Murder, Politics and Vice in Chicago

The Survey

   THE TIDE seems at last to have turned against political protection of segregated, commercialized vice in Chicago. It required a grim police tragedy to turn it.

  The reorganization of the police department, under the ordinance passed by the City Council two years ago, has been proceeding slowly and tortuously. The second deputy superintendent of police was required by the ordinance to be a civilian. On this account the capable civil service appointee to that office, Major Funkhauser, was deprived from the start of co-operation by the regular force. The effective supervision which he and his inspector of morals have increasingly exercised over the vice resorts which survived the breaking-up of the segregated districts seems to have been another grievance against him and his "morals squad."

  A series of raids in the precinct including the old red light district, after the captain in charge declared it had been cleaned up, resulted not only in the disclosure of many open violations of the law and police regulations, but aroused the open enmity of the protected resort keepers and the silent opposition of the precinct officials.

  After the prisoners captured in open violation of law had been sent in the patrol wagon to the station, the two officers of the morals squad left in charge of them, while their fellow officers hastened to make another raid, were viciously attacked by a mob of men, suspiciously followed by automobiles. Backing away under an elevated railway, where their assailants evidently planned to finish them, they were suddenly confronted by two new accessions to the crowd, who advanced upon them with drawn revolvers. The two officers then fired, and one of the other two men fell dead. There was a rain of bullets, from which these two officers strangely escaped the death plotted against them. The dead man was found to be a plain clothes policeman. The

( 476) wounded among the mob were spirited away by the automobiles of resort keepers.

  One of these wounded men was afterwards discovered at a hospital to be a gunman, formerly identified with a New York gang, some of whose members were executed for the murder of the gambler Rosenthal. This man had been convicted in Montana of a murder. He was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment but was liberated by political influence in time to attend the funerals of his fellow gunmen in New York.

  The police situation in this Chicago precinct was thus thrown so suddenly into the limelight that no one could run to cover. Pending the investigation ordered by the chief of police under the civil service trial board, and the grand jury inquiry by the state's attorney, and the "still hunt" by Major Funkhauser and his morals squad, the captain of the precinct has been summarily transferred. In his place one of the best commanding officers in the force, Captain Max Nootbaar, has been installed. He at once declared that with official co-operation he would "clean up the district in thirty days."

  Whether he receives the co-operation of the men higher up than the chief depends upon the relative strength with the mayor of two factors of the situation. One is the political influence of the aldermen of the first ward, "Dinky Dink" and "Bath House John", who have long disgraced the City Council and the city. The other combines the indomitable second deputy; the Committee of Fifteen's published lists of owners of record whose property is illicitly used; the vigilant press; Alderman Merriam's council committee inquiring into the causes of crime ; the votes of 400,000 women, ever hanging on the horizon; and the explicit reminder issued by the chief of police, in the absence of the mayor, that segregated vice is no longer recognized, and that policemen taking orders from politicians would be cited before the trial board. Last week Mayor Harrison announced himself a convert to the forces standing solidly against a segregated vice district.


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