“The crookedest cop who ever stood behind a shield”
We expect policemen to adhere to a higher standard than the rest of us and never more so was this true than in the earlier part of the last century. Charles Becker (born 26 July 1870) was a member of the New York Police Department — he was also corrupt but this did not stop his rise to become personal assistant to Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo in 1911. He used his position to extort money from politicians and gangsters to cover up their misdemeanours. Herman “Beansie” Rosenthal was a bookmaker and an ally of Becker. Together they owned the Hesper Club but, when Becker demanded an increase in his cut, Rosenthal balked. Becker took revenge by closing the club and putting his former partner under constant surveillance.
Eventually, it became too much for Rosenthal and he went to see District Attorney Charles Whitman who was determined to clean up the city in general and the police department in particular. Rosenthal also began speaking to reporters about the corruption in the police force and threatened to name names. On 15 July 1912 he was shot dead outside the Metropole Hotel by a number of gunmen. District Attorney Whitman offered immunity to anyone who would testify. When “Billiard Ball” Jack Rose (so-called because of his bald pate) was jailed and realized that Becker was not going to come to his rescue he agreed to testify. He said he had been asked by Becker to hire four men to kill Rosenthal. Becker was arrested on 29 July 1912 and went on trial on 7 October 1912 along with six other men. Becker was convicted on 30 October and sentenced to death. However, his appeal was successful because it was revealed that District Attorney Whitman had offered inducements to witnesses. The second trial opened on 2 May 1914 after the four gunmen had been put to death and “Billiard Ball” Jack Rose had been given immunity. Becker was again sentenced to death on 22 May.
Metropole Hotel, 147 West 43rd Street, New York City, USA
Monday 15 July 1912
Charles Becker, “the crookedest copnwho ever stood behind a shield”, was electrocuted at Sing Sing at 5.53am on 30 July 1915. It took nine minutes andn three separate bursts of electricity before Becker died, thanks to the incompetence of the electrocutioner. By this time Charles Whitman was New York’s governor and unlikely to grant clemency. In a final irony, the hearse carrying Becker’s remains broke down when its engine overheated.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Becker’s widow had a silver plate attached to his coffin bearing the inscription, “Charles Becker, Murdered July 30 1915 by Governor Whitman”.