Conference Schedule Update: Another Sesquicentennial — 150 Years of Policing Washington, D.C.

150 Years of Policing in the District of Columbia

Saturday, November 5, 2011 11:00-12:30
Session 7:

William (“Bill”) Brown, President of the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of D.C., Retired Fairfax County Deputy Police Chief and former MPDC Reserve Police Officer

Session Abstract: Since its inception in 1861 and for the ensuing 150 years, the Metropolitan Police Department and its members have witnessed every change in policing imaginable… not to mention changes in DC governance.  From the integration of the agency in  1869, to its first line-of-duty death,  to its handling of the Bonus Army March and subsequent acts of civil disobedience, enduring Congressional inquiries and witnessing the appointment of its first African-American Chief in 1977, Nicholas Breul, Martin Murray and Sandy Schmidt will provide insight into MPDC’s first 150 years.
Lieutenant Nicholas T. Breul, MPDC, Department Historian “Some Highlights of the 150 Year History of the Metropolitan Police Department” It all starts with Lincoln and a dubious connection to his protection or lack thereof…the arrests of President Grant, the riots of 1919, the Bonus Army of 1932, and the corruption scandal of 1950, where officers were asked by a congressional committee investigating gambling and pay offs to fill out financial questionnaires.  It will culminate with Watergate, Nixon, the May Day protests, Air Florida, the Reagan Assassination attempt, the Mount Pleasant riots, and where MPD stands now.
Martin Murray, Author and founder of “Washington Friends of Walt Whitman” “The Poet and the Policeman:  Walt Whitman and Officer Doyle” Police brutality.  Media feeding frenzy.  Juvenile delinquency.  The topics are current, but the year is 1871, when poet Walt Whitman defended Metropolitan Police Officer Francis Doyle from a pillorying by the DC press after Doyle arrested a young boy for stealing eggs and held him in the jailhouse overnight.  The tempest provides insight into the life of a nineteenth-century police officer, and exposes some surprising views by Whitman on youthful hooliganism and irresponsible journalism.  Later the same year, Officer Doyle was again a featured headline, but under more tragic circumstances when he became the first of the Metropolitan Police’s “thin blue line” to give his life in the line of duty.
Sandra Schmidt, Independent Researcher “On Being Black in an Overwhelmingly White Police Department” On July 8, 1869 the Board of Police Commissioners appointed the first “colored” men to the DC police force and a total of six by the end of the year, just 2.5% of the force.  Only a handful in number until the mid 20th century, African Americans endured racial discrimination in hiring and promotion policies as well as overt hostility from prejudiced white policemen and citizens.  This is the story of some of the early black officers, their successes and failures, and the eventual rise of African Americans through the ranks ending in the appointment of the first Chief of Police in 1977.  A special tribute will be paid to those who died in the line of duty.

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