Two newspaper articles from the December 1, 1922 edition of the Milwaukee Journal, highlight the varied nature of police work in the Roaring ’20s.
One details the search for a woman who fled a private hospital shortly after giving birth to a daughter and was wanted on a charge of child abandonment. The only clue police had was the hospital staff’s recollection that she “required an extraordinarily large corset.”
Detectives proceeded to visit every corset manufacturer in the city, compiled a list of stores receiving unusually large garments, and systematically tracked down each purchaser until they found their suspect, 22-year-old Jeannette Wilson. She was busted, one might say.
Police made another arrest that day and this one promised to resolve a long-standing public nuisance. For several weeks a man had watched police direct traffic. When officers went off duty, he would step into the street and take their place directing traffic. Unfortunately, the civilian helper was terrible at it and quickly reduced the flow of traffic to a snarled mess.
But he was also “keen of eye and fleet of foot.” As he directed traffic he maintained a sharp lookout and would flee at the approach of a uniformed officer.
Eugene O’Gorman, a plainclothes detective, was put on the case. O’Gorman positioned himself near the North Shore electric railroad terminal near Sixth Street and Sycamore Street downtown. The traffic policeman stationed here was under orders to leave the intersection each time a train arrived and go into the depot. Sure enough, when the office went into the depot the self-appointed traffic cop took his place.
“O’Gorman watched the traffic tie itself up into a tangle under [the man’s] direction, and then stepped out to him,” the newspaper reported. “Majestically waved back an approaching automobile and motioned the detective to cross the street. ‘Pedestrians are first, motorists are second,’ the volunteer said to O’Gorman smilingly.”
Reaching the middle of the intersection, the detective seized the man, a thirty-year-old with the memorable name of King Bacon, and marched him away. When a patrol wagon arrived King was heard to say, “I’m a traffic cop. I don’t belong on the wagon.”
A judge ordered King held for observation for a week and asked that the attending psychiatrist report to the court “any suggestions he may form as to the best way to use the traffic expert’s abilities.”
“Trail of Corset Leads to Arrest,” Milwaukee Journal, December 1, 1922: page 2.
“Police Cook Plot to Strip Bacon; Raw Failure as Copper,” Milwaukee Journal, December 1, 1922: page 2.
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