The Capital Police

“The History of the Police Service of Albany” from back in 1902 noted that at one time, there was a Capital Police District that covered the area. This was long before there was a State Police force. In 1865 the Legislature passed an act creating a capital police district that included the City of Albany, the part of Bethlehem north of the Normanskill, the town of Watervliet (including West Troy, Green Island and Cohoes), Lansingburgh, Troy, and North Greenbush and Greenbush. It was a fairly sizeable force, with 66 patrolmen in Albany, 60 in Troy, but only a handful in the smaller locations, totaling 156. “The Board was also authorized, in case of any emergency or apprehension of riot, pestilence or invasion, to appoint special patrolmen to serve without pay.”

The first superintendent was Campbell Allen, born in Madison County. “From early youth he had an eager thirst for knowledge, and became a constant student of the English, German and French languages, and their literature, which made him a scholar of no mean ability. He also made an exhaustive study of Ethics, Philology, Psychology and Geography, and had an intimate knowledge of writings of such men as Herbert Spencer, John Stuart Mill, Hamilton, Kant, Voltaire, and Humboldt. He taught in the country district schools for some time, and later on in Cohoes. He next came to Albany and became a teacher and principal in the public schools of Albany, in which capacities he did admirable work for ten years. In 1861, fired with patriotic fervor, he enlisted in the 44th Regiment N.Y. Vols. (the famous Ellsworth Avengers), was made Captain of Company F; served four years, and was brevetted Major for bravery and ability.”

Of course, this is New York, so a centrally administered, efficient operation run by a thoroughly educated, dedicated public servant could only last so long. “The Capital Police enjoyed but a brief existence, something less than five years, during which time, while it accomplished most effective work, the consensus of public opinion was that it not only militated against the principle of home rule, but centralized power and robbed the Mayor and Sheriff of much of their erstwhile prerogatives.” Their authority was repealed in 1870.

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