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Again, the real point to be attained is efficient and economical government; the question of practical import should not be who spends the money, but how is that money spent; and what do the people obtain for it; and if it be found that the money under the control of the commissioners is judiciously, economically and honestly spent, then there is no cause of complaint against them; and if the disbursement of their money shows no such improper conduct as is manifested in the matters under the control of the Common Council and Board of Supervisors, then, in the commissioners we have attained the best form of government, practicable at present.
THE POLICE COMMISSION.
For the year beginning November 1st, 1865, and ending Novem. ber 1st, 1866, the expenses for the city of New York amounted to $2,338,406.70, as follows:
There are now. employed on the police the following number of persons:
It will thus be seen that the great burden of the expense of the police is for the pay of the force.
The only questions that can be asked are: Is the force in this city too large? and is the pay too great? Of this sum of $2,338,406.70, about $2,240,183.30 was for payment of salaries of the force, alone, leaving about $98,223.40 for other expenses.
In the great cities of Europe policemen are employed at the rate ef one to every 500 of the population. In this city the rate is about the same, with no standing army to aid it.
The main point is, can the opponents of this commission show any fraud or extravagance, or violation of law, in the management of its funds? It cannot be expected that the police can prevent every crime. Their efficiency to act in time of great danger was admirably shown in the July riots of 1863.
Great care is used in the selection of men. They are thoroughly disciplined, and held up to a strict and absolute performance of duty. That a few bad men creep into a force of over 2,000 men, is as a matter of course to be expected, but upon the whole the force is composed of men in every way well calculated for and zealous in the discharge of their duty. The better class of the community is entirely satisfied that their lives and property should be left under the protection of the present Commissioners, and would deprecate any change of system whereby the force could again come under the control of local politicians.
In addition to ordinary police duty, the department is the executive arm of the Board of Health and the Board of Excise; for it is by its energetic, prompt and efficient action alone that the city receives over one million dollars per annum for excise fees, instead of the paltry amount of less than $20,000 of previous years received by local officers.
It would not be safe to give this control of the police to a local officer, because by the improper use of so large a force such local officer could insure his continuance in office for a succession of terms. The polls could be under his control, for each man on the force would feel that his continuance in office depended upon his political efforts. If it be said the police are likely to be used in support of a particular State ticket, suffice it to say that the area of yoting being so much greater, the influence of such improper action is far less felt, but in the local elections it would be supreme. The Commissioners of police should be entirely independent of their men, to insure respect and efficiency. If their positions are made dependent upon one who, in turn, would be in so great measure dependent upon the men forming the force, that independence is destroyed,
and the whole police system, which should be a matter of science, becomes a farce, a theatre for party politics, or a receptacle for old political hacks or active politicians.
Again, we would call attention to the fact that, although loud and general complaints are made by the city officials against this commission, yet no particular instance is pointed out wherein this board has been guilty of reckless or extravagant expenditure, or of spend. ing money or incurring obligations in excess of the amount appropriated for its use; upon the whole, we think no candid person can fail to be aware of the general efficiency with which this department of the public service is now managed.
THE BOARD OF HEALTH.
For many years the friends of sanitary reform labored with untiring zeal to establish in this city a sanitary bureau, such as the interests of the people and the prosperity of our city demanded. Success finally crowned these efforts, and we have to-day a Board of Health composed of men of preëminent professional and business ability.
The prosecution of City Inspector Boole, the publication of our sanitary report upon the condition of the city, and the agitation of the questions connected therewith, were but the first of a series of acts that culminated in the overthrow of the corrupt City Inspector's Department and its two score of incompetent health wardens, and in the establishment for our city of a Health Board which is everywhere acknowledged to be a model among the similar institutions in the world.
We do not consider it necessary that we should stop to recount the blessings that this board has conferred upon us all, the lives it has saved, the pestilence it has fought and conquered at our doors, and the marks of general confidence that our people feel in its fidelity to its mission. We are too near the time when we looked to its eslicient action to protect ourselves and those we hold most dear from the horrors of a threatening pestilence, to need to be told, save by the beatings of our grateful hearts, that the Board of Health has already earned, not only our respect and admiration, but also the thanks of all of us for keeping from our hearthstones the footstep of Death. While gaunt Pestilence stalked through other cities less
blessed with proper health regulations, and gathered a rich harvest of victims, he was here boldly met by our Health Board, fought at our threshold, followed step by step, night and day, by ceaseless vigilance, and finally, instead of becoming a conqueror, has been conquered.
Ever since New York has been a city, the people had an opportu. nity of electing first-class men to inaugurate just as good a sanitary bureau as we have now-if they could have done it, why was it not done, and hundreds of thousands of valuable lives saved? The answer is very simple.
Mr. Boole and his health wardens, and their predecessors, beld the votes necessary to perpetuate their power, and that power was perpetuated.
The expense of this board in 1866 for the city of New York was $102,587.93.
The expense of the City Inspector's Department in 1865 (having charge of the same subject matter), was $204.813.12, as follows:
Salaries City Inspector's Department,
: $144,116 48
45,011 41 9,000 00 2,981 13 3,704 10
Salaries Com’rs of Health, &c., Board of Health,....
Making a total expense of $221,086.39, against $102,587.93 spent by the Board of Health. If it be said that the City Inspector's Department also had charge of cleaning the streets, it can be replied, that under this department the street cleaning cost over one million of dollars per annum, and the streets were not cleaned, whereas now, under the commission system, it costs but $500,000, and the streets are cleaned.
THE PAID FIRE DEPARTMENT.
With the paid fire department, as a systern, no one can justly find fault: for there can be no more propriety in having a volunteer fire department than a volunteer police force. It was very long indeed before the people of this community would abandon the old department for the new. They felt reluctant to abandon a system wbich, in its day, had done good service, and because, also, a portion of them were intimidated by the hue and cry raised by the politicians who feared the loss of power if the volunteer system, which had become thoroughly corrupt, was broken up. But like institutions outliving their day, like other landmarks of previous generations, the volunteer fire department was swept away, and a system inaugurated equal to the advanced position of our age. It seems extraordinary that the greatest commercial metropolis of this continent, with its vast interests, its wealth, its population, its spirit of progress in the arts and sciences, its intelligence, its use in other respects of the forces of nature to control the forces of nature, should have been the last of the great cities of the world to realize that, in a vast community of persons where individuals of the worst and lowest classes congregate to prey upon the lives and property of others, where there is not only a great amount of good, but an equal, if not greater, amount of evil, affairs which concern the common interest of all must be made a matter of business, and not left to the voluntary and spasmodic efforts of unofficial individuals.
The insurance companies who insure one thousand millions of property in the metropolitan district, owned in every part of the State, as we understand, have taken steps to sustain this commission, and would on no account recommend a return to the old system, or to a system by which the mayor of the city would have the power to appoint the Commissioners.
It was proved by witnesses before the State Senate, that the Vol. unteer Department cost, directly and indirectly, over a million of dollars
Thousands of young men in this department were ruined yearly, and their suffering wives, mothers and sisters prayed for the abolition of a department in which their husbands, sons and brothers met with so great temptations.