Panel: No crime, but ‘conduct unbecoming’
May 26, 2012 8:22PM
A historical recreation of the alleged misconduct of Joliet's police and fire chiefs in Jan. 1888. The charges of pouring beer into a patrolman's hat was determined to be unfounded. | Photo Illustration by Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 10:32AM
During a recent spring cleaning at the Joliet Police Department, some officers came across the oldest report in their archives.
In January 1888, Police Chief Charles Blood and Fire Marshal Frank Kramer were accused of habitual misconduct including drunkeness, consorting with notorious women and allowing fighting and drinking between officers, firefighters and saloon patrons.
Isaac V. Park, publisher of the Joliet Daily Express, reported the department heads ended their New Year’s celebration by shooting a pistol out the rear door of a saloon and “drawing a beer in a patrolman’s hat.”
Public outcry forced Mayor John D. Paige to establish an investigative committee to hear testimony about Blood’s and Kramer’s activities.
On three consecutive nights, 41 people offered testimony regarding seven charges. Alderman W.C. Ream told the committee Blood and Kramer weren’t present when he’d been in the saloons “and most emphatically (I) did not loan my head piece for a beer mug that evening or any other ... it wouldn’t have held beer if I had.”
Other witnesses also said they had seen the men in the saloons but had never seen them drunk.
M.J. Duso, who co-owned a saloon “on Jefferson Street, opposite the courthouse,” said neither man had told him he should stay open past closing time and Kramer’s predecessor as chief, John Swanson, said no one had fired a gun at the tavern he owned on Bluff Street.
When Officer Alexander Parks was on his way home about 2:30 a.m., he rapped on Swanson’s door to find the place was closed, but Blood and Kramer were among the men inside “just talking and joking and having a little fun.”
“Frank Scheidt (the bartender) took my hat away from he. When I got it back it was all wet with beer. I don’t know where they put beer in it or whether they threw it in the beer. I didn’t see it in anybody else’s hands,” the patrolman said.
Officer S. F. Ragan denied fighting with Kramer during a dispute in the police station but acknowledged Blood settled the matter by having the three go out to enjoy a free oyster dinner at the restaurant adjoining Anthony Schall’s saloon.
Park the publisher testified “regarding the general corruptness ... of the police and fire departments as gleaned by him from statements made by other people.”
“He was not at the saloons at the the times of the blow-out mentioned by him in his charges,” the committee report noted.
George A. Buck said the only liquor in the police station was confisicated from those arrested and “put in what they call ‘Mr. Haughton’s drawer,’ ” with everything else that was seized.
Thomas Haughton denied knowing what happened to the bottles.
Night Capt. John Frederick said the shots that had been heard around that time were his way of celebrating the new year by firing a few rounds at the corner of Exchange and Bluff streets and again on Summit Street.
“(Then) I was going by my father-in-law’s house on Broadway and I thought I would make him a salute. I went alongside the window and I shot five shots,” Frederick said.
On the first charge, the committee determined there was “no evidence of any misconduct” but on New Year’s Eve the police chief and fire chief had visited four saloons and “drank more or less liquor at them,” accompanied at some of them by other police officers.
“While there was no evidence of boisterous conduct on the part of these officers or in their presence at the saloons or (they) were under the influence of liquor so as to incapacitate them from their duty. Still, their conduct on that evening was unbecoming their positions as guardians of the public peace and merits from the council very severe censure with the admonishions that it must not be repeated,” the committee said.
The committee found no evidence to substantiate the other charges.
The committee believed Park had “caused innocent hearts to suffer unjustly” by printing his tales.
Blood and Kramer remained in their positions but were both outlasted by The Daily Express, which published through 1899.
I.V. Park still was living on Cass Street two years later but had vanished from the city directory by 1904.