George Washington Walling
To Protect And Serve
Walling was the son of Leonard Sr. and Catherine Aumack Walling. He joined the New York City police department at a time when badges were made of stamped copper. Since policemen wore civilian clothes while on duty, their only identification was their patrolman's badge. It earned the officers the nickname "coppers" which, over time, was shortened to "cops." During Walling's time on the force, police saw a steady trend toward increased professionalism, even in their dress. A uniform was eventually required, consisting of a blue coat with a velvet collar and nine black buttons. The black buttons were later replaced with brass ones. Each patrolman was supposed to wear gray trousers with a one-inch black stripe down the sides to complete the uniform.
The police force of New York City was largely made up of urban laboring classes who were largely Irish in the early 1800s. Corruption was extensive and well known to the public. An aspiring patrolman was required to pay a fee in order to receive an appointment from the New York City Common Council. By the mid-1800s gangs were a real problem in the city as they robbed and assaulted at will. The New York City Municipal Police District had thirty-two precincts when it was created in 1853. George Walling became captain of the twentieth precinct at that time.
When Walling took command of the twentieth precinct he found the district living in fear of a group of particularly violent thugs called the Honeymoon Gang. Because of political graft (politicians paid by criminals), arresting the criminals was useless because they were immediately released and the abuses quickly resumed. Walling took a different approach. He assembled his largest officers into a squad armed with wooden clubs to enforce the law in his precinct. Seeing that the policemen meant business, the Honeymoon Gang fled to other areas.