New Orleans Police Department

The New Orleans Police Department was in a moment of transition at the turn of the twentieth century. Several different iterations of the police force had been charged with keeping order in the Crescent City across the 19th century. What they had in common was a lack of funds, a lack of manpower, and a lack of popular support. In 1889, responding to a spate of police-related shootings and the undue influence of partisan politics in police decision-making, the state legislature of Louisiana called for a systematic reorganization of the department. The state established a Board of Police Commissioners to oversee the department and instituted Civil Service reforms designed to increase professionalism and reduce political influence on the force.

In spite of these reforms, the state of the police force remained an area of concern into the 1890s. The Board of Police Commissioners invariably opened each year’s annual report with a plea for additional funding; each year, they were denied or received a small fraction of their request. Though they recognized that a chronic lack of funds explained many of the NOPD’s shortcomings, the city’s newspapers were quick to attack the department for a variety of real and imagined offenses. Throughout the 1890s, headlines like “POLICE WANTED,” “POLICE INACTIVITY,” and “ARE POLICE BLIND?” regularly topped articles bemoaning the inefficiency, drunkenness, trigger-happiness, or incompetence of the NOPD’s officers. As New Orleans desperately sought to paint itself as a modern, progressive, 20th century metropolis, the police department appeared an anchor dragging the city down.

In its 1900 annual report, the New Orleans Police Department reported a total of 325 employees, including 178 patrolmen. These officers were responsible for patrolling a city of 300,000 people that covered nearly 200 square miles. In 1900, NOPD officers made 17,633 arrests. The most common charges were drunkenness (3,464 arrests) and disturbing the peace (2,357). More than 5,000 additional people were arrested for violation of unspecified city ordinances. In a city that was approximately 27% African American, black people accounted for slightly more than 40% of arrests in 1900.

For most of 1900, the city was divided into eleven precincts, though a twelfth was added late in the year. The city’s police manual described the precincts as follows:

Central or First Precinct – Station, Tulane Avenue and S. Basin street. All that portion of the city between Canal and Delord streets, the land boundaries of the Harbor Precinct and Broad street.

Pacanier or Second Precinct – Station, Chippewa, corner Terpsichore street. All that portion of the city between Delord and Felicity streets, the land boundaries of the Harbor Precinct and Broad street.

Jackson Square or Third Precinct – Station, Chartres street opposite Jackson Square. All that portion of the city between Canal and Esplanade, the land boundaries of the Harbor Precinct and Rampart street.

Treme or Fourth Precinct – Station, Marais, corner of Orleans street. All that portion of the city between Canal and Esplanade, Rampart and Broad streets.

Elysian Fields or Fifth Precinct – Station, Elysian Fields near Dauphine street. All that portion of the city known as Third District, to Gentilly Road, including Milneburg.

Rousseau or Sixth Precinct – Station, Rousseau near Jackson street. All that portion of the city between Felicity street and Louisiana Avenue[,] the land boundaries of the Harbor Precinct and Broad street.

Jefferson Market or Seventh Precinct – Station, Berlin street near Magazine. All that portion of the city between Louisiana Avenue and Park Avenue, the land boundaries of the Harbor Precinct, the river front from Louisiana Avenue to Park Avenue to Broad street.

Algiers or Eight Precinct – Station, Villere between Seguin and Bartholomew streets. All that portion of the Parish of Orleans known as the Fifth District, right bank of river.

Carrollton or Ninth Precinct – Station, Carrollton Avenue, between Hampson and Second. All that portion of the city known as the Seventh District, between Park Avenue and parish line, including Carrollton from the river to the woods.

Metairie or Tenth Precinct – Station, Canal street near the Cemeteries. All that portion of the city lying between Broad street[,] Gentilly Road, and the Lake, except Milneburg in the rear of First, Second, Third, Fourth and Sixth Precinct, to Seventeenth street canal.

Harbor or Eleventh Precinct – Station, head of Canal street. All that portion of the river front from Harmony to Louisa street.

Twelfth Precinct (established December 1900) – Franklin Street, from upper side of New Basin to Toledano street, out Toledano street to Rocheblave, thence South Washington Avenue to Carrollton Avenue, to upper side of New Basin, to Franklin street.

The First, Third, and Fourth Precincts had the highest arrest totals most years, including 1900. The First Precinct encompassed the city’s Central Business District, the Third Precinct covered the French Quarter, while the Fourth included Storyville, one of two sites of legalized prostitution in the city. The 1900 arrest totals by precinct were as follows:

First … 3647
Second … 1435
Third … 3458
Fourth … 2902
Fifth … 1386
Sixth … 1235
Seventh … 1019
Eighth …. 661
Ninth … 483
Tenth … 430
Eleventh … 618
Twelfth … 27
Detective Office … 448

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