Page images
PDF
EPUB

to prevent people singly or in groups from interfering with the peace and happiness of others, or from creating disturbances in public places. Disorder is not always crime, but it must nevertheless be prevented. Crime is the breaking of laws or ordinances ($ 200). The police do all in their power to prevent crime by being at their posts of duty, and frequently by giving warning or advice to people whose actions are of a suspicious character. When crime is committed, it is the duty of the department to arrest the offender and furnish proof of his guilt. When he is not known, the detective branch of the department is called into action. The city detectives usually know who the bad characters of the city are and where they live, but no man can be punished simply because he is a bad character. Some definite crime must be fastened upon him with sufficient clearness to convince a jury of his guilt.

Photographs, records, and measurements are kept of persons who are arrested by the department. The Bertillon system of measurement is the one most commonly used. According to this system the following measurements are taken: length and width of head; height of body; distance from finger tips to finger tips when the arms are extended; length of trunk; length and width of each ear; and the length and width of the forearm, and the little and middle fingers on the left side. These measurements, with other information such as the color of the eyes and hair, and the arrangement of lines on the finger tips, are carefully recorded. Since the same system is used in all large cities, persons with criminal records in different places are frequently identified by a comparison of records. The department also registers the location of all questionable places in the city, and the names of all persons connected with them. Furthermore, a list of all pawnbrokers is kept, and each one must report every twentyfour hours a complete description of articles that have been pawned.

Not only does the police department preserve order and suppress crime, but it renders many services to strangers, and to people who

are in trouble on the streets. One can best realize the extent to which the people of any large city are dependent upon the police department by calling to mind the conditions in more than one city when some great calamity has paralyzed the department for a few hours. In Chicago, at the time of the great fire, in Galveston, when the city was almost destroyed by a tidal wave, and in San Francisco, at the time of the earthquake and fire, hundreds of criminals, taking advantage of the confusion, began almost instantly to rob and plunder, and continued until stopped by the militia.

98. The Fire Department. — Protection against fire is so important that unincorporated communities are given the power to tax themselves for this purpose, by forming fire districts. When a community incorporates, it acquires this power along with others. In a city using a fifth class, a sixth class, or a special charter, the board of trustees provides for and has general control of the fire department. In every city using a freeholders' charter, the money for the support of the fire department is, of course, supplied by the council. In some of these cities the council exercises active control over the department; others have fire commissioners appointed by the mayor; in others, the police and fire departments are controlled by the same officials, known as police and fire commissioners; and in those that are governed according to the commission plan, the fire department is under the control of one commissioner.

The head of the department in our larger cities is known as the fire chief. He is appointed by the council, the mayor, or the fire commission. Other members of the depart

1 In spite of criticisms that one occasionally hears, the police of our larger cities are among our most faithful and most deserving public servants. They are seldom absent from their posts of duty, and they never flinch in the face of danger. On the whole, they are poorly paid. Few people realize the extent to which the public is under obligations to them.

ment are appointed either by the chief, or in the same manner as the chief.

Large cities are divided into districts for fire-fighting purposes, and a fire engine house is located in each district. Each house is equipped with the necessary apparatus, and is supplied with a corps of men. The two great objects of the department are to save life and to save property, and for these purposes it is supplied with apparatus such as fire engines, extension ladders, and life nets. The system of fire hydrants located in all parts of the city and the fire alarm system are important parts of the fire-fighting equipment."

In spite of the splendid work of our fire departments, property amounting in value to many millions of dollars is destroyed each year by fire in our American cities, and many lives are lost through the same cause. Much of this loss is due to the fact that people are often crowded into old and unsafe tenement houses and unsafe places of business; to poor electric wiring; and to carelessness on the part of many people with matches, lighted cigar ends, hot ashes, etc.

99. The Health Department. — The health department of

every city, like the police courts and the public schools, is part of a general state system. At the head of the system is the state board of health, consisting of seven members, each appointed for four years by the governor with the approval of the state senate ($ 159). It meets in Sacramento at least four times a year, but its secretary maintains a permanent officer there, and enforces its orders between meetings. In order that the state board may guard and protect the public health the law gives it great power. Not only does it enforce the laws of the state that relate

i City councils pass numerous ordinances to guard against fire. For ple, a fire district is established in every large city, including the business section, within which only fireproof buildings may be erected; all chimneys in the city are usually required to be provided with terra cotta linings; electric wiring must be done according to established rules; garages, steam laundries, and other dangerous kinds of business are strictly regulated; people are forbidden to permit inflammable rubbish of any kind to accumulate on their premises, etc.

to the public health, but it has power to make rules and issue orders which county and city boards of health and health officers must obey. These local authorities must report to the secretary of the state board once a month all cases of contagious diseases. If local officers are unable to prevent the spread of any disease, or if they neglect to do their duty, the state board may step in and take charge of the work. It has power to quarantine an entire city, or any other part of the state, if it believes that such action is necessary.

When studying the government of counties, we learned that the supervisors of every county must appoint a health officer ( 58). As county health officers have no authority within city limits, the law requires that every incorporated town or city shall have either a board of health or a health officer. Most of the smaller towns have health officers, but some have boards of health. These officials are provided for and appointed by the boards of trustees. Cities with freeholders' charters usually have boards of health appointed by the mayors, and health officers appointed by these boards. In cities that have the commission plan of government the health department is controlled by one commissioner.

Our health departments give most of their time to the problem of preventing disease. They leave to physicians in private practice the care of people who are stricken with disease, except those in indigent circumstances, who are treated at county hospitals, and those who, because of the danger of contagion, are sent to public isolation hospitals. The work carried on for the prevention of disease exhibits two distinct phases: the fight against contagious diseases, and the fight against noncontagious diseases.

The United States government guards our seaports, as

well as our Canadian and Mexican border lines, to prevent the introduction of diseases from foreign lands. People seeking to enter our country and found to be suffering from contagious diseases are held in quarantinel until cured, if curable; if not curable, they are sent back to the places from which they came. The state board of health coöperates with the national government in this work, and also guards the border lines between California and other states. If necessary, it may quarantine any railroad car or any number of cars, at the state border, or may remove passengers to suitable places for treatment.

When a case of contagious disease is discovered in any place in the state, the person making the discovery, whether he is a physician or not, is required by law to report the matter at once to the local health officer. This officer immediately quarantines the house where the patient is located; and if the disease is one that is very dangerous, such as smallpox or bubonic plague, the patient may be removed to some special place for treatment.

The work of the state and local health departments for the prevention of noncontagious diseases consists of enforcing the state pure food law, and such other laws and local ordinances as relate to sanitary conditions in and about private residences, schools, factories, and other places where people congregate. Furthermore, by the publication of useful information, an effort is made to educate the people to more healthful ways of living.

100. The Work of City Health Departments. — People living in large cities are exposed to diseases to a greater

1 The San Francisco quarantine station is on Angel Island.

2 See the monthly bulletin issued by the state board of health. This may be obtained from the secretary of the board in Sacramento.

« PreviousContinue »