"My dear sir, let me tell you that every citizen has full legal right to arrest anyone whom he sees committing any criminal offense, big or little. The law of England and of this country has been very careful to confer no more right in that respect upon policemen and constables than it confers on every citizen. You have the same right to make an arrest for an offense committed in your presence that any policeman has. But we cannot all be bothering with making arrests, so we employ a certain number of our fellow citizens for that purpose and put blue clothes and brass buttons on them. But their clothes and their buttons add nothing whatever to their right to make arrests without warrant. They still have only the same right which the law gives to all of us. Be so good as to look at section 183 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and be convinced of your powers, and then sail right in as hard and as fast as you want to, being careful, however, only to arrest guilty persons, for otherwise your victims will turn around and sue you for damages for false arrest. Policemen have to face the same risk."
William Jay Gaynor
(1851-1913) Mayor of New York City (1910-1913), Supreme Court Justice (1894-1909)
June 7, 1911
in response to a letter from Miner H. Paddock, Jr, Esq. requesting to be appointed a police officer to serve without pay in order to arrest those breaking the city's laws.
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Reader comments about this quote:
My first arrest would be our local Representative, Lloyd Doggett. He, like most of the rest in both houses of the Congress, has sworn to uphold the Consttution and has done no such thing.
 -- jim k, austin     
    This is good, very good indeed. We need a balance between vigilantism and good citizenship.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
    Great! I'd like to see the Arizona or Texas Minutemen Organizations arrest the Nazi's who are running citizen checkpoints on the highways. (http:\\checkpointusa.org)
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
    J Carlton, me too. The lack of 5 stars was for the basis on which the truth was then stated. The constitutional government conferred nothing to its master sovereigns. This blending of original doctrine and changing of mind sets toward what government was to be brought in the establishment of policing departments as now exist (they did not exist then as they were deplored and feared both by the British and U.S. founders - that is police departments as now exist were seen as para-military neighborhood extensions of foreign despots. Their fears have come true - the sovereigns are not recognized in their fullness and tyranny is perpetrated by local thugs. Current police departments are more involved with enforcing tyranny, generating revenue, ensuring unconstitutional compelled compliance, license, victimless crimes, etc. than being the sovereign's peace making officers.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
    We are all, by nature and the will of what is right that respects the natural rights of every individual life, peace keepers. Citizen's arrest anyone?
     -- Anon     
    I like it! I wonder what would happen if I tried that today here in NYC? ;-)
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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