Memorial to Francis M. Doyle

doyle_fEnd of Watch: December 29, 1871
Rank: Officer  Badge No. 48
Age: 38 Years of Service: 5 years
Location of Death: 329 Maryland Avenue, SW
Duty Assignment: First Precinct

Circumstances:
Private Francis M. Doyle and his partner, Sergeant Duvall, were dispatched to the home of Mrs. John Shea at 329 Maryland Avenue SW, to arrest her after a lengthy investigation of morals violations and a stolen watch. The officers had gone to the home earlier in an attempt to recover a stolen watch and were held off by the suspect’s wife. When the officers returned with a warrant and forced the door open they were immediately fired at the suspect’s wife, Mrs. John Shea. Private Doyle was struck in the chest and died instantly. The defendant was tried in a long, drawn out trial and charged with murder. She was acquitted of murder and the shooting of Private Doyle was ruled accidental.

Officer Doyle was the first officer killed in the line of duty from the Metropolitan Police Department, since its beginning in 1861.

 

Biography

Officer Doyle was a U.S. Navy Veteran of the Civil War. He had served with the Metropolitan Police Department for five years and was survived by his wife and three children. He was buried at Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC.

 

Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.

NOTE: The Washington Post started printing newspapers in 1877. Francis M. Doyle was the first Metropolitan Police Officer killed in the line of duty. His death occurred December 29, 1871. The shooting occurred in 1871.

On March 19, 1911, the Post wrote an article about early policing in Washington, DC and some of the incidents in the career of Officer Doyle. At the end of the article it describes the events leading to his death.

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SOME INCIDENTS IN THE CAREER OF FRANCIS M. DOYLE
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 19, 1911

(A HISTORY OF THE EARLY MPDC, AND THE DEATH OF THE FIRST OFFICER KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY)
CITY’S POLICE FORCE HAS HAD EXCITING EVOLUTION.

From Early Patrol of “Pike” Watchmen, Through Eras of Turbulence, Lawlessness, and Moral Development of Community, to Present Standard–Private Doyle’s Life Sacrificed to Duty.

So closely allied as it is with the moral development of the community, there is probably no more interesting point in connection with the history of the Capitol City than a study of the police department. Washington has had many forms of police protection. Back in the early days, when Pennsylvania Avenue was but a straggling street, and the promenade between its double rows of trees was an afternoon feature, there were the old night watchmen, carrying a long staff in one hand and a tallow-wick lantern in the other.

Then came the appointment of the “high constable,” and the division of the town into four districts, with one man to patrol each throughout the day. Four men were given the office of “police commissioner,” with the onerous duty of supervising the policing of the town. Soon it became necessary to provide “lockup” in which to confine the prisoners taken. The constables received a salary of $125 a year each, and when the lock-ups were erected it is a matter of record that they cost but $150 each.

The historical episode of the stoning of President Tyler, many years later, as the chief executive was attempting to forget political animosities and insults in a walk about the White House grounds brought about a still further change. The famous “auxiliary guard” was organized, with fifteen men doing duty under a captain. The new police were sorely needed, for the spirit of the time was troublesome. Political enemies of the president were active in the city, and were responsible for many brawls and petty annoyances.

Firebugs Add Terrors.
Twenty-five years later the force was doubled, and further division of the city into police precincts was made. An era of incendiarism prevailed, and two additional men were detailed to each ward to aid in the suppression of the crimes. Then came a general increase of disorder, and it dawned upon the city fathers that their methods of preserving peace were inadequate. In desperation a force of 200 men was organized, rules adopted, and the metropolitan police, as the present generation knows it, came into being.

Under the new regime of police protection the city grew rapidly to a well-organized and well-conducted community. Probably the most notable era through which it passed was that of the seventies, (1870’s) when the district entered into its corporate rights. Election riots were frequent, and a unique requisition was made in consequence–that of rifles, carbines, sabers, pistols, and belts with which to arm the entire force. The city was passing through a transitional stage, and the times were precarious, despite the efforts of the police.

The gambling spirit came over the city. The gambling element was composed of all grades of the profession, from the gentleman to the tough. Raids were frequent, arrests made, but still the practice went on. Robberies became common. There was the sensational robbery of Vice President Colfax and many other of less mention. Murders followed each other with startling rapidity. The city was yet full of soldiers, and lawlessness prevailed in many sections, particularly that of the Southwest.

Southwest at Its Worst
At this time the southwest section was infested with hundreds of “speak-easys.” gambling houses, policy shops, lottery games, and disorderly houses, the proprietors of which openly violated the license laws. Sunday observance, anti-gambling laws, and offended the peace and dignity of all laws, seemingly without fear of molestation. The section, in fact, became a hotbed of all kinds of crime and the rendezvous of the worst class of criminals. The man who ventured there after nightfall did so at his own peril.

It was with such conditions the police had to deal, but the members of the police force of that day were, as now, imbued with that quality called courage. They needed it for to attempt anything like regulation of the section was to invite assassination. More than one man carried the scars of combat, and one, with whom this sketch deals in particular, sacrificed his life.

That man was one of the bravest, most chivalrous of any who have been numbered among the members of the Capitol City police. Francis M. Doyle never rose beyond the rank of a private, yet by the record of his deeds he takes a stand among the highest men of the department. On the night of December 29, 1871, he laid down his life in the line of duty, and the woman who fired the shot that killed him was acquitted by a jury, the excuse for this verdict being based on sex.

Among those who inhabited the southwest section of the city there probably was none who reached greater notoriety, so far as alleged violation of the law is concerned than Mrs. John Shea. A woman of resource, of character, of capability, for years she is said to have openly defied the police.

There came a time, however, when one more courageous than his predecessors said that Mrs. Shea must be brought to the bar of justice. To certain of the force he entrusted the duty of securing evidence which would convict her before a jury, and to others he gave the duty of drawing as many as possible of her henchmen into the same net. A determined effort was put under way to stamp out the lawlessness of the southwest. The city was morally corrupt and to rectify the condition the southwest must be brought to task.

After weeks of effort the task seemed completed. There remained but to place Mrs. Shea under arrest. With this done, the backbone of the trouble would be broken, and a long step toward a general betterment of conditions taken. To Sergt. E.J. Duvall and Private Francis M. Doyle was entrusted this last duty, and upon the mission of placing Mrs. Shea behind prison bars the two brave members of the police department set out. They knew what lay before them, yet with never a thought beyond carrying out the orders of their superiors they started to perform their duty.

There is something inexpressibly sad about the history of that night. Upon Christmas day, four days later, Private Doyle was in his home taking toys from a tree for his children. Happy with his wife and family, he could have had no thought that so soon afterward the joy of the holiday season would be dimmed for all the city and to his family made deepest sorrow through his own death.

Early in the evening the two men set out for Mrs. Shea’s home on Maryland avenue southwest. The house was easily found, and knowing that the woman could have no inkling of what was to be done, the two men calmly knocked at the front door and awaited her. A maid answered, and upon their request to see Mrs. Shea they were shown into a parlor. In a moment the woman entered the room, with a word made them welcome, and inquired the nature of their visit with a smile that belied her real feeling.

Mrs. Shea was called beautiful. Tall, with a commanding figure, a voice that could be soft and soothing or cold and hard by turns, eyes that were limpid or steel-flashing in a moment, her entire nature expressed in a second utmost graciousness or the fight of a cornered tigress. Thus she had lived, and thus was the manner of her living and her character revealed in her being.

Quietly, and without wanting to alarm the other inmates of the house, Sergt. Duvall told the woman that she must accompany him to the station house. Her assent was as quietly given, and she rose to excuse herself, that she might a wrap. But, as she moved toward the door Sergt. Duvall again confronted her. With a sudden thought that the whole affair might already be known to her, and this be but an excuse that she might escape, he refused to let her pass from the room.

The woman’s suspicion was aroused, and a second later, When Sergt. Duvall turned to Private Doyle and asked him to place handcuffs upon her, she showed the ferociousness of a tigress. Scarcely half a dozen words passed between the trio in the next few moments. They were moments of tenseness, however, and they preceded death. Begging a second’s delay, Mrs. Shea slowly moved to the other side of the room, until she stood before an old-fashioned square piano by the wall.

The order to place the glittering bracelets upon the wrists of the woman was repeated, and Private Doyle took a few steps to the side of Mrs. Shea. As she stood there one hand wandered to the top of the piano and into a slight recess between two pillows. Private Doyle stooped to move the handcuff to a smaller dimension, that it might fit the slender wrist and offer no chance for escape. At the other side of the room Sergt. Duvall looked on, one hand closed around the grip of a heavy revolver.

Woman a Murderer
Then suddenly the woman whipped her right arm forward. Within its grasp was a bit of shining steel–and then murder! A flash of flame, a puff of smoke, a report, and Private Doyle sank slowly to the floor! The clasp upon the woman’s wrist loosened, a spot of blood appeared upon his breast, and as he lay prone, slowly widened out into a crimson pool, staining with its flood the clean white flooring of the room. A second, third, fourth, and fifth time the trigger of the revolver was pulled, but the hammer clicked upon empty shells. But one bullet had been sent, and it had done its work.
In a moment Sergt. Duvall had the woman within his grasp. He pinioned her to the floor, wrested the empty gun from her hand, and with a savage brutality pressed the other handcuff about the murdering hand until the narrow band of steel bit into the flesh and brought a drop of blood of its own. A handful of screaming, frightened women who had pressed about the door was pushed aside, ordered into another room, and the door locked upon them. The police and surgeons from the hospital were ordered.

Private Doyle was placed upon a mattress, his wound examined, and then for three hours the surgeons labored to keep alive the spark of life that could be barely detected. It was a vain task, and none realized it better than those who worked, but it was done–everything that human skill could devise or suggest. Finally death came, and blue coated men, who had stood shoulder to shoulder with him in duty, reverently lifted his body and bore it to the home of the sorrowing family.

City Honors Police Hero
Three days later he was buried. About his grave gathered men of every rank and station in life. There were those who had become, through constant association, intimate friends, those who had watched his career as a member of the police force, and finally those who had never before looked upon his face, but now wished to do reverence to the man who had nobly laid down his life in the path of duty. A whole city did him honor, and laid upon his grave their tribute of love and affection.

Months later Mrs. Shea was arraigned in court, charged with the murder of Private Doyle. Of the trial, which dragged itself out over endless weeks, of the pleas put forward in her behalf by counsel engaged at great cost, of the verdict, the less said the easier borne. In a little book at police headquarters in the office of Maj. Sylvester, there is written these words in explanation of the revolver to which they refer.

“With this revolver Mrs. John Shea murdered Private Francis M. Doyle on December 29, 1871, while resisting the efforts of the officer named to place her under arrest. She escaped punishment at the hand of the tender-hearted jury.”

The entry is significant, and it tells the story with remarkable fidelity. But if we must remember that the murder of this gallant man went unavenged, we can also remember that in the history of no city or community will there ever live the memory of a man more brave, more tender, more manly. Private Francis M. Doyle will always stand as an example of a man to be loved and revered.

 

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(DOYLE’S SON, ROBERT, LATER JOINED THE FORCE, SERVED 39 DISTINGUISHED YEARS AND ATTAINED THE RANK OF CAPTAIN.)
SOME INCIDENTS IN THE CAREER OF ROBERT E. DOYLE
(ROBERT IS THE SON OF THE FIRST MPD OFFICER KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY.)
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED DECEMBER 12, 1893, PAGE 8
OBSCENE PHOTOGRAPHS ON HIM

Henry Taylor, colored, was placed under arrest yesterday afternoon by Officer R.E. Doyle, of the Third precinct, for creating a disturbance in M.T. Cartey’s saloon, on the corner of L and Twentieth streets northwest. When searched at the station house over a dozen obscene photographs were found upon him, which will probably cause his detention for the grand jury.

 

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED OCTOBER 13, 1894, PAGE 1

FATAL SHOOTING AFFRAY.
WALTER EDMONDS RECEIVES A BULLET IN A SCUFFLE WITH HIS FATHER.

A shooting affray, which took place at the corner of Brightwood and Whitney avenues and Marshall street, in the extreme northern end of the city, at 8 o’clock last night, will probably result in the death of Walter Edmonds, colored, aged 24 years, who lives with his father, Harry Edmonds, at 721 Marshall street. The elder Edmonds is locked up in the Eighth precinct station, charged with doing the shooting. There is a woman in the case.
At the hour mentioned, Walter Edmonds and Benjamin Moss, also colored, were walking along Marshall Street, when they passed Lizzie Carter, a colored nurse girl, with whom young Edmonds has been keeping company for a long time.

As the woman passed the two and spoke to Edmonds, Moss, who appears to have been a little under the influence of liquor, made a slighting remark, to which his companion took exceptions.

Moss struck Edmonds and then they began pummeling each other and rolling over and over in the street. Edmonds, who was more sober than Moss, was getting the best end of the fight when friends of the latter came to his assistance and were punishing Edmonds severely. Breaking away from his assaulters Edmonds ran into his house and returning with a revolver fired three shots into the crowd. Fortunately his aim and weapon were bad and no one was struck by the flying bullets.

At this point the senior Edmonds ran out from the house and grappled with his son in an attempt to relieve him of his weapon. He tried to pacify the young man by talking to him, but he was frenzied in his rage and made desperate efforts to shoot. The struggling men tripped and fell to the ground and the revolver was discharged. A groan from the younger man showed that the bullet had found lodgment.

Officer R.E. Doyle, of the Eighth precinct, who had been attracted by the previous shots, came running up at this time and found the father trying to stanch the flow of blood from the wound in his son’s right side. He placed the father under arrest and had the son taken to Freedman’s Hospital in the precinct patrol wagon.

After the elder Edmonds was locked up Officer Doyle returned to the scene of the shooting and arrested Moss and three of the other colored men, who were said to have a hand in the fight.

From all accounts the shooting of young Edmonds was accidental. The wounded man was too seriously injured to be able to talk. Surgeons at the hospital dressed the wound and did everything possible to relieve his sufferings, but have little hope of saving his life.

(THE SHOOTING WAS RULED ACCIDENTAL AND THE YOUNG EDMONDS APPARENTLY SURVIVED.)

 

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED FEBRUARY 4, 1899, PAGE 2
CAPTURED AFTER A LONG CHASE.

Policeman R.E. Doyle discovered two white men trying to force the door of Chery & Moran’s store, near Ninth and F streets northwest, about 6 o’clock yesterday morning. The men fled and Doyle pursued, capturing one of them, who gave the name of William L. Darrell, after a long chase, during which the policeman fired five times at the fugitive. Darrell is locked up at the First precinct station.

The police are endeavoring to find his companion and are looking up the prisoner’s record.

 

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED NOVEMBER 17, 1899, PAGE 2
BUGGY SMASHED, MAN GONE.
EXCITING CHASE OF SEVERAL POLICEMEN AFTER A DRUNKEN DRIVER.

Shortly before 10 o’clock last night Officer R.E. Doyle, who patrols the business section north from Pennsylvania avenue, between Seventh and Ninth streets northwest, was attracted by a carriage which stopped in front of a saloon on D street, between Seventh and Eighth streets. There were two occupants, of whom jumped out and went into the saloon while the other remained in the vehicle. After keeping a look-out for some time Officer Doyle saw a Negro step in front of the horse and make some remark, when the driver struck the animal a blow and drove over the Negro.

Up Pennsylvania Avenue to Thirteenth Street the driver went, and turned down the latter thoroughfare. Doyle, who had gone in pursuit, ran into the station-house on Twelfth Street, just below the Avenue, and took a wheel, while Officer Catts, who had witnessed the half-drunken man drive down Thirteenth Street, gave chase in a carriage.

Catts was soon left in the rear, but Doyle was better provided, and he followed the trail through the Agricultural grounds and out through the Monument Lot, gaining all along. He lost the trail for a time after reaching Fourteenth Street, but soon took it up, and followed his man up Executive Avenue, between the White House and the Navy Department.

When he reached the north end of the avenue he found the exhausted horse and broken down vehicle, but the driver had disappeared. The carriage had been run against one of the large marble pillows, where it had been abandoned by the driver, and the horse, completely tired out, stood still.

In the meantime, Mr. John W. Keleher, who keeps a livery stable on Eighth Street, between D and E Streets NW, reported the loss of a horse and carriage to the police. A man about thirty years of age, with a mustache and stubby beard, had hired the team about 6:30 o’clock, and had not paid for it. He gave the name of Henry J. Stevens, and claimed to live at 2106 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, and one of the employees of the stable was sent with him when he hired the team to get the $3 for hire.

Stevens drove to a store near Twenty-First Street and the Avenue, where he requested the employee to go and get for him a bottle of whisky. When the employee returned, the team was gone.

This was reported to the police about the time the chase took place, and it was the colored employee who discovered the team on D Street. Mr. Keleher got his horse and the remains of his carriage, but his customer and his fare have not been found.

 

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED FEBRUARY 18, 1901, PAGE 2
TAKE ARREST AS A JOKE

Officer R.E. Doyle and Special Officer Young arrested Samuel McCauley and Jeremiah A. Stoddard, two well-dressed young men, each about eighteen years of age, at 10 o’clock last night, just as the two were breaking into a showcase in front of W.H. Warner’s tobacco store, 308 Ninth Street, NW. The officers saw the two young men standing close to the case, and watched them remove a lock by means of a chisel. They were just in the act of taking some pipes from the case when the two officers pounced upon them.

Both were taken to the First precinct station. They dropped the chisel when arrested, and Officer Doyle picked it up.

The two young men admitted to Station-keeper Morgan at the First precinct station that they were guilty as accused, and seemed to take the matter as a joke. One of them said they saw a nice pipe in the case which they thought they would like to smoke, and that this tempted them to the act for which they were arrested. Both are well connected. They were sent to the House of Detention.

 

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 27, 1901, PAGE 10
KNOCKED OUT BY A BEER GLASS

Joseph Lloyd, colored, was arrested late yesterday afternoon by Officer R.E. Doyle, of the First precinct, charged with assaulting and striking Albert S. Janney, of 316 C street northwest, with a beer glass. The row occurred in a hall at Seventh and D streets northwest late Monday night while a social was taking place.

Janney approached Lloyd for not waiting on the guests promptly, and the colored man, it is alleged caught up a beer glass and smashed Janney in the face. His injuries were so severe that he was sent to the Emergency Hospital in the patrol wagon. He swore out warrants for Lloyd and a man named Kelly on the charge of assault.

 

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED APRIL 20, 1901, PAGE 2
LETTER CARRIER ACCUSES POLICEMAN

Officer R.E. Doyle, of the First precinct, will appear before the trial board at headquarters to-day charged by W.S. Crawford, a letter-carrier, with conduct unbecoming an officer in assaulting him and arresting him without cause in front of the Academy of Music on the night of March 27.

Doyle claims he was endeavoring to keep the sidewalk clear. He had some trouble with Crawford and the arrest followed. In the Police Court Crawford’s personal bonds were accepted. He then had Doyle arrested for alleged assault. The case was dismissed in court.

(DOYLE WAS APPARENTLY CLEARED AT THE TRIAL BOARD AS HE WAS PROMOTED TWO MONTHS LATER.)

 

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PARTIAL WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JUNE 26, 1901, PAGE 2

POLICEMEN MOVE UP
PRIVATES WHO WON SERGEANTCIES

The new sergeants and acting sergeants are all well-known men on the force. Sergeant R.E. Doyle, of the First precinct, has worked the beat around Ninth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue for some time past, and is regarded as a most energetic and efficient officer. He formerly performed duty in the Third and Eighth precincts.

 

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 23, 1906, PAGE 12
DOYLE TO BE LIEUTENANT

Sergeant R.E. Doyle, of the Third Precinct, will succeed James A. Moore as lieutenant of police. His promotion yesterday was recommended by Maj. Sylvester, and will soon be acted upon by the Commissioners.

Sergeant Doyle is the youngest lieutenant ever appointed in Washington. He is thirty-five years old, and has been on the force for fifteen years. He has the reputation of being the handsomest “cop” in the department, and Maj. Sylvester says he was promoted entirely on his merits.

At the age of twenty, Doyle was appointed a station keeper in the Ninth precinct. Three years later he was made a private, and two weeks after donning the uniform his name was mentioned to the Commissioners for valiant service.

On October 1, 1899, he was promoted to class 2, and in July 1901 was advanced to a sergeantcy. After a brief service at the Eight precinct he was transferred to the Third, where he has been on duty for several years. Sergeant Doyle’s father was a member of the police force and was killed while on duty when Doyle was an infant.

The vacancy caused by the promotion of Sergeant Doyle is to be filled by Acting Sergeant John J. Whalen, of the Seventh precinct. Policeman John J. Hollinberger, of the First precinct will succeed Acting Sergeant Whalen. Hollinberger is the son of the late Lieut. Hollinberger.

 

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 24, 1906, PAGE B1

HANDSOME SERGT. DOYLE DONS SHOULDER STRAPS

All the ugly “cops” in the Third precinct are disgusted with life. “It ain’t no use,” they wailed when Robert E. Doyle, given up to be the best-looking man on the force, won further favor from capricious fortune by promotion from sergeant to lieutenant of the Eighth precinct.

Of course, it is barely possible that Maj. Sylvester may have taken no account of Sergeant Doyle’s winning loveliness when he picked him out for promotion, but for whatever reason, the ill-favored “coppers” think it’s more than any one man is entitled to—to be “so-blamed good-looking” that all the ladies on the street corners get lost on purpose, and then to be made lieutenant. Nothing but Mr. Doyle’s extraordinary good nature could have saved the situation.

Naturally, after so much had been heard about this “Apollo of the Metropolitan police,” the interest in his appearance was great, and enterprising reporters were hanging around the station at No. 3 waiting for a glimpse of him.

Disappointment awaited them, however, for Mr. Doyle, after being sworn in at 11 o’clock yesterday, could not be found at all. Inquiries were made at the station, but rumors of Mr Doyle’s beauty had become do frequent and so positive since his promotion that the men themselves were a little hazy as to how he looked.

The consensus of opinion fixed his hair at “light yellow,” though several opinions offered had to be considerably boiled down to get an average. To the neatness and charm of his sandy mustache there was not a dissenting voice.

His eyes, they said, were the most fascinating blue, “quite the finest eyes on the force,” though there are one or two close seconds in that contest. “What size is he?” the bluecoats at No. 3 were asked. “Pretty good size,” admitted the smallest man in the room, though with evident reluctance.

“‘Bout my size,” added a big one, who was promptly run out of the room for bragging.

Letters are a rarity in the police stations, even carrying with them a certain social prestige, and when the morning’s mail brought a stack a foot high for the lucky, good-looking Mr. Doyle—“Oh,” sighed the coppers, “what’s the use?”

It is a family tradition with Mr. Doyle to be a policeman. His father was killed in quelling a street fight, when his son was only nine months old. He started life as a newsboy, and even then his countenance was of actual cash value to him.

In each of his vocations since, he has made his good looks a cash asset. Since his stock in trade was not a marketable commodity, he did the next best thing, and passed it on to three fine-looking children, who are al exceedingly proud of their father.

There is no use in saying a good-looking policeman isn’t of more use to the force than an ugly one, for while the latter might serve better to frighten away prowling marauders at night, during the daytime the women certainly do show a fondness for the dapper-looking copper, with the becoming uniform showing up all his good points. Any offender against the law would consider being “run in” less of an indignity if the officer of the law was good-looking than if he had to be lorded over by an insignificant, ugly little bluecoat.

John J. Whalen, who was promoted to succeed Doyle, will remain in Georgetown, and J.T. Hollinberger, who was promoted to succeed Whalen as acting sergeant, will go to the Third precinct.

Lieut. George H. Williams will be transferred to the Third precinct, while Doyle will command the Eighth.