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The Dive Law

The fact seems to be either unknown or forgotten that the dives of Barbary Coast and of other parts of the city exist by the actual endorsement and approval of the police authorities. Some years ago “ the head office” sought and obtained a change of the law by which no license could be issued to the keepers of such places without a “permit” being first obtained from the police. The NEWS LETTER advocated that change on the personal representation of Chief Crowley that it would be used in the interest of sobriety, decency and good morals, and would result in closing every drinking den in which objectionable persons and practices were encouraged. He vowed that, if clothed with the power he asked for, every one of the places indicated should be closed, and remain so as long as he was Chief of Police. How he has falsified that promise the present condition of things only too painfully demonstrates. What that condition is we are very sure the great mass of our citizens do not fully realize. They go by ferries and cars to their homes and remain there; or, if tempted down town, their peregrinations seldom extend beyond Market and a portion of Kearney. It is needless to say that the worst phases of drunkenness, debauchery and criminality are not to be witnessed along those much-frequented thoroughfares. It is not necessary to go in quest of them or to indicate their location. The police know where they are and that is enough. The officers on the respective beats know their character, and doubtless report the facts to the head office. If they do not it is the duty of their superiors to require them to do so. There can be no excuse for the chief officials remaining ignorant in regard to such places. It is their duty to know, and they do know, the location, the character and the amenability to law of every one of them. Yet the dens and dives continue and thrive and increase in numbers and iniquity. All this, be it remembered, whilst not one of them could be opened without the written “permit” of the police. The power asked for by Chief Crowley is not used as he promised to use it. The truth is, that it is being employed for a very different purpose; if not by him, then by officers of his whose acts may be winked at and approved, for anything that we know or that appears to the contrary. It is used as a lever to extort obedience to orders, the nature and character of which must be judged from the continued existence and condition of places that ought to be closed. Every thoughtful citizen has a right to deny the efficiency and doubt the honesty of a department that permits the present wretched condition of affairs to continue one unnecessary hour.

San Francisco News Letter and California Advertiser
June 11, 1887