police and
were gradually crowding them out, expressed resentment at this foreign
"invasion" and felt that "home industry" should receive greater
One of the "organizers," and also one of the most dominant figures in
the French "syndicate," was a Corsican named Joseph Ondella, also
known as Fernand LeCorse, and general referred to as Fernand. He
was subservient to McDonough Brothers and was used by them to 'take
care" of situations which arose in the French vice colony. One of
Fernand's assignments from McDonough Brothers was to use every
means to stop Abel Ducayla from testifying in the criminal cases against
Officers Murray and Dillon. He was ably supported by McDonough
Brothers and they were eventually successful in this mission to thwart
justice. Fernand made his headquarters in the Bachelor's buffet, 667
Clay street, wherein was also the office of Jerry Franklin. This place was
regarded as a clearinghouse for the transaction of business of the
French syndicate and for graft payments and collections. He had a
woman who operated a house of prostitution over the Buffet and, at the
time of writing, was still in business there.
Fernand is now on trial before the United States Immigration Service on
charges, which, if proven, will result in his deportation from the United
States. We considered it within the scope of this investigation to
cooperate with the Immigration Service in this, and other cases of a
similar nature, as we felt it would be a distinct service to San Francisco if
Fernand, a sinister figure in the vice and graft ring, were banished from
the country. Federal perjury charges have been filed against Fernand for
allegedly giving false testimony at his Immigration hearing.
Jerry Franklin was formerly associated with, and was known as the
successor to Harry Muller and Ralph Risso, alias "son-bouche," both of
whom are now deceased. He took over the mantle of his predecessors
as one of the principle handlers of "protection money" from vice sources
in the city. All three of the individuals engaged in the bail bond business
but it was generally understood that they merely acted as agents for
McDonough Brothers. When this investigation showed signs of pointing
in his direction, at about the time of the arrests of Officer Dillon and
Murray and the latter's confessions, Franklin disappeared.
The Boomerang Café, Kearny and Columbus avenue, formerly
conducted by the Dougherty Brothers, was the same type of place as
that described immediately above. Frank "Fat" Dougherty had died but
his brother, Jack, conducted the business at the same location until
Paddy O'Hearn, who made his headquarters in an upstairs poolroom on
Fillmore street near O'Farrell, was a well-known "collector" in the Ellis-
Polk district. Abie Adler, who, with his wife, Annie, conducted a house of
prostitution at 1201 Webster street, also handled collections and, other
assignments for McDonough Brothers.
In referring to McDonough Brothers from time to time in this report, we
do not do so in the literal sense of meaning Peter P. McDonough and
Thomas McDonough. We refer to the organization which the name
represents. Thomas McDonough is not active in the business and was
away from San Francisco during a considerable period of the
investigation. In fact he is not always taken into the confidence of those
who are running the business.
The directing heads of the organization are Peter P. McDonough and
Harry Rice, a nephew, with the latter taking over more control as time
George Poultney, representative of the firm at the Federal Building, has
been quite active in various ways. Under the pseudonym, "Dick the
Rounder," he has contributed a series of scurrilous articles attacking the
investigation and persons connected with it, to a weekly newspaper
belonging to that particular class of yellow journalism which specializes
in vicious personal attacks of a libelous nature. It is published in the East
Bay area and has been subsidized by McDonough Brothers. This firm
also retains its own lawyer, Byron C. Parker, on the premises, to take
care of its hundreds of misdemeanor cases, involving prostitutes,
gamblers and others. During the investigation Parker rented one room
next to your office in the Scatona Building. He keeps this room to give
himself an office address and telephone listing away from the
McDonough Brothers. It is simply a blind. No business is transacted
there and the telephone calls are handled by a proxy service.
McDonough Brothers was found to be a fountainhead of corruption,
willing to interest itself in almost any matter designed to defeat or
circumvent the law. It has many tentacles reaching throughout the city
government in the form of officials and employees in key positions to
take care of almost any contingency. It has certain police officers, such
as sergeant Clarence Byrne, whose first allegiance is to McDonough
Brothers, and who devote a considerable portion of their time to
attending to the interests of this firm.
No one can conduct a prostitution or gambling enterprise in San
Francisco without direct or indirect approval of the McDonough Brothers.
Anyone engaged in these activities, who incurs the firm's disfavor, is
sooner or later forced out of business. The power of McDonough
Brothers exerts itself over the police department much the same
manner. An officer who seeks to enforce the law honestly is regarded as
a "snake in the grass" and no opportunity is overlooked to sabotage his
career. On the contrary, an officer who is "right" with this firm can
depend on a helping hand whenever he may need it.
McDonough Brothers has expended much effort, time and money over
the years to implant the thought in the minds of the underworld and
police officers that it is the supreme authority in San Francisco. This
campaign has born fruit and those two classes of people look upon the
institution at Clay and Kearny streets with an exaggerated feeling of
awe. Judging from its activities in some of the criminal cases resulting
from the investigation, McDonough Brothers apparently felt its prestige
would suffer if a police officer were convicted. It went to great extremes
to aid the defense in the Dillon and Murray cases. In fact it was the long
hand of McDonough Brothers which clamped the lips of Abel Ducayla.
McDonough Brothers has developed a virtual "corner" on the Bail bonds
business in San Francisco and is constantly seeking to "freeze out" what
little competition is left. The fact that keepers of illegal businesses "pay
off" does not give them complete immunity from arrest. The police
department must make arrests from time to time for record purposes or,
"to polish the buzzer." Bookmaking is the victim of policy more than any
other forms of law violations. When a bookmaking establishment is
raided, the keeper, his agent or one of the arresting officers telephones
McDonough brothers, from the premises, giving the number, names and
charges against the arrested persons. McDonough Brothers then
prepares the bonds and releases so that the individuals are turned loose
immediately after being booked upon their arrival at the jail. They rarely
ever see the inside of a cell, as the small bonds are forfeited and they
resume business as usual.
McDonough Brothers provides a very prompt service for these people,
with credit accounts for some patrons and a Yellow Cab regularly
stationed at its front door to carry out releases for those taken to police
stations away from the Hall of Justice. Because of its police connections,
McDonough Brothers is often able to "tip off" proprietors of such
establishments of contemplated raids so that only one or two minor
individuals may be on the premises and there is no evidence of actual
betting when the officers arrive.
According to our sources of information described above, the
approximately 135 places where prostitution was practiced had to pay
for this privilege. Included in this number were several hotels too large to
be devoted exclusively to this purpose which did a legitimate rooming
business besides supplying girls. Such a place, for example, was the
Oakland Hotel, 551 Kearny Street. As a general rule such places were
not required to pay as much as the others.
In the past, persons intending to open a house of prostitution were
usually required to pay an initial or opening fee, which varied in amount
but frequently ran from $500 to $750.At the same time the regular
monthly 'payoff' was fixed and the time and manner of payment
prescribed. These arrangements were usually made with some of the
persons mentioned above and sometimes directly with police officers.
According to the figures given us, the latter "payoff" ran from $200 to
$250 per month with some instances of higher amounts being assessed.
This main "payoff" was levied arbitrarily and distributed among the
captain and sometimes other superior officers in the district, the special
detail and the civilian interests, which jointly controlled this racket. In
addition, the operators were also called upon to "take care" of the
patrolman on the beat. They were permitted to make their own individual
arrangements with these officers and the amounts usually ran from ten
dollars per month upward, depending largely on the greediness of the
officer, with $15 per month to each of the two night men a common
figure. There were also "special assessments" from time to time which
will be referred to later.
In order to strike an ultra-conservative estimate of the average total
monthly sum extorted from each house of prostitution, we are reducing
the above figure to $200 per month. By computing this figure with the
number of resorts mentioned, namely 135, it will be seen that the
monthly "protection" revenue from regular houses of prostitution alone
was $27,000 or $324,00 per year.
The foregoing is only one phase of the prostitution situation. There were,
in addition, countless apartments where two or three girls operated
independently, as well as numerous "call houses" conducted in
apartment buildings and "call girls" working out of such buildings and
The first group mentioned in the preceding paragraph was required to
"pay off" in practically all cases. We obtained the names and addresses
of many of these operators but they were too numerous and scattered
for an accurate census and it would simply be hazarding a guess to
make an estimate. The number of these places was greater than the
established houses but the proportionate amount of their "payoff" was
less, as they usually had to deal only with the officers with whom they
came in more or less direct contact, such as the special duty men (now
abolished), the beat men, an sometimes the patrol sergeants. We would
not attempt to estimate the total amount of this "payoff" beyond offering
what we consider to be a safe minimum figure of $5000 per month, or
$60,000 per year.
Tenants engaged in prostitution were usually required to pay more rent
than others in the same buildings and it not infrequently occurred that
apartment house managers and police officers had working
arrangements whereby they kept each other informed of the activities
and movements of these woman for their mutual financial gain.
The "call girls" mentioned in the second paragraph above for several
reasons, such as being more refined in their appearance and manner,
living in more exclusive and secluded apartments and catering to a
limited, high class clientele, were generally able to escape police
detection and thereby avoid the "payoff" so that the illicit revenue from
this form of prostitution was comparatively negligible. A few hotels where
"call girls" resided paid small sums to beat men and charged the girls
proportionately higher rates.
Another substantial form of prostitution is that provided by the vast
number of "street walkers" or "hustlers" in San Francisco. Here again it
was impossible, from this type of investigation, to arrive at an accurate
estimate of the number. The majority of these girls were compelled to
pay the officers on whose beat they worked. If they failed to do so they
were harassed to the point of distraction. This class of prostitute
comprised the most unfortunate and pitiful of any and the experience of
some of these women with police abuse and extortion were
On the basis of the very conservative figures set forth above, it is easily
seen how prostitution alone can contribute at least $400,000 to the
annual graft toll.
We found that normally about 150 bookmaking establishments operated
in San Francisco. There were many more places where bets could be
placed with agents but only the locations where handbooks were
actually maintained were included in this figure. We obtained the names
and addresses of approximately 300 individuals and places of business
where bookmaking had been conducted during the past several years.
Not all of these books had been open at the same time. You will recall
that Lieutenant Ludolph, during the course of his recent trial, testified
that bookmaking "joints" were as common as grocery stores in San
Francisco. This was an exaggerated statement of course, but it gave an
indication of the extent of this business.
Our survey disclosed that books are usually conducted with very little
effort at concealment, the favorite locations being cigar stores or stands
or the rear of saloons and poolrooms. They operated in greatest
numbers in the downtown sections, but many others were scattered
throughout the city in the various community centers. Bookmakers
accept bets on horse races anywhere in the country and on dog races
when the dog tracks are running in this vicinity. Many of them accept
bets as low as 50 cents as against a two-dollar minimum at the tracks,
and they do a tremendous gross volume of business. They pay a
regular fee to the Nation Wide News Service for fast wire reports on the
results of the races in California and elsewhere in the country.
Bookmakers were compelled to pay the police for the privilege of doing
business. Their total "payoff" was very substantial, being next to that of
prostitution, and therefore the second largest in amount. Their individual
"payoffs" were much smaller in comparison inasmuch as they were
much more intelligent as a class and were not organized and dominated
by a civilian group to the same extent as the houses of prostitution.
Generally they only had to pay the police officers in whose districts they
were operating and therefore varied more widely.
The main "payoff" formerly went to the special details to be divided as
indicated above under prostitution. A fair average estimate of this
amount would be $100 per month. In addition, the day patrolman had to
be given from $10 to $20 per month. When there was racing at any of
the California tracks requiring the books to remain open after 4 p.m. or if
the dogs were being "booked" in the evening, the patrolman on the first
night watch was also "looked after" to the tune, on the average, of about
$10. In some cases the patrolman divided these collections with their
sergeants but in others an additional allowance was made to the latter.
A very conservative average of the individual bookmaker's "payoff"
would be $100 per month. Taking 150 as the maximum number of
bookmakers, at this rate the total monthly "payoff" would be $15,000 or
Another lucrative prey for police extortion were the lotteries. This form of
gambling has an unusual popularity in San Francisco and is much more
widespread and extensive here than in the great majority of American
cities. There were several large American lotteries as well as a
countless number of Chinese ones. Many of the latter were small and
"sneaked" to avoid the police demands for "payoff."
We have considerable data on the lottery situation but not sufficient to
justify a close estimate of the number of operators or the approximate
total "payoff." However, the information we have obtained indicates that
it is a substantial sum of money. One of the largest lottery operators was
called before the grand jury but declined to answer questions concerning
police graft on the ground he might incriminate himself.
There were many public gambling houses which operated as chartered
social clubs for members only. This was usually just a sham as
identification was rarely, if ever, required and the only qualification for
membership was the ability to purchase a stack of chips. Both legal and
illegal games were permitted in these places. Some of them had a
perfect "sucker" set-up, with two or more "house men" playing in each
game. These places generally paid for police protection. You will recall
that persons connected with the operation of three of these clubs were
subpoenaed before the grand jury and declined to answer questions on
the grounds they might incriminate themselves.
Slot machines contributed a large amount to the graft pool and
racketeers in this field have probably "put over" the biggest individual
deals of any other. However, an effective police drive against these
machines in the fall of 1935 reduced them to a negligible quantity so that
this racket was not an important issue during the course of the
investigation. I am not referring to pin ball machines, of course, as there
were thousands of these in the city. They were universally used as a
petty gambling device but I do not believe they were generally subject to
The manufacture and sale of illicit liquor, wine and beer was a succulent
source of graft revenue until the Eighteenth Amendment and the Wright
Act were repealed. The North Beach and Mission districts came in for a
large share. After repeal, saloons remaining open during the legally
proscribed closing hours and "speakeasies" were still required to pay for
It sometimes became necessary for the police to close an illegal
establishment because of the complaints of neighbors or due to some
serious disturbance on the premises. This was usually a friendly
transaction with the proprietor being allowed a reasonable length of time
to find another location. According to our informants, police officers have
actually found the new locations or told the proprietors where one was
available in some of these cases.
The investigation reflects that a great many illegal abortions were
performed in San Francisco and that a considerable number of persons
were engaged in this business. It is difficult to estimate the volume of
illegal abortions per year but it can be safely stated that they run into the
thousands. We know the identity of the abortionists who handled the
greater part of local business and who were not included among these
recently prosecuted and convicted in Los Angeles.
This is a racket, and a dangerous one, because extremely few licensed
physicians and surgeons will perform an illegal abortion. Consequently a
majority of the illegal abortions are performed by men and women with
no education or license to entitle them to practice medicine or surgery.
In order to maintain a lucrative practice they must have outside contacts
to refer patients to them. The common sources of patients in San
Francisco are druggists, drug clerks and physicians and surgeons who
are themselves unwilling to perform illegal abortions. Detail men and
women are employed by the abortionists to keep in contact with these
sources in order to maintain the flow of business.
According to persons who have engaged in this unlawful practice there
was a definite and regular police "payoff" for protection. Two instances
came to our attention wherein even inspectors of the State Board of
Medical Examiners had been corrupted. Neither one of these men is at
present connected with the State board. The homicide detail of the
Bureau of Inspectors is charged with the duty of investigating violations
of the law in this field.
A few months ago local police, in conjunction with law enforcement
agencies in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle and Portland rounded up a
coast-wide syndicate of abortionists. Members of this ring were indicted
in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. The case was prosecuted in
Los Angeles, with your office and the local police assisting the district
attorney of the county. Some of those convicted had operated locally
and a very impressive showing was made in the case. However, this
ring, as a group, was controlled and directed by persons comparatively
new to this territory and regarded as interlopers by the old established
operators locally and in the other cities mentioned. Independent
abortionists, who were not affiliated with this combine and among whose
number were some of the oldest, largest and most notorious
"practitioners" in San Francisco, were not disturbed by this foray.
Some of the officers of the crime prevention detail of the Bureau of
Inspectors had made it a practice to harass, or "roust" (to use the
vernacular), panderers and other questionable characters in the so-
called underworld until these worthies found it much more to their
advantage to "pay off." The $1,000 vag" law, which enables police to
pick up a person for almost no reason, lends itself readily to
During the course of this investigation we were informed that thieves
and possessors of stolen goods obtained immunity by "paying off" to
inspectors assigned to the duty of investigating burglaries and other
forms of theft and of recovering stolen merchandise.
Graft was not entirely confined to unlawful activities. Their success in
this field had emboldened officers and others to tackle legitimate
business. For instance, a local citizen and substantial property holder
gave us a statement of which the following is a resume: Along with
several partners, whose financial contribution was small because they
were mainly interested in the operation of the business, he invested
approximately $30,000 in a combination restaurant, bar and night club.
Shortly after the place was opened and it began to appear that the
venture would be a success, he was told that it was customary to make
payments to the police. Owners of similar establishment in the same
area informed him that they paid $75 per month to the special detail. In
addition he was told that "it would be to his interest" to give 10 per cent
to the business of the McDonough Brothers who were represented as
having "police connections." This was to be accomplished by giving an
extra 10 per cent interest to one of the partners, who was admittedly in
the employ of McDonough Brothers. He was further advised that all
police problems would be taken care of by this group and that necessary
permits, which might otherwise be denied by the police commission,
could be easily obtained.
It was intimated that, if a portion of the business were not assigned as
suggested, the police would harass the patrons and management. It
became patent to our informant that he could not successfully remain in
business and protect his investment unless he bowed to these
"suggestions," so he executed a document submitted to him by Byron C.
Parker, an attorney employed in the office of McDonough Brothers,
which conveyed 10 per cent of the business to this group. Subsequently
difficulty was still encountered in securing liquor and dance permits from
the Police Commission and Peter P. McDonough advised him to retain a
certain lawyer. He did this on a fixed fee basis but shortly afterwards this
lawyer asked for more money on the representation he had to pay it out
to facilitate the issuance of the permits. He became disgusted by this
time and declined to proceed further in this matter. His applications for
permits were later denied. He was therefore, not able to reopen the
place of business and has consequently suffered a heavy financial loss.
This man was ready and willing to testify before the grand jury.
However, a witness, necessary to corroborate certain portions of his
testimony, was out of the State and could not be subpoenaed. He was
interviewed and orally confirmed these statements of our informant but
he would not return to San Francisco.
Certain garages were given preference to the point of having a virtual
monopoly on tow car service in accident cases. When police responding
to an accident call arrived at the scene they saw to it that the preferred
garages in their respective districts got the job of towing in the disabled
machines. The standard "payoff" in cases of this kind was $2.50 which
obliged the garage man to charge the customer $5 whereas ordinarily if
no "payoff" were required, he would only charge half that amount. In
relating some of his experiences in this connection, one garage man told
us that not infrequently he had found police officers waiting at the
garage to receive their "payoff" when he arrived there with the disabled
Garages providing tow car service usually maintained short wave radio
sets with loud speakers constantly tuned in on the police broadcasts.
When an accident call was heard they endeavored not only to beat
competitors to the scene, but also to get there ahead of the police so the
latter could not interfere with the effort to close a deal. A garage man
informed us that several times he had been forced to relinquish cars
after his service had already been retained by the owner because of
police pressure in favor of a competitor.
A small merchant informed one of our investigators that he was forced to
pay a certain patrolman on his beat $3.50 per week for the privilege of
playing a radio on the sidewalk in front of his store. This officer
consistently harassed him with complaints that the radio was noisy and
a nuisance until he submitted to a proposition.
We shall comment only briefly on petty graft, as it was not regarded as
the real subject of this investigation and was only given incidental
attention. However, it is practiced on a wide scale by police officers who,
as a class, seem to feel they should be exempt from paying their way
like other members of the community. They expect free meals, free
drinks, passes to sporting events, theater and other amusements, etc. It
is said that a "smart" officer only pays when it is unavoidable. A typical
case was recited by the wife of an officer, who informed us that her
husband not only received groceries, liquors, household goods and
supplies free of charge, but clothes and even free medical and dental
and optician's services for himself and members of his family. They
grant all sorts of favors and concessions for rewards in cash or presents
of various kinds.
This habit has become so universal that it is accepted by numerous
people without any particular thought or notice. However, it is
burdensome and the cause of much annoyance to many citizens. It
lowers public respect and sometimes creates contempt for the uniform.
Furthermore, by making a "moocher" out of man, it tends to break down
his character and is oftentimes the stepping-stone to participation in
Reference was made above to "special assessments." During local
political campaigns the police department was an organized and
powerful electioneering force. Members of the department were not only
responsible for many thousands of votes for the favored candidates and
measures, but they aided materially in raising campaign funds.
Proprietors of illegal business were canvassed and informed that
contributions were expected. In many cases the amount of the
contribution was arbitrarily fixed and the proprietors paid it as a special
item separate and apart from their regular tribute.
The annual Police Ball for benefit of the Widow's and Orphan's Fund, a
very worthy cause, has been much abused and maligned because of the
methods of some officers in selling tickets. These officers did not ask,
but told, law violators how many tickets they should buy and the latter
had to take them and like it. In some cases the tickets were sold several
times as the buyers were advised that they would have no use for them
and had better give them back. Whether the proceeds of these repeat
sales were turned into the fund or not is questionable.
Some of the statements herein may be surprising and perhaps
incredible to a great many people who believe that police graft is
confined to prostitution and the various forms of gambling. However,
upon analysis, it is not difficult to understand. Corruption will break down
the moral fiber of any man. A police officer who becomes accustomed to
accepting money to close his eyes to one form of law violation will not
have any delicate qualms of conscience when offered the opportunity of
profiting likewise from another. Bribe taking, like any other practice is, is
very habit forming. The occasional furtive acceptance of money by an
officer at some early stage of his career sooner or later develops into a
habit of taking anything and everything that is offered. In many cases it
reaches a point eventually where he not only accepts, but demands
money, thereby becoming both a bribe-taker and an extortionist.
Corruption had advanced to such a point in the San Francisco Police
Department that many officers looked upon the revenue from graft as a
definitely established and recognized emolument or perquisite of the job
and resented the impudence of anyone who presumed to suggest
otherwise. We are almost convinced that some of these officers had
become so conscience-hardened that they o longer saw anything
improper in this practice but had justified it, by various convenient forms
of reasoning in their own minds. Many of them took the position that they
would be regarded as "saps" if they did not do what everyone else, who
had a chance, was doing. They argued that a policeman who did not
take money was a fool because he received no credit for being honest
but, on the contrary, found it slower and more difficult to secure
promotion in. Service (to some extent), an ability to pass the
examinations and political influence were the essentials to promotion,
with the latter an important consideration. They contended that men
were not classified according to moral stature in the police department;
that every man was honest until he got caught and the chances of this
occurring to any given individual were extremely unlikely for several
reasons: First, the police department was a sort of fraternity with an
unwritten law that no man should inform on another; second, that the
ones from whom he received money would not inform on him for fear of
reprisals; third, that if these first two insurance features failed and he
actually had to face charges, his brother officers would rally to his
defense in sufficient force to "beat" the case.
Disregarding the petty forms of graft and special collections, it will be
noted from the above statements that police corruption attained a very
imposing figure in dollars. Computed conservatively, the only conclusion
to be reached is that it approximated, if it did not exceed, $1,000,000 a
year. The greater part of this money was divided among members of the
police department with the great bulk of this share, until recently, going
to the captains and special duty men. A lesser, but substantial portion,
went to the comparatively small civilian group which participated in the
control of graft, particularly in the field of prostitution.
The above comments refer to normal times, or, in other words, before
the investigation started. During the past year revenue from graft has
diminished tremendously. The abolition of the Special Detail system
brought about a substantial reduction in the total "payoff." Collections
were passed up in many cases because of fear of detection while the
investigation was going on. Officers became cautious: avoided some of
the chances previously taken and refrained from "doing business" with
people in whom they did not have implicit confidence. In order to create
good will, some followed the course of "romancing" persons, whom they
ordinarily demanded money from by telling them they knew the
investigation was hurting their business so they need not "pay off."
Numerous houses of prostitution were instructed to curtail the number of
girls ordinarily employed and they were compensated for this to some
extent by a reduced "payoff." Some houses of prostitution were closed
entirely from time to time when police strategy deemed this the
advisable course to follow.
The elimination of special duty may have a permanent effect in lowering
the overhead of illegal businesses. However, the other factors which
contributed to reducing the volume of graft payments were merely
temporary and will afford no lasting relief. In fact it is my opinion that this
corruption will increase as time goes on rather than diminish unless
some intelligent, practical plan is evolved to remove the opportunity for
It is generally conceded, even by those persons who have opposed and
bitterly criticized this investigation that it has made a more determined
attack on the citadel of graft and has inspired more alarm and fear in the
ranks of corruption than any similar local undertaking in a great many
years. In spite of this graft continued on a reduced, but nonetheless
substantial scale, throughout the investigation. Under the circumstances
it is only reasonable to expect that it will increase now that the deterring
influence of the investigation has ended. Any unhealthy condition will
like a disease, become worse and spread to others who come in contact
with it unless the cause is found and removed. Many persons not
reached by this investigation will henceforth be bolder and more
arrogant than heretofore until their activities result in a major scandal
and force the citizens to take drastic action. One of the saddest
consequences of widespread systematic police graft is the fact that in
one way or another it absorbs so many fine young men. There are some
men of inherent dishonesty who enter the police department because of
the opportunity it offers to make "easy money" with comparative
security. Unfortunately it seems that a limited number of men of this type
must be expected but they are very much in the minority. The majority of
young men who enter the department are honorable individuals with
good intentions. However, after they have "picked up an envelope" a few
times for a sergeant, listened to the exploits of their dishonest brothers
while being described as fools for not doing likewise, and have observed
how these same brothers get ahead in the department as well and
frequently much better because of political preferment, they succumb by
degree and eventually become as bad as the others
There is another category of men who are made of sterner stuff and
resist efforts to corrupt them but are finally "broken on the wheel" and
forced to take the program of organized graft. In this connection an
officer cannot remain very long on a beat which comprises much illegal
activity and retain his honesty. If he persistently refuses to take money,
he arouses suspicion, is regarded as dangerous and the fine hand of
politics arranges for his transfer elsewhere. Men have gone to "the fog"
or have been given undesirable and spirit-breaking assignments for
resisting the demands of the corruptionists.
Corruption among a substantial section of the personnel has a
destructive influence on the entire department. It breeds jealousy and
resentment between the men, creates factions and causes some to
have little or no respect for others. Morale naturally breaks down under
these circumstances. Discipline suffers likewise. How can a captain, or
other superior officer, enforce the rules and regulations of the
department and hold his men to strict accountability in the discharge of
their duties if he is engaged in a conspiracy with them to violate the law
and they are sharing the resultant loot together? How can an officer
enforce the law without fear or favor when he is at the mercy of all the
law violators who have him on their payroll? A police department is a
semi-military unit, comparable in certain respects to the army. No
organization can function at it maximum efficiency without a full measure
of moral and discipline and these elements are even more indispensable
in a law enforcement agency.
The practice of many officers of closing their eyes to law violations for a
monetary consideration has developed a prejudice against the entire
department in he minds of numerous people. This is exceedingly
unfortunate because the police department should command the highest
respect of the people at all times.
Law enforcement is one of the most fundamental and important of our
governmental functions. It should be above suspicion and recognized as
an honorable field for the performance of public service so as to attract
the best available young manhood. If, through corruption, it comes into
disrepute and loses public esteem, it cannot accomplish this end and the
class of personnel will deteriorate.
There is no denying the fact that police officers are subjected to more
temptation than men in almost any other line of endeavor. It should also
be expected that in an organization of some thirteen hundred men there
will be dishonest individuals and others of low moral resistance. Police
officers are called upon to enforce certain laws, born of hypocrisy, which
are unpopular with many people and therefore openly flouted by them.
They are in the paradoxical position in San Francisco of having certain
laws to enforce which are in direct conflict with the inherent desire of the
people for an "open town."
These are some of the conditions and circumstances which create graft
and which make it necessary, unfortunate though it may be, to expect
and resign ourselves to a certain amount of corruption of individual
members of the police department. However, it is not a valid reason, nor
even an excuse, for the widespread corruption in the San Francisco
We have made this last statement several times during the course of the
investigation. It is not very specific, but we do not care to offer any
certain figures as the approximate number, or percentage, of police
personnel involved in the corruption as it might appear an exaggeration.
We have in our files written statements asserting "payoffs" to more than
50 police officers. We were unable to ask for criminal or police
commission action against these officers for a variety of reasons, but
largely because there was insufficient corroborative evidence available.
In addition, we have been told orally of "payoffs' involving several times
as many more officers.
In this same connection it should also be borne in mind that two retired
police captains, namely Stephen V. Bunner and Patrick N. Herlihy, fled
from their homes and remained in hiding throughout the investigation so
that process servers were never able to locate them for grand jury
From comments heretofore it might appear to some critics that we are
cynical and have an "anti-police" complex to the point where we dislike
and distrust all police officers. Such is not the case. In the course of law
enforcement service we have had occasion to work with police officers
in many places and have numbered quite a few friends among them. A
police officers job is far from being a simple one and we have some
appreciation of his problems. There are men of honor and integrity in the
San Francisco Police Department and we have the utmost respect for
them. We have conversed with some of these men. They have nothing
but contempt for their fellow officers who have traduced the uniform and
they fervently hoped that this investigation would fully accomplish its
objectives. We have frequently called attention to the fact that there are
many men of this caliber in the department. To these loyal,
conscientious men, who have lived up to their oaths of office under
extremely trying circumstances, we express keen regret if any of them
have been caused any embarrassment by this investigation.
Results Accomplished By the Investigation
The results directly attributable to this investigation are set forth at this
time for record purposes.
The following officers were removed from the department by dismissal,
except as otherwise indicated:
1- Frederick Lemon, captain.
2- Patrick Shannon, Sergeant, special duty man.
3- Patrick Walsh, patrolman, special duty man.
4- Joseph M. Brouders, patrolman, special duty man.
5- George Lillis, patrolman, special duty man.
6- Edward Christal, patrolman, special duty man.
7- Joseph S. Murray, patrolman former special duty man (resigned).
8- Thomas N. Hoertkorn, captain.
9- Alex Mino, patrolman, special duty man.
10- Arthur De Gure, captain.
11- Peter A. MacIntyre, lieutenant.
12- James B. Miles, patrolman, special duty man (resigned).
13- Joseph Mignola, lieutenant.
14- Arthur O'Brien, patrolman.
15- Thomas G. Roche, Lieutenant.
16- James H. Coleman, patrolman (retired).
All of the above dismissals were ordered by the police commission after
the men named had been found guilty off unofficerlike conduct. In all but
two cases, this charge was founded on the refusal of the officers to
testify before the grand jury when called for examination on their assets
and financial transactions. They were cited to appear before the
presiding judge of the Superior Court and ordered by the court to return
to the grand jury and testify or else face action for contempt. In order to
escape jail sentences for contempt, they eventually availed themselves
of their constitutional privilege of declining to answer questions on the
ground they might incriminate themselves. Captains Lemon and
Hoertkorn were actually arrested and jailed but purged themselves of
contempt by exercising this privilege.
The action taken against sergeant Patrick Shannon was based on the
same situation and the additional charge that he gave false testimony
before the grand jury. Shannon testified on his first appearance before
the grand jury but became mute when recalled for further examination.
The case against lieutenant Thomas G. Roche was based on false
testimony given before the grand jury.
The following officers were indicted for criminal offenses by the grand
1 - Henry H. Ludolph, lieutenant, Harbor District.
2 - James B. Miles, patrolman, Harbor District.
(These two men comprised the Special Detail in the Harbor District.)
3 - David J. Dillon patrolman, Central District
4 – Joseph S. Murray, patrolman, Central District.
5 – George Burkhard, patrolman, Central District.
The first four of the above-named officers were indicted for offenses
involving bribery and the last named for perjury in giving testimony
before the grand jury. Indictments involving bribery were also found by
the grand jury against two civilians and these cases are now pending.
Joseph S. Murray was tried and acquitted, on a directed verdict, when
the State's principal witness, Abel Ducayla, refused to testify on the
ground he might incriminate himself. The prosecution proceeded no
further when Ducayla took this position, as his testimony was stated to
be essential to establish a corpus delicti. Because of this technicality, we
were unable to introduce three sworn confessions made at different
times by Murray and a fourth statement made by him to his commanding
officer, in which he admitted receiving bribes from Ducayla to permit
prostitution at the Oakland Hotel in San Francisco. Subsequently, on the
day he was scheduled to appear for trial before the Police Commission,
Murray resigned from the department.
Officer James B. Miles, when first called before the grand jury, refused
to testify on the grounds that he might incriminate himself and, on the
following day, resigned from the department. Subsequently he changed
his mind and requested to withdraw his resignation. The commission
held that he would first have to return and testify before the grand jury.
He complied with this decision but before any action could be taken in
his case he was indicted. He is presently awaiting trial on the criminal
charge and his status is evidently that of a private citizen.
The retirement of patrolman James H. Coleman can be directly traced to
this investigation despite the fact his application was based on physical
disability. Coleman was on a special one man assignment out of the
chief's office, unofficially referred to as the Immigration Detail, for a
number of years and was notorious as the "guardian angel" of the
French vice colony. Shortly after the grand jury sessions started, when it
became apparent he would be called before that body, Coleman very
quietly applied for and was granted retirement and fled the jurisdiction.
Despite the fact that the police department broadcast an appeal for him
to return, he has remained in hiding throughout the investigation and has
failed to collect his pension checks, which have now reached a sum in
excess of $1,000.
Lieutenant Ludolph was tried on one indictment and acquitted by a jury
in the Superior Court. There is still another indictment pending against
him and he is under conviction by the Police Commission on the charge
of unofficerlike conduct growing out of his refusal to testify at the time of
his original appearance before the grand jury.
The criminal charges against David J. Dillon were dismissed following
the abortive trial of Murray. This action was taken because the State's
case was dependent on the testimony of Abel Ducayla, who had taken
advantage of his constitutional privilege. Dillon was found not guilty by
the Police Commission when Ducayla persisted in his refusal to testify.
Patrolman George Burkhard is still awaiting trial on the criminal charge.
Officer Ludolph, Dillon and Burkhard have been under suspension since
they were indicted.
It will be noted that among the officers dismissed were the captains in
three of the important downtown districts. In the Central District the
captain and the entire special district went out. The Southern District
Special Detail consisted of only two men and one of these was
The second member of the Southern district Special Detail, Patrolman
Harry P. Cutler, was found guilty of unofficerlike conduct by the Police
commission for refusing to testify before the grand jury and given a
suspended sentence. He subsequently appeared and testified and was
finally restored to duty after a reprimand.
In addition to the above named officers, two additional members of the
department face the possibility of dismissal when the Police Commission
acts on their cases.
The grand jury, on October 13, 1936, adopted a report, which was filed
with the presiding judge of the Superior Court on October 15, 1936,
recommending to the Police Commission that charges of conduct be
filed against Patrolman John J. Dooling. This recommendation
was adopted by a vote of the jury because of Dooling's failure to explain
satisfactorily his large surplus income and after the presentation of
evidence showing that his testimony in several instances was not in
accordance with the facts. Dooling's average yearly deposits for a ten-
year period from 1923 to 1932, inclusive, was $14,858.50. His peak year
was 1925 with $38,423.22, and his lowest year 1932, $5,116.59. For six
years his deposits ran into eight figures. He is now awaiting trial by the
The grand jury, on September 21, 1936, adopted a report, which was
filed with the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court on September 23,
1936, recommending to the Police Commission that charges of
unofficerlike conduct be filed against Patrolman William Quinlan
because of his failure to explain satisfactorily his large holdings, mostly
in cash and stocks. It was shown that Quinlan's cash assets in banks
and the estimated cost of his investments amounted to $110,704.26. He
is now awaiting trial by the Police Commission.
One of the most important developments of the investigation was the
abolition of the special duty system in the police department. The
iniquities of this system were well known to many people in the
community and the men on this assignment were frequently referred to
as "collectors," "bucketmen," etc. When the first seven of these men
called before the grand jury declined to testify on the ground they might
incriminate themselves, and you (District Attorney Brady), pointed out in
a public statement that the activities of the special duty man was one of
the important reasons for the investigation, the police department
decided to do something about it. Accordingly, on June 9, 1936, Chief
William J. Quinn issued an order permanently abolishing the system.
As a further result of this investigation, there have been a number of
cash settlements and recoveries made from police officers on
undeclared income and personal property by the United States Bureau
of Internal Revenue and the Assessor for the City and County of San
Francisco, respectively The exact amount of these recoveries, or even
an accurate approximation, is impossible as no official information is
available from the Collector of Internal Revenue. The total sum
recouped by the Federal Government through the last mentioned
agency was far in excess of that obtained by the County Assessor and
the two together represent, according to unofficial advice, a very
We have considered it a duty to cooperate with the Internal Revenue
bureau and have made a great deal of data available to agents of that
organization. When these data are fully checked with the records of the
Internal Revenue bureau, it is likely that additional officers will be forced
to disgorge on unreported incomes. It is also probable that a continuing
benefit will accrue to the Government as police officers will not be so apt
to forget the formality of filing income tax returns in the future.
In the course of this investigation, there was the usual clamoring for
action against "higher ups." In so far as the police department is
concerned, the highest active rank is that of captain with the single
exception of the chief. It will be seen above that captains suffered to a
greater degree proportionately than any other rank. However, the point I
have in mind is that a man's rank in the department does not necessarily
correspond to his position in the graft system. A patrolman, for example,
may be a much more important cog in the graft alignment than a
captain. Most of the special duty men were patrolman but they were on
the inside of a great deal more corruption than some captains.
Evidence gathered jointly by the Immigration Bureau of the United
States Department of Labor and ourselves resulted in deportation
proceedings being initiated against Fernand Ondella, Abel Ducayla and
the latter's consort, Anna Roberts, as well as Federal charges of perjury
against Ondella. A criminal charge of bribery was also developed
against Ducayla and is now pending in the State Courts. In addition, we
submitted evidence to the United States Attorney, at your direction,
which resulted in two additional Federal criminal charges against
Ducayla, one for violating the "fugitive witness" law, and the other for
falsely registering as a voter. Anna Roberts was also indicted for the
latter offense. All of these cases are awaiting trial.
Circumstances and Conditions Controlling Course, Scope and Methods
In my announcement of the closing of the investigation, I made certain
statements which I have since been asked to explain. I shall endeavor to
do so herein, but first shall set forth certain facts and circumstances
concerning my own position and the course and conduct of the case as
As you know, I did not precipitate this investigation nor solicit the job of
conducting it. I had no information the undertaking was even
contemplated until approaches were made by your office. When
employed, I frankly stated there could be no assurance of results.
At the start, I was given to understand there was no reason to expect
any funds additional to the original $25,000 appropriation of the Board of
Supervisors. Our campaign was therefore planned and carried out on a
comparatively small scale, considering the problem at hand, in order to
remain within the limitations of the fund.
When the second appropriation was made available on July 9, 1936, our
staff and program was expanded and the investigation from then on was
conducted along broader lines. When results began to be manifested by
the new lines of inquiry, a series of developments occurred which so
reduced the general effectiveness of the undertaking as to make it
advisable to terminate it.
It is unfortunate, since a second and larger appropriation was eventually
forthcoming, that the entire fund was not made available at the start so
the enterprise could have commenced along more comprehensive lines
with the maximum opportunity for greater and quicker results.
A comparison between the accomplishments of this investigation and
similar enterprises here and elsewhere does not leave us in an
unfavorable position. So far as my associates and myself are
concerned, however, we are greatly disappointed because we feel the
full potentialities of the undertaking were not realized. We hoped and
endeavored to achieve a thorough housecleaning in the police
department and we believe that we could have gone a great deal farther
toward accomplishing this objective if we had been given a fair measure
of support by the city administration.
A graft investigation readily lends itself to controversies and sensational
news stories. The history of a number of these cases reveals that they
have generated a tremendous amount of ill feeling and business and
have been accompanied by lurid accusations, personal vilification and
general mud-slinging. This has occurred to such an extreme degree in
some instances that the original purpose of the inquiries was lost sight of
while the participants engaged in a melee of insults and opprobrium. We
resolved in the beginning that, so far as it was within our power, this
case would be kept on a different plane. In my endeavor to adhere to
this resolution, I frequently refrained from publicly pointing out conditions
and circumstances which hampered and stultified our efforts on he
theory that a greater measure of co-operation could be secured by
maintaining friendly relations. In looking back now, I think I erred in
exercising restraint on a number of occasions when, by speaking out,
the public might have been aroused to exert more pressure on some of
I have no desire to stir up a controversy now, but I feel that some of the
difficulties under which this investigation labored should be pointed out
for what value they may have in planning any future inquiries of this
Corruption in a large metropolitan police department is probably the
most difficult subject that can be selected for investigation. By this is
meant an investigation designed for punitive purposes as distinguished
from a mere survey of the conditions. It is not essential to go into any
lengthy discussion of the reasons for this situation, but it is advisable to
point out certain factors contributing thereto, as they strongly influenced
me in shaping the course of this investigation.
An investigation of this type must recruit its witnesses almost entirely
from underworld sources and the sporting fraternity. These people are
schooled in the principle that to talk is to become a "stool pigeon" or
"fink," and to receive this appellation makes one an outcast forevermore.
Strict adherence to this principle on a large scale must therefore be
anticipated with a corresponding foreclosure on sources of evidence.
The more intelligent of these people, who resent the police system of
exacting tribute and who might be expected to benefit themselves by
aiding in throwing off this yoke, are restrained by the fear that they will
be permanently blacklisted by the police and prevented from earning a
living in their chosen field.
In the comparatively few cases where these people have the courage to
testify, they make very vulnerable witnesses. Practically all of them have
police records but, whether they have or not, they are held up to scorn
and contempt before the jury and figuratively crucified by smart criminal
lawyers. Such lawyers are very resourceful in ingenious and they usually
manipulate a case to where the prosecution's witnesses are on trial
rather than the defendant. In this connection, of course, the defense
counsel has to convince (only) one person out of twelve that the word of
a prostitute, for instance, should not be taken against that of a police
officer in order to save his client from conviction. Under the sway of a
shrewd criminal lawyer, who demands to know why the State does not
produce witnesses of good reputation and character, jurors frequently
forget the ministers of the Gospel, Sunday School teachers, etc., do not
have to pay for police protection.
"Payoffs" are not generally made in the presence of witnesses other
than the participants or parties interested in the transaction. In many
cases only two persons are present. It is impossible to convict a person
of a felony without testimony or other evidence of a corroborative nature.
Furthermore, the bribe-giver is just as guilty of a crime as the bribe-
taker. However, if the former is to testify against the latter he cannot very
well be prosecuted. The defense exploits this situation to the limit by
proclaiming from the housetops that the State has bought the witness'
testimony with immunity. This scheme is sometimes successful in
prejudicing jurors against the State's case.
The foregoing are conditions and circumstances which apply generally
to all cases of this character. The instant case started off under an
added handicap in that it was preceded by prolonged and intensive
newspaper publicity or, succinctly, "ballyhoo." This served to put the
forces against whom our efforts were directed, on guard, with the result
that they restricted their activities, did business only with those persons
whom they could trust implicitly and warned, sometimes even
threatened, many against talking to or allowing investigators to enter
their premises. Figuratively, they erected a barrier around themselves
which was hard to penetrate and materially increased the normal
difficulties of the case.
No one can be held responsible for the latter situation. It was simply the
natural result of the investigation being sponsored by the city and
financed out of public funds. Money cannot be appropriated out of the
public treasury except by the Board of Supervisors. Such action
immediately becomes a matter of public record and everyone is on
When I first agreed to conduct this investigation, I was not familiar with
all the events which precipitated it and did not realize how extensively
publicized it had been. When the work actually commenced, I became
fully aware of the situation and took steps to correct it. The newspapers
co-operated generously and for more than two months there was very
little publicity. I believed this to be the best course to follow but it may
have been a mistake as there was too sudden and complete a let-down.
The public, its appetite for news once whetted, lost interest when there
was a cessation of publicity and some unfavorable reactions occurred.
After analyzing the various factors we came to the conclusion that it
would be practically impossible to affect a major cleanup of the police
department if we had to depend entirely on convicting officers of criminal
charges. We took the view, which we still hold as the most sound one,
that the paramount objective was to purge the department of graft.
Therefore what difference did it make whether corrupt officers were
removed by criminal conviction, dismissal or resignation or, in short, by
any legal means? Furthermore, I had no personal desire for "a pound of
flesh" and thought that the welfare of the police department as a whole
was of greater consequence than sending a small number of men to jail.
Do not interpret these remarks to mean that we did not intend to seek
and develop evidence of the commission of criminal offenses by police
officers and to submit such evidence to you for presentation to the grand
jury. On the contrary, this was an important part of our program but we
considered that, to make it the exclusive, or even most favored means to
the end would be to greatly reduce the effectiveness and generally
stultify the main purpose of the investigation.
Accordingly, we commenced an examination of the bank accounts and
financial transactions of officers whom we had reason to suspect were
benefiting from graft. We proceeded on the theory that any of these
officers having an excessive amount of cash and –or investments, or
whose monthly deposits showed a substantial surplus over their
salaries, should be called upon for a strict accounting; that, either their
refusal to give such an accounting, their submission of a false
accounting or their failure to give a plausible or reasonable explanation
of how they acquired substantial fortunes, should be sufficient grounds
for the police commission to take appropriate action to bring about their
In the course of this line of inquiry we examined the bank and brokerage
accounts, real estate transactions and miscellaneous financial dealings
of approximately 300 police officers and their families, totaling about
1,000 persons. We found it was the general practice of these officers to
maintain a multiplicity of bank accounts and, in many instances, several
brokerage accounts so that the volume of work and time required was
unusual and unexpectedly heavy.
In following out this same procedure we prepared a very comprehensive
examination for your guidance in questioning officers before the grand
jury and subsequently about fifty officers were subpoenaed to testify. In
passing, I might comment that the two-fold purpose of this examination
was not understood or else was lost sight of by many people. In this
respect many missed the point that to secure an explanation of surplus
deposits at regular intervals in the past years was equally and, in many
instances, much more important than an explanation of the bank
balances and assets of a man on any given date during the
investigation. For example, a man might handle many thousands of
dollars in excess of his salary but, by concealing or squandering it, he
could appear to be in moderate or even poor circumstances when called
upon to testify.
The efficacy of this procedure is amply demonstrated, in my judgment,
because it is directly responsible for the results obtained and listed
heretofore, except indictments. I refer not only to dismissals but also the
abolition of the special duty system.
We were not pioneering in this procedure but it was novel to San
Francisco and it served to take the opposition by surprise. It is true that
police officers were required to bring their bank books to the grand jury
in the Kamokila case, but no interest was manifested in anything more
than the bank balances at the moment; no effort was made to exact a
substantial accounting and the whole proceeding was too superficial in
this particular respect to be comparable to the program followed in the
present case. This is best evidenced by the fact that many of the officers
who testified in the Kamokila case on the subject of personal finances
were afraid to face the examination outlined in this case and declined to
This plan of action should have been continued relentlessly but
circumstances rendered such a course impossible. After the hilarity of
excitement caused by the first Arabian nights tales told to the grand jury
and the subsequent dismissal of twelve officers had subsided, a
constant and increasing clamor was set up for indictments. The demand
for indictments was dinned into our ears from all quarters and we were
told that dismissal might serve but the investigation would not be
regarded as a success unless police officers went to jail. It was in sharp
contrast to the attitude previously manifested toward the undertaking
and it might have been amusing if it were not for the unfortunate effect it
had on the case.
Prior to the opening of the grand jury sessions, there were few, if any,
persons outside of ourselves who gave thought to the investigation
accomplishing any results. The majority of people manifested little or no
interest in it and others generally viewed it with feelings of futility,
suspicion and contempt. The first results were startling enough but
reaction set in and dismissal was not considered sufficient punishment
so the cry for prison sentences developed.
We could not control all of the influences which affected this
investigation and this was an instance where we had to compromise as
the result of pressure. Prior to the second appropriation of funds we had
laid greater stress on the assembling of data designed to bring about
dismissals than on the collection of evidence for criminal prosecutions.
After the date of the second appropriation we reversed this procedure
although we did not abandon the first line of inquiry.
This change in program had a part in reducing the effectiveness of the
first phase of our program but it was only one factor and, in my
judgment, not the most important one. The process itself was too much
of a routine to maintain interest at a high pitch over an extended period
of time. It was slow, tedious procedure lacking the spectacular qualities
of criminal prosecutions. The pace set by the trunk, bait box, woodpile,
baking powder can stories told the grand jury, could not be sustained
indefinitely. The testimony of succeeding witnesses, while just as
preposterous in many instances, did not have the same sensational
story value and nothing was done about it, so the press gradually played
it down and public interest diminished. The grand jury found it
monotonous and tiresome, grew impatient and eventually lost interest in
anything but indictment evidence.
As it developed, it was unfortunate that the presiding judge did not
adhere to his original intention of dismissing the grand jury at the
expiration of six months. In making this comment, I intend no criticism of
Judge Robinson or the grand jury. When the jury was impanelled Judge
Robinson advised the members that their task would be more arduous
than that of the usual grand jury and he therefore intended to dismiss
them after six months' service. At the end of this time he continued them
in office on the theory they were familiar with the case and in a position
to work more smoothly and efficiently than a new body of men. This was
a most natural and logical decision and it would have worked out
advantageously in almost any other case.
There were several members of the grand jury out of sympathy with this
investigation, One of those was avowedly opposed to it from its
inception. However, I do not believe any local grand jury in twenty-five
years has spent so much time in session. The members were asked to
make a great sacrifice in this respect and they responded generously.
Many earnestly desired to cooperate with the investigation.
The second appropriation was for the purpose of carrying on the
investigation along broader lines with an increased number of
government-trained investigators. As indicated before, the main purpose
of the undertaking from then on was to develop evidence for
indictments. Delay in making the second fund available delayed the
arrival of new personnel until after the middle of July and it was about
the first of August before they had all familiarized themselves with the
case sufficiently to function at full efficiency. On September 29, 1936,
the first indictments were returned by the grand jury. Other indictments
followed on October 15 and 31, 1936. In the meantime, evidence was
also presented to the grand jury which resulted in the adoption of reports
recommending to the Police Commission that charges of un-officer-like
conduct be filed against three officers. One of these men has since been
Circumstances and obstacles hindering investigation and causing its
The strike had an increasingly damaging effect on the investigation from
the time it first began to threaten seriously, which was very soon after
the second phase of the investigation commenced. Its major reactions
were twofold. It made the investigation unpopular with business and
industry. They considered that their interests required them to maintain
favor with the police department by manifesting disapproval of any
activity which might have a disturbing effect on police personnel. The
strike provided a convenient refuge for the Police Commission and Chief
Quinn. It enabled them to quibble, delay and deny certain vital requests
with the explanation that compliance would be detrimental to the morale
of the department.
For example, it was necessary from time to time to identify individual
members of the department. Some persons, who assertedly had corrupt
dealings with police officers, were unable to recall their names or
remembered only their first names or nicknames but they stated they
could identify the men on sight. In some instances it was not known in
what districts the men were then assigned. The practical approach to
this problem appeared to be to show the photographs of all the officers
assigned to the area at the time the transaction occurred. When we
applied to the police department for such photographs we were
surprised to learn that there were none available of men who entered
the department prior to 1923. Those that were on file were taken before
the men were even given uniforms and some were so old they were
practically worthless for identification purposes.
We requested Chief Quinn to issue an order requiring the submission of
photographs by all members of the department. The chief declined on
the grounds that such an order might be considered unreasonable and
that it would hurt the morale of the department. When I called his
attention to the fact that it would not only be of assistance to the
investigation but that the department should have a complete file of up-
to-date pictures for its own records, in accordance with the practice of all
modern law enforcement agencies, which also require fingerprints as
well, he said he would think it over. In this respect, I might say that the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (Department of Justice) requires new
photos of its agents every six months.
Shortly afterward this subject was again broached at a conference
attended by Theodore Roche, president of the Board of Police
Commissioners; Chief Quinn, Assistant District Attorney Joseph T.
O'Connor, and myself. The chief adhered to his previous position and
was supported by Mr. Roche, who made the same statement that such
an order as was being requested would injure the moral of the
department, they must be careful to avoid doing anything during the
emergency created by the strike, that might disturb the temper of the
men. Needless to say, there was no order issued.
This not only delayed and hindered us in our work, but it also reflects the
quality of cooperation extended in this investigation by the police
commission. To contend that a rule requiring police officers to submit
photographs for the personnel files of the department would affect the
morale of the men is, in my judgment, to wander far in the realm of
Shortly after this situation arose (at 4:20 a.m. October 22, 1936,to be
exact) I received a telephone call from an undercover man who had
been given a general "prowling" assignment. He informed me that he
was in the company of a friend and they had just left a speakeasy in the
Ellis/Polk district; that while they were in this place two officers in
uniform entered, examined the liquor, observed the customers and then
took the proprietor outside; that on his return the proprietor said he had
"paid off." I immediately proceeded to the address given me and
questioned the proprietor. He admitted the "payoff" and, upon being
brought to the office, made a lengthy statement covering this and other
transactions with police officers extending back several years into the
bootlegging era. He stated that two officers had a police car and
appeared to be radio patrolmen, but that he did not know their names
and he had never "done business" with them before. Unfortunately, our
agent was not in a position to see the star numbers of the officers.
After securing what was supposed to be a complete list of the radiomen
in the area at the time, we rigged up an amateurish, but effective,
"shadowgraph," which enabled suspects to be observed without seeing
the witnesses and had them ordered into our office by the chief's office.
In order not to interfere with the policing of the district, we arranged for
them to come in pairs rather than all together. The men were told we
would not embarrass them if they were not identified. They were treated
courteously and, with one or two exceptions, they manifested no
resentment. The witnesses present were unable to identify any of them.
The next day a terrific wail went up from the Police Department and we
were accused of unfair tactics. A conference was held with Mr. Roche,
Chief Quinn, Mr. O'Connor and myself present, Mr. Roche stated the
men in the department objected to our procedure, objected to coming to
my apartment and that he himself thought it was not fair. He suggested
that we have our witnesses look at officers in their respective stations or
that some one station be selected for this purpose.
I pointed out to Mr. Roche we were merely following a common police
practice which was made more essential because of his decision relative
to the photographs; that we could not jeopardize civilian witnesses by
taking them to police stations where they would be subject to scrutiny by
a large number of officers; that my office was not my apartment; that it
was located in an apartment building where I also resided, it was used
for no other purpose besides the business of this investigation and,
under the circumstances, was as much a part of the District Attorney's
office as your own quarters; that our good faith was demonstrated by the
fact no identification was made; that we did not embarrass any innocent
men by giving out their names and that the press learned about it
through the officers themselves.
After considerable discussion Mr. Roche agreed to permit us to call in
officers for identification, provided about six men were lined up at a time.
This offer was satisfactory to me but you will observe that it was short-
During October we were making a very intensive inquiry into the
activities of a group of officers, including the captain in the Western
Addition district. We had a complete statement from a woman who was
prepared to testify that she paid several officers. Careful questioning and
re-questioning this woman over a period of weeks satisfied us that she
was truthful and by checking some of her statements, some
corroboration was secured. Further confirmation was obtained through
information given us confidentially by members of the Police
Department. At this stage it became necessary to interrogate several of
the officers involved. We had been following a plan worked out with the
chief whereby he ordered any officer whom we desired to question to
report to our office.
Accordingly, we had two of these men, Mathew Savasta and Albert P.
Christ, come to our office one evening for questioning. Savasta balked
at first but changed his mind when told by the chief's office that he had
no alternative. During the course of these examinations the woman
mentioned above was brought in to confront the two officers. It was not
for the purpose of identification, as she had already named and
described these men and selected their photographs from a group of
officers. Our object was largely to observe her reaction and to determine
whether she would stand by her statements when face to face with the
men she accused. To her credit it should be said that she showed no
sign of wavering.
At this time Savasta had been transferred and was on assignment under
the supervision of Captain Charles W. Dullea, chief of the bureau of
inspectors. The following day he complained to Captain Dullea, who in
turn protested to Chief Quinn. The latter had previous acted on his own
initiative but now, when his action met with objection, he sought the
advice of the President of the Board of Police Commissioners. Mr.
Roche informed him that he should advise the men to come to our office
when requested but that he should not order them to appear.
In the meantime, before I heard of this ruling, I asked Sergeant William
D. O'Keefe be sent to our office for questioning. I learned that
considerable persuasion was necessary to get him to appear and, on his
arrival, he announced that he would not be "fingered" or, in other words,
pointed out or identified. He then proceeded to tell me just what kinds of
questions he would and would not answer and to dictate generally what
we should and should not do. I informed him that I had been selected for
this investigation rather than he. So long as this situation applied, I
would ask him whatever questions I saw fit. If he were not prepared to
answer he could leave. After some bickering we finally questioned him
under very unsatisfactory circumstances.
As Christ was leaving on the night mentioned above, I told him that we
might want to question him further in few days and he assured me he
would be available. Three days later, on a Saturday morning, I
telephoned to him at his home and made an appointment for him the
return to the office at 10 a.m. He failed to appear, so, after waiting an
hour, I went to his home. The curtains were drawn, no one responded to
the bell and nothing further was heard from Christ.
I communicated this information to the chief on the following Monday
and asked him to order Christ to come to our office. It was then that I
was advised of the ruling set forth above. The chief said he would advise
Christ to come in but expressed doubt that it would have any effect. This
proved to be true; Christ declined point bank to return.
This development circulated very rapidly through the police "grapevine."
Officers learned that when the chief called on them to report to our office
it was not an order and they could refuse with impunity. It brought about
a situation whereby they laughed at the investigation. In practical effect it
denied the investigators access to police officers. It created a
preposterous condition tantamount to one wherein the Police
Department would be denied the right to question suspects or persons
having information pertinent to a robbery or any other crime.
This ruling brought about an impasse in the investigation, forcing it to
more or less mark time for approximately a month. Several discussions
were held by Mr. O'Connor and myself with Mr. Roche and Chief Quinn
during this time until finally Mr. Roche granted us the concession of
interviewing officers with certain restrictions. He laid down this formula;
That we would question police officers only at the District Attorney's
office, in the presence of an Assistant District Attorney and during the
regular business hours of the office; that, if he requested it, an officer
could have a lawyer present; that, according to his wishes, an officer
could have a Police Department stenographer present to take his
statement in shorthand.
The files and records of the investigation were in our own office and we
were naturally faced with the necessity of referring to them on occasions
when questioning persons. We could not always anticipate everything
that might develop during the course of such interrogations. Our
stenographers and our facilities for writing statements were also in our
office. The city was paying rent for this office for the purpose of carrying
on the business of the investigation.
Police corruption is not confined to the hours of 9 to 5 and an
investigation of this kind cannot maintain regular office hours. Actually in
this case it was a 24 hour job. Situations that develop cannot be allowed
to languish for hours while the participants exchange notes, prepare
alibis, fabricate stories so as to make them coincide, advise with
lawyers, etc. One must strike while the iron is hot. Witnesses cannot be
brought to the District Attorney's office in the daytime for the purpose of
identifying police officers without running the risk of revealing their own
We were not charging anyone with a crime and conducting a judicial
hearing where their guilt or innocence would be determined and they
would therefore be entitled to representation by counsel. Furthermore,
anyone who has engaged in the investigation and prosecution of crime
knows that no progress would be made in law enforcement if criminal
lawyers were allowed to participate in the investigation. These items
were pointed out during the course of discussions with Mr. Roche and
The direct effect this situation had on the case at hand was to nullify the
progress that had been made. Christ had been evasive and
contradictory because he knew that we were aware of many of the facts.
He was not so deeply involved in the matter himself, but he was
protecting persons higher up. Each time we questioned him he
enmeshed himself further and he was becoming so nervous and "jittery"
that he was on the verge of breaking down. However, the several weeks
respite afforded by Mr. Roche ruling furnished him an opportunity to
regain some of his lost composure and gave the whole group time to
build their fences. We questioned Christ again under the new
arrangement but we had lost the advantage previously gained. This
situation, which culminated a long struggle against adverse
circumstances that consistently operated to smother the investigation,
left me ready to accept promptly the decision made by you very shortly
afterwards to terminate the undertaking.
In the beginning of the investigation we anticipated opposition from
individual members of the department and therefore were not surprised
when it materialized. However, we had a right to expect cooperation
from the Police Commission.
President Roche, spokesman for the commission, issued statements
from time to time during the investigation expressing a keen desire to
cooperate and making it appear that the commission was actively
behind the undertaking. This was simply lip service. The commission
never had any enthusiasm for this investigation and what aid it
occasionally extended consisted of giving us barely what we asked for –
nothing more. The exceedingly few instances where the commission
made spontaneous or voluntary offer of information or assistance were
of minor importance.
The present generation of police officers has practically grown up under
the quarter century of administration of Mr. Roche as a member and
president of the board of Police Commissioners. Mr. Roche naturally has
a sentimental attachment for the department and a paternal attitude
toward many of the men. Like many fathers he has spared the rod and
spoiled the child. The San Francisco Police Department has been
notorious for its "wrist slapping" disciplinary measures.
Furthermore, Mr. Roche is an important bulwark of the political dynasty
which rules the city and which is ultimately responsible for a good or a
bad police department. The investigation created a serious problem for
Mr. Roche and his political associates. The more far-reaching it became
and the more results it secured, the greater would be the reflection on
the administration of Mr. Roche and the political regime as a whole. If
this investigation had attained a complete success there would have
been a major political upheaval. These were not circumstances that
invited Mr. Roche to put his shoulder to the wheel.
Because of the persistent allegation from many quarters that Dr.
Thomas E. Shumate, next in seniority on the commission, was given a
monopoly on the medical examination of prostitutes, we inquired into
that situation. Interviews with doctors developed that this business was
formerly fairly well distributed among half a dozen or more medical men
but that it had gradually gravitated away from them to Dr. Shumate.
Some of them stated that this formed a very remunerative part of their
practice and they had lost a substantial measure of their income. As the
investigation progressed, several of these doctors advised us that this
class of patients was increasing again.
Some of the prostitutes whom we questioned stated they were
instructed by police officers and by the landladies where they worked to
go to Dr. Shumate for their periodic medical examinations. An order was
issued by Chief Quinn, in January of 1936, directing police officers to
have all prostitutes held for quarantine when, upon arrest, they were
found to be diseased. This order was directed at some officers' practice
of giving out cards and telling prostitutes to go to a doctor. Some of
patrolman James H. Coleman's indiscretions were understood to be
directly responsible for this order.
The best evidence as to whether or not Dr. Shumate was given special
preference in these examinations would be in his own case records
which, being privileged, were not accessible to us. However, regardless
of how he may have secured them, there is no doubt but that Dr.
Shumate had a large share of patients from the ranks of prostitutes. As
a police commissioner of more than 20 years' service, he should have
sought to avoid this position if he wished to escape suspicion.
Dr. Shumate was completely out of sympathy with the purpose of this
investigation. This was true to such an extent that he provided a problem
even for the other two members of the board at times. He is one of the
mediums through which Peter P. McDonough exercises an important
influence in department matters. Dr. Shumate has been hard pressed in
his business enterprises and he is at present under financial obligations
to McDonough brothers, a very unhealthy situation. Dr. Shumate has
aided in sabotaging this investigation. He would be doing the public and
the police department a service by resigning.
Frank J. Foran, third member of the board, has served only a short in
comparison with his two associates and is not as potent a force in police
affairs. Nonetheless, his influence in this case was an asset in
counteracting that of Dr. Shumate. Based on very limited observation, I
would say that Mr. Foran was much more in sympathy with the purpose
of this inquiry than his colleagues. Had he been in a better position to
take the lead, I believe the commission might have given the
investigation some aggressive support.
The chief's office cooperated very well on routine matters such as
supplying documents and records when requested. The chief aided us in
other ways from time to time and I believe, would have been of
considerable assistance to the investigation if he had been clothed with
such authority and permitted to exercise his own initiative and judgment.
However, the powers of the chief have been monopolized by the
commission with the result that he has been nothing more than a "straw
boss." The chief should have authority commensurate to his heavy
responsibility. If he had been in a position to decide questions and act
independently, I would have felt less restraint about discussing matters
In January 1936, a graft case developed out of the alleged "shakedown"
of Lewis Wagner, a grocer, by four members of the bureau of inspectors,
namely, James J. Cooper, John E. O'Keefe, Jesse E. Ayres and John H.
Sturm. This case was brought to the attention of Chief Quinn and Mr.
Roche by a friend of the former. They both knew that the city was
engaged in investigating charges of graft in the police department and
had all the mechanics set up to handle such matters on the theory that
the police department was not the proper agency to investigate itself.
However, they did not refer the case to us but quietly proceeded to
make their own investigation. It soon broke into the public prints as the
result of a clash between Captain Dullea and Captain Skelly over the
conduct of the case. Subsequently, the four officers were tried before
the commission and, though all were found not guilty, two of them,
Cooper and O'Keefe were demoted to patrolmen.
I attended one of the hearings in this case and had an observer present
at several others. During the examination of the complaining witness,
Wagner, it appeared he was being tried rather than the defendants. The
verdict reached was a compromise. If Cooper and O'Keefe were
innocent of the charges they should not have been "broken out" of the
bureau of inspectors.
This case should have been referred to us in the beginning before it was
"worked over" by a number of police officers with conflicting interests.
Afterwards we took a full statement from Wagner and his charges
appeared to have merit but it was too late to do much about it.
Significant features were that Wagner was not prosecuted for receiving
stolen goods; the bank records showed a withdrawal from his bank
account on the date he asserted he obtained funds to pay the officers
and also showed it to be his only withdrawal in three years.
The method of the police commission in conducting trials of officers is a
very unique one. Mr. Roche, as the president of and the only lawyer
member, acts as the presiding judge and prosecutor and then votes for
the guilt or innocence of the defendant. He is, in effect, judge,
prosecutor and jury.
In a public statement January 23, 1937, Mr. Roche said in part; "The fact
of the matter is that the Police Commission not only gave its whole-
hearted support to the investigation conducted under the direction of Mr.
Atherton but likewise cooperated to the fullest extent and apparently, if
the Police Commission had not dismissed certain officers for refusing to
testify before the Grand Jury, nothing would have been accomplished."
The accuracy of the first part of the above statement viz. "…the Police
Commission…. gave its whole-hearted support to the investigation," can
best be judged by some of the statements appearing heretofore and
hereafter in this report, which are a matter of fact and record that cannot
Relative to the second part of this statement, viz. "… apparently, if the
Police Commission had not dismissed certain officers for refusing to
testify before the Grand Jury, nothing would have been accomplished," it
is true that the commission dismissed 13 men and that these dismissals
constitute the major part of the tangible results of the investigation up to
date. However, was not the commission, in this regard, only performing
a function which was its inescapable duty to perform?
The commission did not take this action simply as a gesture of good-will
and cooperation to this investigation but because it had no alternative.
Its position was parallel to that of a court of law. When sufficient
evidence is adduced to establish the commission of a crime by a
defendant, he is found guilty and punished. In taking such action the
Court is not doing the Police Department, or any other law enforcement
agency, which developed the case, a favor but is fulfilling its sworn duty
to the people.
After all, we were simply an investigative agency without any power to
mete out punishment. We had to present our findings to the Courts, a
subdivision thereof, such as the Grand Jury or the Police Commission.
Following Mr. Roche's somewhat peculiar reasoning, it is apparent that
he considers the commission is entitled to all the credit for these
dismissals and that the investigation was a failure. Does anyone believe
that the commission would have discharged these men if there had been
no investigation, or that it was just a coincidence that these dismissals
occurred during the course of the investigation? Disregarding every
other factor, the commission's own record does not suggest an
According to the report of the Police Survey Committee, there were only
eight dismissals ordered by the commission in the six-year period from
1930 to 1935, inclusive. In this respect, I shall borrow further from that
report as follows:
"Yet an examination of the record of disciplinary trials for the past seven
years discloses numerous cases in which the Police Commission has
repeatedly exhorted, or reprimanded, persistent offenders, or imposed
various minor penalties, but has obviously been reluctant to apply
necessary punitive measures."
When a number of police officers refused to testify before the Grand
Jury, Mr. Roche took the position that the Police Commission could do
nothing about it unless an officer based his refusal on the ground that he
might incriminate himself. Knowing this, officers used every pretext even
to the point of refusing to be sworn, to a void exercising their
constitutional privilege. This faced us with the necessity of filing
contempt charges and going through long drawn-out legal proceedings
from these men except to testify or decline on self-incriminatory grounds
It was our opinion that the rules of the department were sufficiently
broad to prevent such delay and dilatory tactics but, if not, they should
be amended to permit disciplinary action against officers for refusing to
testify on any grounds. I advised you to this effect and suggested that
you call a meeting with Mr. Roche and urged upon him the necessity of
a more vigorous attitude on the part of the commission. This meeting
was arranged by you on May 12, 1936, and was attended by yourself,
Assistant District Attorneys O'Connor, Gillen, Skillin, Mr. Roche, Chief
Quinn and myself.
You will recall that we presented our views, as outlined, and Mr. Roche
did not readily accept them; that he offered objections, and considerable
discussion was necessary before he agreed to follow the course
suggested. You will also recall that at the time this conference was held
the investigation was at the peak of its popularity, the community was
aroused and was demanding action from its officials. Had we made this
suggestion five months earlier or five months later, I seriously doubt that
it would have received much consideration. As a result of it, a new rule
was adopted by the commission, regulating the conduct of police
officers, and the violation of this rule was the basis for practically all of
In the light of Mr. Roche's statement, it is interesting to review the action
taken by the commission in some of these cases. First, let us compare
the prosecution of Sergeant Patrick Shannon with that of the large group
of some fourteen officers. Charges were filed against Shannon on May
5, 1936. He was vigorously prosecuted by the commission and
sentenced to dismissal 13 days later, May 18, 1936. On the other hand,
various delays and weeks ensued before final action was taken in the
case of the large group. That prompt and much speedier disposal of the
Shannon case was due to the fact that he had aroused the wrath of the
commission by bringing so much ridicule to the department.
It is also in point to compare the cases of Lieutenant Thomas O. Roche
(no relation to the commissioner) and patrolman Gurtler, Dooling and
Quinlan. Lieutenant Roche and Gurtler were found guilty by the
commission of unofficerlike conduct for refusing to testify before the
Grand Jury but, as they had requested another chance to appear before
the Grand Jury, sentence was suspended until they had this opportunity.
Subsequently they were recalled and both testified.
In the case of Lieutenant Roche, we found that the testimony explaining
his source of wealth, was not in accordance with the facts and we
presented evidence to this effect to the Grand Jury. As a result, the latter
adopted a report to the Police Commission, on September 16, 1936,
recommending disciplinary action against Lieutenant Roche.
Accordingly, the charges were filed and the lieutenant was dismissed by
the commission on October 19, 1936. From the time he first declined to
testify until his discharge, Lieutenant Roche was under suspicion from
the department and lost his pay during the entire period.
Following Gurtler's last appearance before the Grand Jury we were
unable to produce witnesses to refute his testimony, so the Grand Jury
adopted a report to this effect on November 24, 1936. As in the case of
Roche, Gurtler had also been under suspension from the date of his
original refusal to testify. However, when reinstated, his salary was
restored for this period.
On October 15, 1936, the Grand Jury adopted a report to the Police
Commission recommending disciplinary action against Patrolman John
J. Dooling on the same grounds as in the case of Lieutenant Roche, to-
wit, giving false testimony, and the additional grounds the he failed to
explain his large surplus bank deposits. The commission took no action
on the Grand Jury's recommendation until February 3, 1937, nearly four
months later, after the investigation was ended and after I had
commented several times on the commission's lackadaisical attitude. At
this time it filed charges of unofficerlike conduct against Dooling but
even then it did not suspend him from duty.
On September 24, 1936, the Grand Jury adopted a report to the Police
Commission recommending disciplinary action against Patrolman
William Quinlan for failure to explain the source of his large bank
accounts and investments. Some time later Mr. Roche requested me to
prepare a further and more detailed accounting of Quinlan's financial
transactions, and I gave him such a report on October 19, 1936. At this
time, I called Mr. Roche's attention to Quinlan's personnel file in the
police department, which contained a report of an investigation
conducted by Duncan Matheson, former captain of detectives, in 1925.
In short, this report revealed that Quinlan was renting certain premises
to two bootleggers and charging them $20 per month extra because
they were engaged in violating the law; that he actually received $50 per
month rent but, by mutual agreement, gave the tenants a receipt for only
$30; that there was also 200 gallons of wine belonging to Quinlan on the
premises and which had been offered for sale.
The commission has taken no official action against Quinlan up to date.
Unofficially it has recently been dickering with Quinlan's lawyer for a
compromise and, apparently Quinlan has offered to retire. As you are
already informed, I am opposed to this proposal as I feel it would be
unfair to the taxpayers to burden them with Quinlan's pension for the
rest of his life. I have advised you that Quinlan should either resign or
(Since this was written, charges were brought against Quinlan an
February 23, 1937, and he is awaiting trial by the Police Commission.)
The four cases described above offer some sharp contrasts. The
commission acted very expeditiously in restoring Gurtler to duty. I do not
criticize this but I feel that it should have responded proportionately as
fast in the Dooling and Quinlan case. The Lieutenant Roche case was
handled with speed in comparison. You may know that Lieutenant
Roche was a black sheep in the Police Department for some time. He
incurred disfavor by supporting the political group which opposed the
machine in power. The commission's failure to suspend Dooling, after
charges were filed, indicates that it does not take the matter very
seriously and that it will probably end in a "whitewash."
It is generally recognized that quick, sure punishment is the best way to
combat crime and maintain respect for the law. Though we were not
dealing with criminal charges in these instances, the same principle
should apply. If as Mr. Roche contends, the commission was giving its
"whole-hearted support to the investigation," it would have acted with
greater vigor and firmness and thereby aided in promoting respect for
In the course of the investigation we received a sworn statement
charging certain police officers with having participated in crimes with
former Sergeant Hassing, a convicted felon, and also independently of
the latter. Before we could go into this situation very thoroughly, we had
to check the records in the Bureau of Inspectors. In checking these
records, which were exceedingly meager, we had to go through Captain
Charles Dullea and Inspector Richmond Tatham, so they were on notice
as to our purpose. Subsequently we questioned a special patrol officer,
whose beat comprised the locality of some of Hassing's illegal activities.
According to this special officer, a few days later he was called into
Captain Dullea's office, where Captain George Healy and Inspector
Richmond Tatham were also present. These officers accused him of
having taken part in one of the crimes in question, displayed some
papers which they asserted was evidence enough to "cook" him and
further asserted that Frank Fitzpatrick, a fugitive and one of the
ringleaders of the gang, of which Hassing was a member, had been
apprehended in Los Angeles and that he had talked. (This was not true,
of course, and it is hardly likely that Fitzpatrick will ever be apprehended
unless it occurs in connection with some other crime.)
This meeting occurred at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 13, 1936. They
told the special officer to resign his commission and sell his beat.
Captain George Healy gave him a 24-hour ultimatum but, at the
suggestion of Captain Dullea, this time was extended to the following
Sunday. Captain Dullea advised him to attribute his resignation to his
wife's health. Among other things, the special officer quoted Captain
George Healy as saying: "I am a new man in the Harbor and Atherton is
working and if he gets hold of this will be tough on me."
I learned about this development the next day and immediately
communicated with Chief Quinn. I informed him that we had questioned
the special officer at great lengths and that, while he had been very
naïve and a "sucker" for Hassing, we found no evidence that he had
willfully aided in Hassing's operations; that I interpreted the action of
Captain Dullea and George Healy as highhanded and designed to
punish the special officer for talking to us or to intimidate him if we had
not yet contacted him; that this special officer had a family and an
investment in his beat, which he would have to sacrifice, and if these
captains had any evidence against him they should present it in the
prescribed manner. Chief Quinn advised me that he w as leaving the
same night for a peace officer's convention and would return the
following Monday, at which time he would look into the situation, and
that the officer should be told to do nothing in the meantime.
I relayed this advice to the special officer, but he was so disturbed by
that he tendered his resignation to Captain Healy and advertised his
beat for sale. After the chief's return, however, he was called to Captain
Healy's office and informed as follows. "You write a letter withdrawing
your resignation. My father was a special officer and I know what it
means to quit the beat at your age." Accordingly he wrote a letter, under
the captain's direction, recalling his resignation.
At about the same time, one of the associates of Fitzpatrick and Hassing
was called to the Inspector's Bureau and questioned by Captain Dullea
and Inspector Tatham as to whether we had communicated with him.
This man was on parole, had a good job and was fearful they might take
steps to revoke his parole. He was given a warning and allowed to
The various incidents related in this report were not all previously known
to you and are recited herein to explain my statements that this
investigation did not receive the proper kind of support from certain
public officials, Further details could be given.
This report answers Mayor Rossi's request that I elaborate on my
statement. I declined to attend the meeting which he called because it
could accomplish no useful results.
In the first place, you had decided to terminate the investigation and I
was carrying out your decision. Consequently, it was a rather tardy hour
for the Mayor to be manifesting concern and suggested nothing more to
me than a post mortem. There seemed to be little use in discussing
ways and means of assisting the patient when the patient was dead.
In the second place, I seriously questioned the sincerity of purpose
behind the plan. To me it appeared the Mayor's political advisers had
suggested the conference for the purpose of shifting their responsibility
for the ending of the investigation.
In making the statement that this investigation was not supported by
certain public officials, I had Mayor Rossi in mind, among others. His
attitude appears to have been that because he approved the
appropriations his responsibility ended. I do not agree. As the chief
executive of the city, with direct appointive powers over the
commissioners who control the Police Department, he is ultimately
responsible for conditions in the department. An aggressive, militant
manifestation that he wanted a clean Police Department and would
tolerate no interference with the investigation would have produced
more vigorous action on the part of his commissioners and police
executives. It would have made the undertaking more impressive and
given it the necessary impetus.
From the time I entered upon this investigation until the first
appropriation was nearing exhaustion, I did not hear one public
utterance from the Mayor nor observe any other indication that he knew
an investigation was under way. When civic organizations, citizens and
the press demanded a further appropriation, he emerged with
statements that he wanted to see the inquiry carried through to the end
and, with this view, would make available $100,000 if necessary. When
a specific request for $50,000 was made, he publically announced his
approval. Shortly afterwards he quietly invited us to a conference at his
office with the request that the press not be notified.
This meeting was attended by John O'Toole, City Attorney, Leonard
Levy, controller, Mr. O'Connor and myself. Much discussion ensued
over the need for $50,000 and it was immediately obvious that, despite
his public approval of this amount, the Mayor's purpose in this
conference was to prevail upon us to accept $25,000. I would not say
that the Mayor sought exactly to over awe me, but he certainly resorted
to extensive argument and persuasion. Mr. Levy appeared to be
satisfied with my explanation of the $50,000 estimate. The Mayor finally
became convinced that we would not proceed on a smaller budget and
agreed to recommend it.
After the second appropriation was made available, Mayor Rossi again
subsided into dead silence until the announcement of the closing of the
inquiry, when he proposed the meeting mentioned above.
On August 5, 1936, I informed Mayor Rossi that a report had reached
me to the effect that Fred Walsh, formerly of his office, had advised him
that he (Walsh) had been offered $2500 by one of our employees for
evidence or information pertaining to graft in the Police Department; that
I did not know if this report was correct or not, but that it came to me on
good authority; that if Mr. Walsh had made such a statement it was
without any foundation in fact and was either a case of mistaken identity
on the part of Mr. Walsh, or else a deliberate fabrication; that if there
was any question in his mind, I suggested a meeting between Mr. Walsh
and myself in his office. This letter was never acknowledged.
Before concluding this report I wish to refer to comments appearing
heretofore on the handicap of starting an investigation of this kind with
publicity. Experience over the past year has demonstrated that this type
of inquiry should be privately sponsored. Such an arrangement provides
secrecy enabling investigators to operate under cover, while sources of
information are still accessible, until they have laid a foundation and
have begun to get results.
Private sponsorship by a strong, active, nonpolitical group of civic-
minded citizens gives more life and force to such an investigation. This
form of leadership can demand the cooperation of public officials. It
creates more confidence in the public mind, lends more assurance of
security to those persons in possession of evidence and information of
value to come forward.
Because of circumstances over which we had no control, this
undertaking, unfortunately, became known as the "Atherton
investigation" instead of being recognized as a civic enterprise. Victims
of police graft frequently told us they could not testify or otherwise
openly assist the investigation because it was too transitory a factor in
the community; that we were "here today and gone tomorrow," and there
would be no one to intercede for them in the event of reprisal or
persecution. A sponsoring group of substantial citizens would have
served to allay most of this fear.
The absence of any continuous, active support from prominent citizens
or groups also caused some of these victims to ask why they should
offer themselves as sacrifices on the altar of community service when
respectable elements demonstrated no disposition to inconvenience
Investigations of this kind are generally born of public resentment and
indignation over official corruption. They are usually nourished and
supported by an aroused community spirit crusading for honesty and
decency in its local government. This investigation had a somewhat
synthetic beginning. It was forced on the city administration by
newspaper pressure following certain revelations made by the collector
of internal revenue in a speech in San Rafael. The smart politicians then
left it, like an orphan, on your doorstep. They were confident it would
never survive infancy and were astonished when it began to show signs
of fairly robust development. After public interest in this phenomenon
had subsided and they had recovered from their own surprise, they
quietly set out to smother it while smilingly professing their great love
and affection for it.
Recommendation for removing or minimizing opportunities for police
In this report, various phases of the investigation have been discussed,
but there is one, and in my judgment, the most important of all, which
has not been touched upon. That is the problem of permanent relief from
police graft. I do not mean the complete eradication of corruption,
because such an ideal situation is too utopian ever to be realized.
However, graft should and can be reduced to and kept at the barest
Police graft has its origin in prostitution gambling and other illegal
activities. Prostitution has existed since the beginning of history and will
always exist. The same is true of gambling. We learned through the
experience of prohibition that people's morals and habits cannot be
changed by legislation. Statutes which conflict with the laws of human
nature are unenforceable and the open flouting of such laws by a large
percentage of the people creates disrespect for the law in general.
Those persons, who think that prostitution and gambling are stopped
because of prohibitive legislation, must be likened to the ostrich of
The legal bars against these activities should be removed. They should
be licensed and subjected to close supervision and regulation by some
agency separate and apart from the Police Department. For instance,
prostitution could be placed under the control of the Health Department
of the city.
The legalizing of prostitution would not increase the volume or extent of
it in San Francisco. Under the present arrangement, where it is in direct
violation of the law, it has reached the saturation point locally. A greater
number of sporting houses and individual prostitutes could not operate
profitably in the city. Prostitution is strictly a commercial enterprise and is
governed by the same rules of supply and demand as any other
The laws against prostitution have failed even to curtail it, let alone
eliminate it. These laws have simply served to promote corruption.
Under the circumstances, the repeal of these laws could produce no
harmful effect but, on the contrary, would be a constructive step toward
reducing police graft by removing its major source of revenue.
The system, at the present time, is in effect a form of licensing with the
beneficiaries being a few private individuals and a number of police
officers. A legal licensing of prostitution would transfer this income from
such persons to the city where it could be put to some beneficial use by
the community. A legal license fee should be somewhat lower than the
present extortionate tariff and the number of houses permitted should be
reduced by closing some of the more undesirable establishments which
are chiefly operated by aliens. Even by reducing the houses to a
maximum of 100 and the fee to $100 per month, which would be too low
in most cases, an income of $120,000 per annum could be realized by
It is unnecessary to go into detail on the desirability of licensing
prostitution from the health standpoint. Suffice it to say that the
registration of prostitutes and a thorough, frequent medical examination
of them would be a great aid in reducing the tremendous volume of
venereal disease. Strict supervision of prostitution should also aid in
saving any girls who might be forced into that life against their will.
Bookmaking has always flourished, despite laws against it, and there is
no reason to believe it would increase to any appreciable extent if it
were legalized. There is no difference in the moral aspect of betting on a
horse race at the track and doing the same thing elsewhere. The State
could be given a portion of the fees collected to compensate it for any
loss it might suffer on bets not placed at the tracks. From my
observations, I do not believe there would be any considerable
difference in racetrack attendance. Figuring on 150 bookmakers, at only
$75 per month, would mean a revenue to the city of $135,000 yearly.
Gambling in some of its other forms, as well as other illegal activities,
offer a more difficult problem than prostitution or bookmaking, and
probably they should be restricted to a greater extent. However, I think a
careful study of these activities would lead to the devising of some
intelligent method of legalized control.
While advocating the legalization of these sundry unlawful businesses, I
frankly admit there is little likelihood that such an end can be
accomplished. In most instances they are prescribed by State laws
almost impossible to repeal because the heavy population in other
sections of the State is not as broadminded toward these matters. Even
in San Francisco, where such pride is taken in being tolerant and liberal,
there are probably few persons with courage enough to lead such a
Extra Legal Methods of Control Employed in Other Cities
These same conditions have been met elsewhere by following an extra-
legal method of handling vice and gambling activities. This system calls
for the periodical arrest of offenders, who either plead guilty and are
fined a stipulated amount or who put up a fixed amount of bail, in cash,
and then forfeit this bail.
This practice is successfully followed, at least with prostitutes, in some
smaller communities of California, such as Watsonville; I believe, but am
not positive, that Stockton does likewise.
Phoenix, Ariz., a city of approximately 50,000 population, handles
prostitution in this manner. General Pelham D. Glassford, a nationally
known police authority and student of law enforcement, who was called
upon to reorganize the Phoenix Police Department, wrote as follows on
April 28, 1936:
"The practice of prostitution has been technically licensed by the police
for a period of many years. The women from the 'red light' district are
arraigned before the magistrate's court once a month and invariably
plead guilty. Those charged with being inmates of a house of
prostitution pay a $25 fine; those charged with operating a house of
prostitution pay $50.
The city derives a revenue from this source of approximately $20,000 a
year. On April 20 there were 73 prostitutes known to be operating. The
number varies with the season.
"The advantages of the existing system are: That practically all
prostitutes are known to the police, and can be kept under supervision,
the city derives a substantial revenue and prostitution is kept out of the
(I do not subscribe to this idea, but believe they should be under the
supervision of some authority.)
An Associated Press dispatch from Salt Lake City, Utah, under date of
December 1, 1936, stated as follows:
"A campaign to license vice, in protest against police helplessness" was
suggested today by a leader of the Salt Lake City's club women. And
her plan received immediate approval of Mayor E. B. Erwin.
"Mrs. Early Van Cott, president of the Salt Lake district of the Utah
Federation of Women's Clubs, proposed the program after a drive by
her organization assertedly failed to control alleged gambling activities
in the city.
"She said she had recommended the licensing of all card rooms as
gambling establishments and segregation of houses of vice 'so the city
may receive revenue now going to grafters.'
To her charges of' police helplessness' in dealing with the underworld
activities in the city, Mayor Erwin replied:
"I feel various forms of vice have existed throughout all time and,
because of the nature of things, will continue forever.
"'For that reason I believe that certain forms of activities, which
heretofore have been placed in categories of vices, should be legalized;
but placed under the most rigid supervision of the authorities.'"
New Orleans, a seaport city, more comparable to San Francisco in size
and in the broad minded, liberal character of its population, also follows
the system outlined. I am informed there are other large cities following
the same course.
I am personally a believer in the orderly process of the law and am
opposed to law enforcement agencies violating the law. The soundness
of this doctrine is indisputable and as a general rule, the State should
not deviate from it. However, there are many intelligent people, who
have interested themselves in this subject and, after careful study,
decided that, as a choice between two evils, the lesser one should be
They take the position that experience over a period of many years has
amply demonstrated that the activities in question cannot be stamped
out by legislation but that this same legislation has created and fostered
a condition of corruption which is far more serious in its effects; that,
since we cannot overcome both of these problems, we should at least
eliminate one and bring about a more rigid supervision of the other.
They take a practical, common sense attitude toward the situation and
believe that this is a case where the end justifies the means.
I do not necessarily urge superseding the law with this indirect licensing
plan, but I believe it has much merit and that its possibilities should be
thoroughly canvassed. It is a system which could only be applied with
the joint sanction and cooperation of the police commission, the District
Attorney and Municipal Court Judges. These three public agencies
would not, and should not, be expected to assume the responsibility for
applying such a plan without strong public and press support and the
assurance that such support would be lasting.
ATHERTON AND DUNN By Edwin N. Atherton.
Thanks to the San Francisco Library History room.