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Finding Aid to the San Francisco Police Department Records, 1870-1972 SFH 61
SFH 61  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Custodial History note
  • Existence and Location of Copies note
  • Related Materials at San Francisco Public Library
  • Related Archival Collections at Other Institutions
  • Historical Note
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement

  • Title: San Francisco Police Department Records
    Date (inclusive): 1870-1972
    Date (bulk): 1888-1969
    Collection Identifier: SFH 61
    Creator: San Francisco (Calif.). Police Dept.
    Physical Description: 121 vols., 19 boxes, 9 cartons, 25 oversize flat boxes, 30 shoeboxes, 3 flat files (83.9 linear feet)
    Contributing Institution: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
    100 Larkin Street
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    (415) 557-4567
    info@sfpl.org
    Abstract: Records of the Board of Police Commissioners; the Office of the Chief of Police and subsidiary bureaus and units, including the Bureau of Identification, the Bureau of Inspectors (aka Detective Bureau), Photographs Bureau, Patrol Bureau, Bureau of Permits and Registration; and scrapbooks whose originating office or bureau is unknown. Many bureaus are not represented in the collection. Formats are mostly record books, scrapbooks, and photographic materials.
    Physical Location: The collection is stored onsite.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.

    Access

    The collection is available for use during San Francisco History Center hours, with photographs available during Photo Desk hours. Collections that are stored offsite should be requested 48 hours in advance. Some items are currently unavailable due to preservation issues; see notes under individual subseries for details.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], San Francisco Police Department Records (SFH 61), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

    Custodial History note

    The collection was received in several accessions. Fifty-nine volumes came to the San Francisco Public Library in 1972; these included the Kytka scrapbooks, some of the mug books and wanted circulars, most of the Police Commissioners directives, one of the Commissioners journals, a Commissioners letter book, one volume of Chief's directives, "foreign" and Oregon/Washington criminal photographs, and San Quentin mug books and prisoner indexes. There was another accession in 1975 from Richmond Station that included most of the license and permit ledgers. Additionally, in 1975, 250 glass plate negatives were aquired by the library. One mugbook from the 1940s was donated by an individual in 2003. Another individual donated the HUAC scrapbook in 2003.

    Existence and Location of Copies note

    Selected Board of Police Commissioners minutes in Subseries 1.1 and Theodore Kytka scrapbooks in Subseries 3.3 are digitized; and selected minutes and officers records are also available on microfilm. For details and links, please see notes under individual subseries.

    Related Materials at San Francisco Public Library

    The San Francisco History Center has numerous topical files about the SFPD in its San Francisco Ephemera Collection. The San Francisco History Center also has the Thomas J. Cahill Papers (SFH 15), the Kevin Mullen SFPD Collection (accession number 2010-58), the Police Chief George Healy Photograph Collection (accession number 2000-58), and the Alien Enemy Registration Affidavits, 1918 (SFH 48), which were administered by the SFPD and filed at district stations. SFPD Annual Reports, additional Police Commission Minutes, and other SFPD publications and reports are located in the Library's Government Information Center and/or the San Francisco History Center and are discoverable via the online catalog, with links to electronic copies where digitized.

    Related Archival Collections at Other Institutions

    The Jesse Brown Cook Scrapbooks Documenting San Francisco History and Law Enforcement are held at the Bancroft Library. Additional SFPD mugbooks and wanted circulars are held at the California State Library.

    Historical Note

    The history of the SFPD predates by decades the scope of the surviving archive. According to secondary sources, there was a police force--of sorts--as early as 1849, coinciding with the population explosion from the Gold Rush. In 1856, the same year as the Consolidation of the City and County of San Francisco, the office of City Marshall was replaced by that of Police Chief. The 1850s also saw the introduction of military drill formation, uniforms, and the use of photography for criminal identification.
    By the late 1870s, the period when this collection begins, the police force numbered 400--the "largest single police force in the West"--and in that year, the Chief became an appointed office rather than an elected one.
    The 1880s and 1890s saw the introduction of the police patrol wagon and signal box system. In 1896, when James Phelan was elected Mayor, a new City Charter was passed, which gave the mayor the power to appoint members of the Police Commission.
    During the 1906 earthquake and fire, police records were salvaged and kept in Portsmouth Square; this accounts for the surviving pre-1906 Board of Commissioners records, Bureau of Identification mug books, and miscellaneous other records.
    Source: History of the San Francisco Police Department, [Prepared by the Planning and Research Bureau of the Department], 1972).

    Scope and Contents

    Records of the Board of Police Commissioners; the Office of the Chief of Police and subsidiary bureaus and units, including the Bureau of Identification, the Bureau of Inspectors (aka Detective Bureau), Photographs Bureau, and Patrol Bureau; and scrapbooks whose originating office or bureau is unknown. Many bureaus are not represented in the collection. Formats are mostly record books, scrapbooks, and photographic negatives.
    Strengths of the collection include: Board of Commissioners minutes, correspondence, and license and permit application ledgers; Bureau of Identification mug books; Bureau of Inspectors wanted circulars and crime scrapbooks; and Photographs Bureau negatives of crime scenes and traffic accidents. Also notable is a partial series of scrapbooks kept by forensics and handwriting expert, Theodore Kytka. There are smaller amounts of correspondence of the Board of Commissioners and the Chief of Police, records of officers, and station records. Significant events and topics include: the 1930s SFPD graft trials; vice; the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings and demonstrations of May 1960; civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s; and the San Francisco State University Strike of 1968-1969.

    Arrangement

    The collection is arranged in eight series: Series 1: Board of Police Commissioners; Series 2: Office of the Chief of Police; Series 3: Bureau of Inspectors; Series 4: Bureau of Identification; Series 5: Photographs Bureau; Series 6: Patrol Bureau / Stations; Series 7: Scrapbooks and Records of Unspecified Office or Bureau; and Series 8: Bureau of Permits and Registration. Most series are further divided into subseries by type of material.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    San Francisco (Calif.). Police Dept.--Photographs.
    San Francisco (Calif.). Police Dept. -- Archives
    Crime--California--San Francisco
    Police--California--San Francisco
    San Francisco (Calif.)--Social conditions