Richard H. Sylvester
Sylvester circa 1913
|Chief of Police of Washington, DC|
|Preceded by||William C. Moore|
|Succeeded by||Raymond W. Pullman|
|Born||August 14, 1859|
Iowa City, Iowa
|Died||December 11, 1930 (aged 71)|
|Children||Laura Sylvester Wood|
|Parents||Richard H. Sylvester Sr.|
Richard H. Sylvester Jr. (August 14, 1859 – December 11, 1930) was the Chief of Police for Washington, District of Columbia from July 1898 to April 1915. He was an early president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). Sylvester played an influential role in militarization of U.S. police departments in the early 20th century.
Early years and education
He attended Washington University in St. Louis, where he majored in law, but he dropped out to become a journalist. He began working at papers in the Midwest. He was sent to Washington, D.C. as a newspaper correspondent. He worked as a disbursement officer with the Ute Indian Commission.
Militarization of police
During his tenure as Police Chief, Sylvester advocated for the use of the .38 caliber pistol by police (a weapon previously used by the military), referred to police officers as "citizen-soldiers", and advocated the use of similar interrogation techniques as used against Filipino insurgents by the U.S. military during the Philippine wars and occupation. Sylvester, who was police chief in Washington, D.C., which had a substantial nonwhite population, believed that racial minorities were morally degenerate and opposed racial intermingling. As police chief, his main targets were racial minorities.
He retired as Chief of Police for Washington, DC on March 6, 1915 after charges were filed against him for his failure to protect suffragettes during their march in Washington on the day before the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson, and accusations of corruption laid against him by Congressman Frank Park. He was succeeded by Raymond W. Pullman.
He established the du Pont protection division in 1914 to ensure the safety of the company's plants manufacturing materiel during World War I. While the war was still going on, Sylvester was serving as head of the du Pont police force in July 1918, when his investigation of an unexplained fire at a manufacturing plant led to his uncovering a plot to destroy buildings using fire extinguishers whose contents had been replaced with gasoline.
Sylvester testified before the House Judiciary Committee in April 1928 in support of a "fence" bill drafted by Representative Fiorello H. La Guardia of New York that would make the transporting or concealing of stolen goods used in interstate commerce a crime punishable by a fine of $5,000 or up to two years in prison. He was an early advocate of great cooperation across international police forces, served on a committee established by the National Crime Commission on ways to improve rural policing and participated in the development of recommendations to have employees paid by check rather than cash as a way to reduce payroll robberies.
- "Major Sylvester, Criminals' Foe, Dies. Served as Head of the Police Department at Washington for Seventeen Years. Organized World Body. Long in Charge of du Pont Company's Police Forces. Began Career as Journalist". New York Times. December 12, 1930. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
Major Richard Sylvester, who for seventeen years was superintendent of the Washington police and for the last fifteen years head of the protection division of E.I. du Pont de Nemours Co.'s plants, retiring only a few weeks ago, died here this afternoon in his suite at the du Pont Biltmore Hotel. He was 71 years old.
- "Police Chiefs - Past and Present". Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. Archived from the original on June 3, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-29.
- "PastIACP presidents".
- Go, Julian (2020). "The Imperial Origins of American Policing: Militarization and Imperial Feedback in the Early 20th Century". American Journal of Sociology. 125 (5): 1193–1254. doi:10.1086/708464. ISSN 0002-9602.
- "Police History". North Carolina Wesleyan College. Archived from the original on 2009-09-08. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
Professionalism took place at the top with formation of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) in 1902. Its first president, Richard Sylvester, chief of the Washington D.C. P.D., was widely regarded as the father of police professionalism. He advocated a citizen-soldier model, and was responsible for development of the many paramilitary aspects of policing.
- "'Third Degree' Not Brutal Washington's Police Head Tells Academy of Social and Political Science" (PDF). The New York Times. April 9, 1910. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
- Darius M. Rejali (2007). Torture and Democracy. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-11422-4.
The phrase was originally coined by Major Richard Sylvester of Washington, ... Many American police chiefs denied that police practiced the third degree. ...
- Katherine H Adams; Michael L Keene (1 October 2010). Alice Paul and the American Suffrage Campaign. University of Illinois Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-252-09034-9.
- "Head of Washington Police Retires After Charges Are Withdrawn" (PDF). The New York Times. March 6, 1915. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
Richard Sylvester, President of the International Association of Police Chiefs, retired today on a pension from his post as head of the Washington police ... by Representative Park of Georgia.
- Staff. "N. D. Baker Endorses Federal Fence Bill; Declares Interstate Traffic in Stolen Goods, Now $500,000,000 a Year, Must Be Curbed. A. F. of L. Chief Joins Plea. Railroad, Bank and Business Men Also Back LaGuardia Measure Before House Committee.", The New York Times, April 4, 1928. Accessed July 29, 2009.
- "Washington Ex-Chief Of Police Dead". Hartford Courant. Associated Press. December 12, 1930. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
Maj. Richard Sylvester, 70, Retired Dec. 1 From Position With E. I. du Pont de Nemours