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"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 (more quotes by William Jay Gaynor or books by/about 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.
Character, Citizenship, Justice, Law, Police, Responsibility