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It gives the board much pleasure to report that the efficiency and discipline of the force has greatly improved during the past year. This improvement has manifested itself not only in the usual routine of duties required of the force, but on extraordinary occasions of the most exacting and exciting character their efficiency and discipline have been thoroughly tested, and bave received the commendations of our citizens and of the public authorities almost without exception.
It will be remembered that, by a law enacted by Congress last winter, the elective franchise was extended to all citizens of the District without regard to race or color; and it was anticipated by many, and perhaps it should be said by most, of our inhabitants, that the bringing of the colored man to the ballotbox to vote by the side of and on equal terms with the white man would give occasion for violent demonstrations, riot, and bloodshed. Nor was this apprehension confined to the citizens of our own District, but, if we may judge from the tenor of the public prints, the eyes of our entire country and of many of the civilized nations of the world were turned to this District to witness the results of the first elections held under this newly enacted franchise law of Congress. It should be remembered that our District was the scene of the first election where the white and colored elements of society were by law placed upon the same footing with relation to their political rights and privileges. The quiet and orderly conduct of the elections held in Georgetown and Washington during the past few months is well known. Notwithstanding the strong prejudice existing in the minds of a very large majority of our wbite population against the black man's elevation to the same political privileges with ihemselves, yet, be it said to the credit of our District, that no more quiet and orderly elections were ever held anywhere than were those during the past year. And while much is due to the law-abiding and orderly character of our inbabitants, still to the efficient discipline and promptitude of the police force is mainly due the good order which prevailed on those occasions. It is also worthy of remark that, notwithstanding the asperities and violent party feelings which prevailed previous to and during the election day, not an instance is known where the police officer has taken any part in the election for or against any candidate, except so far as to deposit his own ballot. No complaint even of partisan interference by the police has reached the ears of the commissioners from either party to the contest. And when the good order which was sustained at these elections is compared with the violence and riot which prevailed under the former police system, the wisdom of Congress in establishing the present police department for this District cannot be too highly commended.
As was designed by Congress, it has been the inflexible purpose of the bnard, in the execition of its truat, to preserve the force free from all political bias, believing, as they do, that a partisan police force is a grievous evil to any community.
INCREASE OF FORCE.
An act of Congress, approved July 23, 1866, authorized this board to increase the police force of this District by the appointment of, one captain, one clerk, twenty sergeants, and fifty patrolmen or privates. But, owing to an oversight in legislation, no appropriation was made at that time to pay this increase of force. Consequently the board did not deem it prudent to employ these additional officers until such time as the necessary legislation wiih reference to their payment should be consummated. Upon the reassembling of Congress in December last an appropriation to pay this increase was proinptly made; whereupon the board took immediate steps to fill up the force to the maximum number authorized by law.
As soon as it became generally known that the board was ready to receive
applications for appointment' a very large number of persons presented themselves. It was found that out of the great number of men thus desiring employment, a sufficient number could be selected of very superior qualifications. After a thorough competitive examination of the candidates the board selected the requisite number who appeared to be qualified for trial, and sent thern before the surgeon for a final examination as to their physical qualifications to endure the fatigue and exposure incident to a policeman's duties. Such of this number as were pronounced by the surgeons to be, in their opinion, well qualified were, after filling up vacancies that occurred by rejections on surgical examinations, placed on duty for a trial of sixty days. At the expiration of their term of trial those who were found practically well qualified were duly. commissioned as members of the force, and those who'were found unequal to their duties were dropped and their places supplied by other selections. By this course the board is of the opinion that they have placed upon the force a class of men of the very best material and qualifications that could be obtained, and are confident that the force will compare favorably with any police force in the country
The duties devolved upon the sanitary police, although of a very disagreeable character, are still of inestimable value, and are probably rarely properly appreciated except by those acquainted with their daily experiences. People do not like to be reminded that their premises are filthy and must be cleansed, and consequently the sanitary officers very often meet with personal abuse for doing that which they are obliged to do under the requirements of their duty.
By far the greater number of complaints which received the attention of the sanitary company are from a lack of an adequate syetem of drainage, or more properly, we might say, from a want of any artificial system of drainage whatever. It is true that the city of Washington has spent and is expending large sums of money in constructing sewers; but, owing to the extensive scale upon which the city was laid out, and the sparse manner in which building lots are improved or built upou, a thorough system of drainage will cost so much that the value of the lots along the line of a sewer would, in many instances, hardly pay the expenses of its construction. Such a burden as this is too much to be imposed upon the property owners. Nor is this all. Comparatively few of the streets of Washington are paved, and, of course, all deposits made therein are absorbed or become a part of the soil, so that the effect of the sun's rays is to draw fiom our unpaved streets exhalations which are both unpleasant to the smell and more or less deleterious to health.
These matters are, we respectfully suggest, of great general and local importance, and are worthy of the careful consideration of Congress.
Notwithstanding these adverse circumstances no pestilential diseases nor unusual number of diseases induced by a want of cleanliness have prevailed during the past year. To the promptness of our citizens iu removing nuisances when notified so to do, to the cordial co-operation of the corporation authorities, including the Board of Health, and to ihe vigilant and active efforts of the sanitary company, are due in a great measure, under Providence, our exemption from pestilence and a remarkable prevalence of good health in our community.
Since the formation of the sanitary company, under the act of Congress, frequent instances have occurred where the duties of the officers, and even the jurisdiction of the magistrater, has been questioned, and not unfrequently has the health of the community been put in jeopardy by the continuance of the most glaring nuisances Among these may be mentioned slaughter-houses, fat and bone-boiling establishments, hide and tallow warehouses, &c., &c. These hot-beds of pestilence are increasing so fast with the growth of the city
as to create serious alarm and indignation on the part of many citizens living in their immediate vicinity. There is another class of nuisances requiring legislative attention, viz., unsafe and dilapidated buildings, fonl cellars, cellars with standing and stagnant water, over-crowded tenement houses with improperly arranged privies, and in such proximity as to cause much apprehension for the liealth of the neighborhood in which they are located. In nearly all the above cases it is held, before the nuisance can be abated, that a notice should be served on the offending party by the ward or health commissioner, thus delaying the execution of ihe law and leaving the police oficer but a passive spectator, and the nuisance to continue for months, if the complaint is not abandoned altogether.
PUBLIC SEWERS. Serious and well-founded complaints have been frequently made to this de partment of the unarched portions of some of the public sewers which run ihrough the thickly populated parts of the city, and which demand early consideration. These sewers are emitting forth an intolerable and pernicious odor, which can only le realized from the fact that, besides being the source of deposit from numerous water-closets within their reach, they are also found to be convenient receptacles for all kinds of offal and dead animals.
OPEN LOTS AND PUMPING GROUNDS.
The open lots within the thickly populated portions of the District are the cause of much complaint, as they are found to be a convenient place of deposit for offensive slops and garbage whenever they can be placed there without detection. It is suggested that a law be enacted compelling the owners to have them properly enclosed.
Many complaints are made of lots and squares of ground in the less densely populated but rapidly improving portions of the two municipalities being made the dumping grounds for filth, oyster shells, and rubbish of all kinds, which should be speedily checked by law.
FILTHY AND OVER-CROWDED TENEMENT HOUSES.
In reference to this class of nuisances, which are to be found principally on the borders of the city, and which are mostly occupied by colored people, it is worthy of remark that the utmost attention has been given by the officers of the Freedmen’s Bureau, in conjunction with the sanitary company of this department, to having all those habitations of misery aud unhealthfulness cleansed and whitewashed during the present summer.
In pursuance of this end the Freedmen's Bureau has furnished four hundred and twenty-seven barrels of lime, besides brushes, buckets, &c., with which three thousand four hundred and twenty-seven tenements have been whitewashed, cleansed, and purified. In cases of infirmity, old age, or sickness, labor has also been furnished by the Freedmen's Bureau in accomplishing the above object. It is probably owing to this timely precaution, together with the efforts of the sanitary company and the judicious measures taken by the city authorities in disinfecting the alleys, &c., that the lealth of the District has been preserved.
FERRY-BOATS AND STEAM BOILERS, ETC.
In compliance with the act of Congress setting apart a sanitary company, which requires said company to visit and make inspection of ferry boats, &c. the members of this company have performed that duty, and in nearly all cases have found the builers, life-preservers, &c., as required by law. 'Í'here
are now over one hundred and fifty steam boilers in use in this District, which with the rapid increase of population, are being constantly increased in number. The board would here again renew its language held in their last annual report . in reference to a more rigid and comprehensive code of sanitary laws and regulations in this District:
“Here we have the capital of our nation visited by persons not only from all portions of our country, but by representatives from all the civilized nations of the earth. Here also reside the diplomatic representatives of foreign countries, as well as the chief executive, legislative, and judicial officers of our own government. These circumstances would seem to demand of our government efficient sanitary laws and a well appointed and adequate police force to protect all the interests liere assembled."
By ali act of Congress approved July 23, 1866, it is required that all licenses to sell intoxicating liquors within the District must receive the approval of this board before such license can be considered valid by any of the authorities of the District.
During the year there have been presented for the approval of the board six hundred and eleven licenses to retail spirituous and intoxicating liquors; of this number, five hundred and fifty-eight have received its approval, and fifty-three have been disapproved. Of persons holding approved licenses, one hundred and thirteen have been fined for violations of law since their approval, and by a resolution of the board will not again be licensed in November next, when the licenses now in force expire,
It is believed that the working of this law has had a very salutary effect upon the venders of intoxicating drinks. Under previously existing law, only a fine could be imposed upon persons guilty of violating ordinances in reference to the disposal of spirituous liquors. But the profits aceruing from this class of business are so large that most persons engaged therein are willing to offset the risks of being prosecuted and fined against the profits they would derive from selling in violation of law, if they were so fortunate as not to be detected. In fact, in many cases liquors were sold openly in violation of law, since the offenders derived a large profit after deducting fines and costs imposed therefor. Under the law as it now exists, however, not only are violators liable to the fines prescribed, but all holders of licenses approved by the board have been duly notified that such of them as are detected in selling liquors in violation of law will not again have their licenses approved if presented.
It is a source of gratification to the board to be able to report that drunkenness and consequent disorderly conduct have greatly diminished during the past year. Especially is this true upon the Sabbath day. It is now but rarely that an intoxicated person is seen upon our streets on the Sabbath, and none but the lower class of liquor dealers engage in clandestine traffic on that day. Unfortunately, it is believed that the law requiring licenses to be approved by the board before they can be considered valid, does not confer upon them the power to revoke such licenses when the parties holding them prove to be unworthy by frequent violations of law, or keep disorderly houses. It is respectfully suggested that the law be so amended in this respect that the board shall have power to revoke licenses to sell spirituous liquors when, in its opinion, considerations of the public good demand it.
It is almost impossible to give any statisties of the workings of this corps that will adequately represent the amount of work actually performed by these
officers. A very large portion of their labor makes no show upon the records. These men are frequently required to watch suspected parties or known thieves and criminals for days and weeks, with no results of which a computation can be made. Patience, industry, shrewdness, and tact must be brought into constant exercise by the successful detective. It is believed that the work which the detective officers connected with this department have been called upon to perform has been well done, and to the satisfaction of the public.
The following is taken from the records of the detective office, viz: Number of robberies reported during the year ..
576 Number of arrests made durir.g the year
462 Amount of property lost or stolen..
$58,504 46 Amount of property recovered ....
15,691 40 Amount of property turned over to property clerk.
4,068 32 Amount of property turned over to owners....
11,623 08 Amount of property taken from prisoners and returned to the same 3,599 75
Of the above amount of property reported lost or stolen, $2,136 have been recovered by precinct officers, and $1,737 by the owners.
Experience teaches that persons who report robberies usually claim that their loss is two or three times its real value. This remark will account, in a great measure, for the difference in the amounts reported lost or stolen and the amounts recovered.
MAGISTRATES' COURTS. This board cannot but again urge in the strongest possible manner the necessity of a thorough reorganization of the petty courts of this District. In several instances persons hold commissions as justices of the peace and undertake to discharge the duties incident to that office who are entirely unfitted for these positions, not only in character and intelligence, but in their personal habits and deportment.
By the eighth section of an act of Congress approved February 22, 1867, entitled “An act to regulate proceedings before justices of the peace in the District of Columbia, and for other purposes," any justice of the peace is entitled to issue a special warrant returnable before himself for an assault, an assault and battery, or an affray, and upon a hearing of the charge can impose a fine and costs. The practical working of this law shows that warrants are issued and parties arrested on the most trivial charges, and the arrested party mulcted in a fine and costs on testimony which would not be entertained for a moment were not the justice under the law allowed to retain costs. Instances are reported where oppressive fines and costs bave been imposed upon poor and unfortunate persons for the most trifling offences; others are reported where only costs are imposed and the charge against the accused dismissed. Nor is any bond required of the justice compelling him to account for fines imposed to the treasurer of this board, as is demanded of magistrates selected by this board. Moreover, a person who commits an assault or an assault and battery upon another can, under this law, go before a magistrate and plead guilty to the charge and only a fine can be imposed, which must be collected as a civil debt.
It will be readily seen that this being so, an irresponsible person, without property, can go about our streets assaulting whom he pleases, and no punishment can be inflicted because under this law the fine becomes a civil debt and the accused has no property upon which a levy can be made for the amount of the fiue.
The board would earnestly suggest that to secure a proper administration of justice this law should be speedily amended in these particulars.