Saying it is of “no use to make ‘crusades’ of any kind,” Cleveland’s highly effective and much-admired chief of police, Frederick Kohler (a Republican), spoke last night at the 22nd meeting of the Economic Club of New York, as part of a panel addressing problems of police administration.
According to the New-York Tribune, in his address Chief Kohler stated that on the view that “crusades” never accomplish anything, after taking command his course was “to eliminate all arrests that do more harm than good,” following the principle “that the great aim of the law is not punishment, but prevention,” which is “accomplished by avoiding arrests for trivial offences.”
Chief Kohler set forth facts showing that one can greatly reduce criminal activity while at the same time avoiding arrests for trivial offenses which do far more harm to the person arrested than any good they could possibly do in reducing crime. When he became Chief, there were 500 houses of prostitution with more than 5,000 women in them; now, there are only 45 houses, with only 260 women in them — and “soliciting on the streets” has “ceased completely.” And all this was accomplished without
making wholesale arrests of those unfortunate women, Chief Kohler declared. He sympathized with them as an official and as a private citizen, and as they could not be driven into the lake and drowned or kept in prison forever regulations had to be made to reduce the evil.
“A man might become a hobo, beg his bread and sleep in railroad cars if he does not want to work or cannot get work,” said Mr. Kohler. “These women are often ignorant, and they depend on the easiest way to make a living. If there were no demand for them, if it were not for you and me (and here he swept with his arm and hundreds of men before him), there would be no such women.”
Chief Kohler’s focus on what works — not what sounds good as a “crusade” — and his candor in laying it out for all to consider are refreshing. One suspects that a future political career is in store for him. And one hopes that a century hence, law enforcement officials will be at least as enlightened as Chief Kohler regarding the most prudent and just policy toward the unfortunate women involved in the sex trade.