The recently discovered 1895 diary of Boston police officer Stillman S. Wakeman provides a revealing glimpse into actual police work 100 years ago.
Officer Wakeman was “an officer of the neighborhood.” He spent most of his time on patrol responding to little problems that neighborhood residents brought to him: disputes, minor property crimes, and so on. He spent relatively little time on major offenses: murder, rape, robbery. He resolved most of the problems informally, acting as a neighborhood magistrate.
Officer Wakeman’s role was remarkably similar to that of contemporary patrol officers. He was reactive and a problem solver. The major difference was the absence of modern police technology: the patrol car and the 911 telephone system.
Important Issues in American Policing in the 20 th Century