Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Scandal of 1922: Part XII

In our previous installment, the trial of Chief John Cruise was adjourned at 11:30 p.m. on a Friday night, after the testimony of the officers serving under Cruise had been heard. When the trial reconvened on Saturday afternoon, acting chief Thomas Connors was called to the stand. Although, as usual, a large crowd of spectators had gathered to witness the hearing, the Columbia Republican reported: "The afternoon session . . . proved to be quite a peaceful session as compared with some of the others held in the past. There was not a tilt among counsel." Things picked up, however, when Chief Cruise himself took the stand. The following are excerpts from the report that appeared in the Columbia Republican on May 23, 1922.
The feature of Saturday's session was the examination and cross examination of the Chief who took the stand in his own defence [sic]. He was on the stand nearly four hours and his direct examination consumed over three. His cross examination by Mr Coffin was grilling and dealt at some length with the Chief's police record. When questioned about the various times he had been before the Commission for infractions of rules, the Chief failed to remember but said he would not dispute the record if the occasions were recorded in the minutes of the Commission. . . .
Chief Cruise detailed the method in vogue to find out and check up suspected places. He told of his being present at the first meeting of the Commission, when the Commissioners said the condition of the city was very bad and that they wanted results and that they would hold him responsible for conditions. In reply to the instructions of the Commission he said he would do the best he could and had regularly reported conditions to the Commission in writing and advised them of what he was doing to enforce the law and told them of the system he had in use. He said that in November, 1921, he had asked the Commission for outside assistance to aid in getting violations and also he had asked for a clerical man, but neither was ever granted. He did not have a full quota of men and was two and three men short and another man was under suspension. Two others were detailed to traffic duty which left five men for general patrol duty.
In 1921 the police made 32 arrests under the Mullen-Gage act and 16 indictments were had and 15 convictions obtained. . . . 
In 1921 the percentage of convictions obtained by his department was 60 per cent of the arrests made.
On the 6th of September, 1921, he was asked for his resignation and again later in that month, he refused it and then on the 9th of March, 1922, he was again asked to resign. He then detailed incidents of the raids of that night and told of his meeting Leigh, the detective, who told him that the town was rotten. The Chief asked him if he knew it to be so and he replied yes, to which the Chief replied, "Well, then you know more than I do." He told of the meeting held by the Commission at the conclusion of the raids on the night of March 9th and told of Commissioner Van Deusen asking him for his resignation which he refused to give following which Commissioner Van Deusen offered the resolution which suspended him. 
He was not told that night that he was to appear before a meeting of the Public Safety Commission, nor was he ever informed of his right to counsel or of his rights in the matter. He was not told that anything he might say might be used against him.
As to each place charged with sales of liquor he denied that he had ever neglected to do anything which would aid in getting evidence of violations.
The Chief then denied categorically each and every one of the charges which were made against him by the Commissioners. He said he did not know of any police rule requiring the drilling of policemen nor of any rule requiring revolver practice, nor had the Commission ever told him to hold such inspections. . . .
Despite the fact that the Chief had consistently advised the Commission of Public Safety that moral conditions in Hudson were fine, he finally admitted under a grilling cross examination by Mr Coffin that there were 11 places on Diamond street in 1921 which he himself suspected of being disorderly houses and he further admitted that he had so advised Mayor Galster in a letter.
In his cross examination of the Chief Mr Coffin brought out the fact that the record book, which the officers signed after making their supposed inspections of these suspected places, disclosed the fact that these suspected places were visited about five minutes apart. For instance, the book showed that one place was visited at 9:45 and the next one would be 9:50 and so on, which apparently would leave very little time for a search of the premises and a trip to the next place.
Mr Coffin asked the Chief whether he had ever noticed this peculiarity of the record, and he said he had and had spoken to the officers about it, but that he had never followed it up further. 
Mr Coffin's cross examination then took a turn toward the Chief's police record. When asked whether he had ever been fined five days' pay by the Police Commission for intoxication on a public street, the Chief could not remember, though he said he would not dispute the minutes of the Commission if it was there. He could not remember that on another occasion his resignation had been asked because of drunkenness and that he had given it and never recalled it, though again the Chief said he would not dispute the record if it was on the minutes.
He did not recall having been fined one day's pay for visiting a drinking saloon to wit the Hotel Lincoln [the Hotel Lincoln was located just down the street from police headquarters at 309-311 Warren Street] while he was on duty as Sergeant, nor could he recall having been before the Police Commission for failing to pay his bills, though again he stated that he would not dispute the record if it appeared there.
Mr Coffin then asked him about receiving $25 from a woman for looking up the whereabouts of her husband. He could not remember how much of this money he had spent for the purpose, nor whether he had ever made any accounting of it to the woman's attorney, no could he recall whether he had received permission from the Commission or from a Commissioner to absent himself from town.
Isn't it a fact, said Mr Coffin, that a majority of the arrests and convictions obtained by you under the Mullen-Gage act were foreigners? The Chief replied that he did not know what Mr Coffin meant by foreigners and he hadn't noticed whether they were or not. . . . 
The examination then turned to the famous confidential list of suspected places. This was the list which had been furnished by the District Attorney. When asked why he had not shown any particular activity about this list until the Commission had asked him about it the Chief said he was making investigations of the places, but admitted that it was not until the Commission had asked him about it that he began sending out the notices to the tenants and property owners.  
When the Commission asked about the list he thought he had mislaid it and asked the District Attorney for another copy of it, but later he found it up home.
The hour of midnight having been passed President Whitbeck announced after a conference with the attorneys that an adjournment would be taken until Friday afternoon, May 26th, at 4 p.m., at which time the Chief's cross examination will be continued.
And Gossips recounting of the trial of Chief Cruise will also be continued.

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