Commissioner William P. Lawson
3 Dec 1937
One of Commissioner Lawson's first acts as Baltimore Police Commissioner was to correct an error that was made by his predecessor. Charles Gaither, Baltimore's first Solo Commissioner. Gaither refused to hire African American Police Officers. Lawson corrected that error on 3 Dec 1937 when he hired, Mrs. Violet Whyte, Baltimore's first African American member of the Police Department. On 3 Dec 1937 P/O Violet Whyte took over her duties as a policewoman, assigned initially to the Northwestern District. Commissioner Lawson, said in a statement outlining P/O Whyte's qualifications for the post, saying, "After her work in Northwestern is finished she would be available for duties elsewhere in the city."
4 Dec 1937
Mrs.Whyte became the first African American Member of the Baltimore Police Force, Assigned To Northwestern, her appointment came on 3 Dec 1937. This was nearly 10 years before baseball's Jackie Robinson would hit the fields for the Brooklyn Dodgers on 15 April 1947 and 17 years before the Baltimore Orioles would hire pitcher Jehosie Jay Heard on 24 April 1954. So while our Police department seemed behind in the times, they were really ahead of the times and would have been much quicker had it not been for Commissioner Charles D. Gaither. That said, we should also point out the commissioner did little without the Mayor's concent,.So Gaither's fault should be shared with Mayors William F. Broening and Howard W. Jackson. Once Gaiher was out of the way Commissioner William Lawson was able to step up and hire Mrs. Whyte, allowing her to go on to do outstanding work for the Baltimore Police Department and the community she served.
Various Posts Named
Among the posts she has held or now holds, which fit her for her job, Commissioner Lawson named the following: Teacher in the School of Christian Education. Member, advisory board, Civic League. President, Intercity Child Study Association, Teacher, Department of Parent Education. Executive secretary, Parent-Teacher Federation, Policewoman Whyte is an active member of the Negro State Republican League.
Feb 16, 1938
LAWSON PLANS TO USE RETIRED POLICE FOR DUTY
The Sun (1837-1989); Feb 16, 1938; pg. 20
Lawson plans to use retired police for duty
Would utilize corps at large gatherings to spare regulars - reveals intentions at first annual dinner of former officers
Baltimore’s active police force soon may be augmented by a corps of reserves formed from retired veterans of the department.
This plan was revealed last night by William P Lawson, Commissioner of the Police Department, who spoke at the first annual stag dinner of the retired veteran police Association the Rennert Hotel. Over 100 former members of the department were in attendance.
“I feel, and I think the public feels, that we are very much undermanned in the police department.” Commissioner Lawson said, “we have bigger problems to face that the ever had and no war men that we had in 1922.
Seems practical, he says
“It seems practical to me that we should form a corps out of the retired police.”
Looking over those present, he said that he could pick at least 50 it would fit into this plan.
The law gives them authority. Commissioner Lawson said, to call out retired police at a salary of three dollars a day. When necessary, the core would be used at large gatherings, thus keeping police districts from being undermanned on those occasions.
The dinner was the occasion for recalling “old-timers.” Scheduled for 6:30 PM it did not get underway until an hour later because members were busy greeting old friends.
Mayor Praises System
Mayor Jackson, the first speaker praised the commissioner’s police pension system.
Herbert R. O’Connor, Atty. Gen., commended members of the Association for having contributed toward the establishment of one of the finest police forces in the country. He said that, despite the fact that the police pension fund has required tech support, it should be retained.
State Sen. Raymond E. Kennedy also spoke.
Patrolman John J. Sweeney, formerly of the central district, was Toastmaster. Preceding the speeches. Charles Lenderking, a former police clerk and chairman for the evening, introduced members of the Association 80 years or older.
Those presented were:
Sgt. Richard H. Carberry, 82
Detective John H. Mayer, 80
Sgt. Lewis Zehner, 84
Patrolman William S. Newman 81
Sgt. Carberry, who was retired in 1922, also has two sons who been retired from the force.
Between courses members wondered from table to table. After the speeches a program of songs and dances was presented by sons and daughters of members of the department. The police quartet sang an orchestra composed of members the police band played during the dinner.
Taking part in the entertainment were: Marie Baglioni. Geraldine Tudor, Emma McDonald, Evelyn Roberts, Jeanette Levin, Tony Andreone, Jeanette afford, buddy Paul and Alice E’s wood. Mrs. Cyrille Mitchell was the accompanist. Martin Link, introduced as the “Bowery boy,” to the song and dance specialty.
The committee in charge of the dinner included Mr. Lenderking, patrolman Sweeney, Sgt. Herbert E. Robinson and Sgt. George J. Fritsch
LAWSON PLANS SPECIAL SQUAD TO BATTLE VICE
5 July, 1938
Lawson will name his new group this week to attack prostitution, and gambling
20 members of forceful face medical tests on fitness for duty
A special cleanup squad of police whose sole duty will be to ferret out vice and gambling in all forms will be appointed this week by police Commissioner William P Lawson.
The Commissioner announced this yesterday [4 July, 1938], and at the same time disclosed that about 20 members of the department will appear shortly before medical examiners to determine their fitness to continue on duty.
The Commissioner statement came 24 hours after Jay. Bernard Wells, states attorney, had made public a report showing that vice is widespread in this city, and which indicated a close association between vice activities and some members of the Police Department.
There was no definite evidence of police protection of vice was obtained, however, by the investigators who compiled the report for the American social hygiene Association. Copies of the report, which was made for a citizen committee headed by Dr. J. M. T. Finney, Senior, were given to Commissioner Lawson and Mr. Wells on Friday.
Dr. Finney last night said he was delighted to hear that Commissioner Lawson had decided to set up a cleanup squad
“But the citizens committee are not reformers.” Dr. Finney said
“They are an interested group of citizens trying to cooperate with the police to make Baltimore a better place to live in. We are not after anybody’s scalp. A report was made in that report was submitted to the proper authorities.”
Commissioner Lawson declined to say how large the new cleanup squad would be or how it would be recruited. He explained it would be under his direct supervision, and that the personnel would include some of the most efficient men in the department. The squad, he added, would be on duty 24 hours a day.
Moreover, Commissioner Lawson insisted that the medical examinations should not be interrupted as a general shakeup in the department. Such examinations, he said, are held, periodically. Any vacancies caused by those examinations must be filled, he added, and this may cause some changes in assignments.
Commissioner Lawson disclosed that he is carefully studying the report submitted by the Finney committee. Although the copy of the report released by Mr. Wells abbreviated names and locations, the copies given to Mr. Wells, and Commissioner Lawson were accompanied by a key.
This key gave the full names of nightclub, tavern, grill and saloon proprietors investigated; the names of their employees; what the employees earn in salaries and commissions; what many waitresses earn by “sitting” and soliciting; the names of prostitutes, their ages, addresses and other details about them, including places a visit; taxicab drivers names, Numbers and their interests in certain parts of the vice racket; perverts and where they practice; the names and addresses of hotels and apartments were prostitutes and perverts live or went temporary quarters, and many other details.
Commissioner Lawson’s announcement was a surprise to executive officers of the police department. No mention of the creation of such a squad, it was said, was made by the Commissioner when he conferenced yesterday morning with the inspectors and captains at police headquarters.
The move has been urged lately on several occasions by representatives of the criminal justice commission and others.
Baltimore Police Department
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Copyright © 2002 Baltimore City Police History - Ret Det Kenny Driscoll