The Views Of American Police Chiefs

By mid-November, 1888, the Jack the Ripper murders had, most certainly, attracted the attention of people all over the world. The fear and panic, that had marked the early stages of the atrocities, had all but given way to a sort of morbid curiosity, and many people were pontificating on who the perpetrator of the crimes was, and what would be the best way to bring him to justice.

The big story – aside from the news of the latest and most gruesome murder to date, that of Mary Kelly – as far as the police and the press in London were concerned, was the fact the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Charles Warren, had handed in his resignation.

Meanwhile, everybody seemed to have an opinion on the murderer’s motives and where the police hunting him through the tangled labyrinths of Whitechapel and Spitalfields were going wrong.

In America, several police chiefs had been approached by a journalist, working for the Evening World newspaper, and each one of them had been more than willing to give his opinion on the lack of progress of the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into the crimes.

The article was picked up and republished by several newspapers, the following version appearing in The Cumberland Daily Times on 14th November, 1888:-


They Give Their Opinions Of The Whitechapel Murderer.


Many Different Theories Advanced As To How The Work Should Be Done.
But All Agree That The London Police Have Blundered.

The Evening World asked the chiefs of police of several American cities what course they would pursue to capture the Whitechapel fiend.

The answers are appended:-


Chief Inspector Byrnes, when called upon by a reporter, said that he had heard of the resignation of Mr. Warren, and when asked how he would act if confronted by such horrible crimes, he said:-

“If we ever had in New York the misfortune of meeting such outrages, or any similar to those which were perpetrated at Whitechapel, I would consider it an act of great imprudence for me to advertise what schemes I should resort to or what action I should undertake for the purpose of apprehending and prosecuting the person who committed the offences. Such a course would be precisely what the offender would want.

It is not my province, or wish, to criticise the action or lack of action in others who hold a similar position elsewhere, always presuming that they do the very best they can under the circumstances.”

A photograph of Chief Inspector Byrnes.
Chief Inspector Byrnes


Superintendent Patrick Campbell, of the Brooklyn police, has grown gray in the service, and in his time has unravelled many tangled mysteries.

“If murders had been committed here in Brooklyn, similar to those that have happened in the Whitechapel district of London, what course would you pursue in order to catch the murderer?”

An Evening World young man put this question to the superintendent.

“The question you ask me,” responded the official, is a hard one to answer, but I will say that I don’t think that if such a crime was committed here it would go unpunished

My first precaution would be to cover the ground with officers in all shapes and forms.

The first thing I would do after the crime was reported would be to search everywhere for a clew

My men on the ground would be dressed in all costumes and they would circulate among the people at all times and – watch!

“Further than that, it is impossible to say now exactly what I would do.

Sometimes our movements depend on what appears on the face as one of the most insignificant clews, and a man can never tell what he would do until the occasion arises for him to act”

Chief of Police Benjamin Murphy, of Jersey City, was not at all averse to talking about the Whitechapel murders to an Evening World reporter who visited him.


“In my mind, there can be no doubt that all these butcheries were committed by one and the same person, and in discovering who it is, the probable motive for his crimes should be regarded.

I have held a theory all along that the murderer had become insane as a result of association with the degraded class of society from which he invariably selects his victims, and the motive must be found in some deep injury which was received from such people as a class.

I should think that some clew might be found by searching inquiries among the medical profession of the city.

Besides the step I have suggested, however, there are other effective means which might be taken to prevent a repetition of the crimes, if not to discover the criminal.

The principal one is to have the district more carefully patrolled.”


It is the opinion of Chief of Detectives Roger O’Mara, of the Pittsburg Police, that the Whitechapel murderer is a religious fanatic, who believes it is his mission to murder abandoned women and mutilate their bodies.

But good police work would soon catch him

“He cannot commit these crimes without having blood on his clothes. He must be as bloody as a butcher.

The crimes were all committed within a space of a couple of squares.”

The fact that the bodies are yet warm when discovered leads O’Mara to believe that London’s big police force could have formed a network around the district and prevented the escape of a single person.

“Every house ought to have been searched and every person examined in view of such crimes. No person would object to such proceedings.

They are certainly wonderful crimes, and they place the London police in a very bad light.

A policeman ought to know every person living on his beat, and ought to know when a stranger comes on it.”


Col Phil Dietsch, chief of police of Cincinnati, is somewhat puzzled over the fact that the murderer has had so long a lease on freedom.

“It is inexplicable to me,” said the chief this morning, “that the incarnate fiend has escaped detection so long. I have no theory to advance on the subject, although I have read carefully every phase of the various crimes committed in that notorious community.

That the murderer has not been caught undoubtedly reflects badly on the London officers, and it is no surprise to me that popular indignation has forced Sir Charles to resign.”

Chief Dietsch stated that at one time he was of the opinion that the numerous horrible Whitechapel murders were the work of some man insane from love or jealousy, and that he had taken this means of seeking his revenge, but he has given up this theory because of the slowness of the London police to hunt the murderer down.”