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Police: Incompetent to Mission Impossible

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  • Police: Incompetent to Mission Impossible

    The contemporary press certainly ridiculed the police efforts to catch the Whitechapel murderer. Today, while we still can be critical on a few specifics, I think the majority of us take the view that the killer had all of the advantages and the police would have had to have been rather lucky to catch him.

    Is this a recent shift in public perception or a long-standing one?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Barnaby View Post
    The contemporary press certainly ridiculed the police efforts to catch the Whitechapel murderer. Today, while we still can be critical on a few specifics, I think the majority of us take the view that the killer had all of the advantages and the police would have had to have been rather lucky to catch him.

    Is this a recent shift in public perception or a long-standing one?
    Hi Barnaby,

    Last year when we were visiting my brother in England I came across the edition of Punch from 1888 (much to my delight!). I was looking through it the other evening and found a couple of cartoons that I think you will find interesting. Here they are (I hope - I'm very new to being able to post things on Casebook!).

    Only one of the cartoons was small enough for Casebook (the other one is 293.6 KB instead of 293 KB!). I hope you are able to enlarge this one in your computer. At any rate I'll have another try this afternoon. So watch this space!
    At the bottom of this cartoon (dated October 13, 1888) it says:

    WHITECHAPEL, 1888
    First Member of 'Criminal Class.' 'Fine body o' men, the per-leece!'
    Second Ditto. 'Uncommon fine! - It's lucky for hus as there's sech a bloomin' few on 'em!!!'

    'I have to observe that the Metropolitan Police have not large reserves doing nothing and ready to meet emergencies; but every man has his duty assigned to him, and I can only strengthen the Whitechapel district by drawing men from duty in other parts of the Metropolis.' - Sir Charles Warren's Statement. 'There is one Policeman to every seven hundred persons.' - Vide Recent Statistics.

    Carol

    Click image for larger version

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    Last edited by Carol; 07-24-2014, 04:10 AM. Reason: Problems, problems.

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    • #3
      Hi Barnaby,

      Here is the other cartoon - I hope!

      Click image for larger version

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      The print at the bottom of the cartoon reads:

      IS DETECTION A FAILURE?
      In the interests of the Gutter Gazette and of the Criminal Classes, the Sensational Interviewer dogs the Detective's footsteps, and throws the strong light of publicity on his work. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that Detection should prove a failure.

      Carol
      Last edited by Carol; 07-24-2014, 06:52 AM. Reason: Addition

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Barnaby View Post
        The contemporary press certainly ridiculed the police efforts to catch the Whitechapel murderer. Today, while we still can be critical on a few specifics, I think the majority of us take the view that the killer had all of the advantages and the police would have had to have been rather lucky to catch him.

        Is this a recent shift in public perception or a long-standing one?
        The contemporary press opinion is often divided on politics.
        Newspapers that were decidedly Liberal (due to their financing), ridiculed Warren (he represented Conservativism).
        While newspapers that were Conservative tended to ridicule Mathews (Home Office - being Liberal).
        Then there were others who gained their financial backing elsewhere who had no political leanings and could, and did, ridicule both, all the while offering their sentiment for the hard pressed, under payed, over worked, members of the force.

        The picture, as you might expect, is not altogether clear, but certainly the killer had luck on his side, though I don't recall any official police paperwork prepared to admit that in writing.

        If you read between the lines, most of the criticism cast at the police is aimed at the management, the decision makers, and the direction of the investigation, not the ordinary constables on the beat.
        Regards, Jon S.

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        • #5
          The controversial Home Secretary, Henry Matthews, was a Conservative, eg. a Tory, in a Conservative government that was narrowly elected to power in 1886 and was voted out in 1892.

          If anything Sir Charles Warren, with his leanings towards Irish Home Rule and greater welfare for the poor, was a 'Liberal' compared to Matthews.

          In a 1908 interview Sir Robert Anderson will show how hopelessly shredded was his memory when he complained about the hard time he received from the Home secretary over the Ripper scare, but refers to William Harcourt--the Liberal Home Secretary of an entirely different year, different government and different party, eg. two years before the Whitechapel crimes. Plus it exposes the right-wing and pious reactionary's partisan bias towards the Left.

          Just because the police between 1888 and 1891 were unable to catch 'Jack' does not preclude a singular police chief from learning of the killer's likely identity.

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          • #6
            That is correct, Jonathan, about Matthews and Warren's political affiliations. Warren ran for - and lost - a seat in Parliament on the liberal ticket. I'm not so sure about your assessment of Anderson outside of simply a failed memory in this instance.

            Congratulation on completing your book. I'm sure it will be an interesting read.
            Best Wishes,
            Hunter
            ____________________________________________

            When evidence is not to be had, theories abound. Even the most plausible of them do not carry conviction- London Times Nov. 10.1888

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            • #7
              Thanks Hunter.

              Can you elaborate on what you mean about Anderson? Do you see purpose in his deflective words?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Jonathan H View Post
                The controversial Home Secretary, Henry Matthews, was a Conservative, eg. a Tory, in a Conservative government that was narrowly elected to power in 1886 and was voted out in 1892.

                If anything Sir Charles Warren, with his leanings towards Irish Home Rule and greater welfare for the poor, was a 'Liberal' compared to Matthews.
                Yes, thankyou Jonathan, I had their affiliations reversed.

                This partizan political view was also explained in, Jack the Ripper, and the London Press, L. Perry Curtis Jr.
                Interestingly, the Star consistently ridiculed Warren, yet the Star was financed by Liberals, this view became an embarrassment for them and they had to 'back off' bashing the liberals.
                Last edited by Wickerman; 07-24-2014, 07:29 PM.
                Regards, Jon S.

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                • #9
                  Hi Jonathan,

                  Well, Sir Robert got the wrong HS alright. Just don't know if this lapse in memory was due to political bias or not. Maybe in some subliminal fashion, I suppose. He made more than that error however... and all with the same certitude. Ambitious men can be that way. It serves them well most of the time in being decisive when necessary...and sometimes not so well when opinion is offered as fact without a consensus of one's peers.
                  Best Wishes,
                  Hunter
                  ____________________________________________

                  When evidence is not to be had, theories abound. Even the most plausible of them do not carry conviction- London Times Nov. 10.1888

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Wickerman View Post
                    Interestingly, the Star consistently ridiculed Warren, yet the Star was financed by Liberals, this view became an embarrassment for them and they had to 'back off' bashing the liberals.
                    Warren and Matthews were effectively joined at the hip by the radical press after Trafalgar Square. It was expedient for their purposes to do so, despite Warren's earlier (rather lukewarm) political affiliation.
                    Best Wishes,
                    Hunter
                    ____________________________________________

                    When evidence is not to be had, theories abound. Even the most plausible of them do not carry conviction- London Times Nov. 10.1888

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Too true!

                      Macnaghten, a tiresomely "enthusiastic Tory" according to his daughter Christabel, kicks living Hell out of Warren (albeit un-named) in his memoirs for being, or appearing to be a proto-fascist. That's my word, to use political short-hand for a military thug who threatens democratic freedoms.

                      'Mac' sinks the boot into Warren, I think for personal reasons: Warren had initially blackballed the Old Etonian from C.I.D. By 1914, Macnaghtenconcurs with the Liberal press of the 1880's; that Warren was both too high-handed and too heavy-handed in his efforts to muzzle the mob.

                      In my opinion, Anderson's fading-failing memory in that 1908 interview has compressed events from 1886 and 1888, and murders from Nov 1888 and July 1889 into one continuous tale (eg. the mistake over different pipes found at murder scenes).

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Hello Barnaby, all,

                        I think we have to differentiate between the reception of the general public and Ripperologists or true crime enthusiasts who have all the available details. I'm saying this because I'm actually not so sure whether there really was a shift in perception in this regard.

                        Just take the movie From Hell for example that came up with yet another rehash of the Royal Conspiracy. It casts a negative light on the police (mostly the higher-ups), thus furthering a view that exists since the late Victorian period when the Whitechapel murderer(s) was/were still about. The message is that the police were unable to catch the perpertrator(s) because they were a bunch of politically corrupt consiprators who abused their power to hush things up. Even though all this Royal Conspiracy stuff is completely silly, it still has an enormous impact on the general public whose bias against them is still very much alive.

                        Best wishes,

                        Boris
                        ~ All perils, specially malignant, are recurrent - Thomas De Quincey ~

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                        • #13
                          I agree, Boris, and that is partly why I have written a book to try and set the record staright -- at least as I interpret that record.

                          Sir Melville Macnaghten solved the case in 1891 thanks to the 'Old Boy Net' and then broadly shared the solution with the public from 1898; that the Ripper was a Gentile gentleman -- but with the data somewhat altered to protect the killer's respectable relations (which it did, up until 1965).

                          Part of this prankish disguise was to assert, quite untruthfully, that the police were on the verge of arresting the "mad doctor". Yet in his 1914 memoirs Sir Melville admitted that this "Protean" criminal was, in fact, not on police radar until "some years after" he killed himself.

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                          • #14
                            Now we are talking about the historical hysteria Boris,

                            The fear of the police and that unique expectation of complete freedom and full protection. One can only be gained at the expense of the other, something the Great British public either cannot comprehend, or are afraid to.

                            The result, when coupled with expectation of said hypocritical public, is that those who are paid to maintain both, are often seen as conflicting polars, and are either praised or scorned. The police are a political football, kicked around y politicians and the public to suit there own agendas.

                            This has always been, and always will.

                            Monty




                            Author of Capturing Jack the Ripper.

                            http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1445621622

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I wouldn't say the police were incompetent, but the vision of what the police is about was outdated.

                              Warren was all about the uniform and policemen doing their beat and having a presence that causes a deterrent.

                              He was also unpopular in the East End and the poorer classes because of the repressive events of the past two years. They didn't feel they could be protected if they went forward and talk to the police. (speaking in general, here, not JtR)

                              He frowned upon plain clothe detective, informants and a more intrusive form of police system.

                              With Jack the Ripper, and the Fenian fear a few years before, and the presence of several anarchist and political refugees from other countries (who had for several years caved in into a more modern kind of police), Scotland Yard had no choice to adapt, and adapt quickly. So, with JtR, there were quite a few rookie mistakes.

                              This said, no matter how good your police system is, serial killers who attack random victims are extremely hard to catch.
                              Is it progress when a cannibal uses a fork?
                              - Stanislaw Jerzy Lee

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