From the Ashes, 1872-1900
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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October 28, 1899

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Policemen's salaries in 1899 were almost the same as they had been in 1872. For the period 1872-1900 economic downturns with consequent deflation virtually negated any inflationary trends. Wages and salaries simply did not increase significantly over these years. A more accurate estimate of the city's population for 1898 has placed it at 1,641,000.

The senate of the state's general assembly appointed a committee in 1897 to investigate the Chicago police force. And in February of 1898 the senate adopted that committee's report. The report stated in part the following:

The police department of the city of Chicago is composed in round numbers of 3,000 men in its various departments; that a large majority of those men are faithful servants of the people and discharge their duty conscientiously in the enforcement of the law and in the protection of life and property, your committee have no doubt, but in view of the fact that the entire police department, notwithstanding the civil service law, is in the hands of the political party in power, and now in the hands of the mayor of the city, who is a partisan, and in the very nature of the case must be, it is a fact well established by the evidence before your committee that it is not used to enforce the law, nor for the protection of life and property, but, upon the other hand, that it is even used, and is now being used, for the protection of all kinds of vice and for the furtherance of the political desires and ambitions of the present mayor.

Points to Consider

How does this communication argue that Chicago policemen were entitled to a raise?

Rank the cities listed in order of population.

Were Chicago policemen underpaid in 1899?

By which criteria should a police force be judged?

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