index | by subject | by year | biographies | books | SF Activities | shop museum | contact

Singing Important Police Recruit Training
Men Given Stringent Examinations and Tests

Chief San Francisco Police Department

police chief Daniel O'Brien Several years ago there was inaugurated in the San Francisco Police Department a school of instruction which all new members of the department are compelled to attend.

The prescribed period of attendance is approximnately 14 weeks and comprises intensive training in the handling of practical police problems under the tutorship of experienced members of the department. All recruits on entering the department are compelled to report to the officer in charge of the school on the day of their appointment.

The course consists of instructions in the proper method of breathing, walking, talking, running, jumping, swimming, life-saving, resuscitation, boxing, wrestling, military drilling, instructions in the handling of revolvers, rifles, shotguns, and singing.


The instruction in singing is an innovation in police work, and was prescribed for the purpose of inculcating poise in the recruit. The recruit is compelled on his first appearance in the school, and on each succeeding appearance to go before the class and sing a song.

The first attempt in most instances is very difficult, especially so if the man is not in the habit of singing or appearing before assemblages, but after several such endeavors he acquires sufficient poise to enable him to sing before his fellows and others without nervousness.

San Francisco Police Department Quartet in 1925Later on these recruits are organized into quartets and encouraged to sing before public gatherings. Many such quartets have graduated from our police department, having acquitted themselves very well before local audiences, and we find that public appearances enable the men of the department to handle practical police work in a creditable manner when they are called upon to do actual police duty.

Like the actor on the stage they learn to appear before audiences without nervousness, and when confronted with a police problem they are able to step into the breach and handle the situation as it should be handled, forgetting entirely or igorning the crowd or audience before whom their little drama is being enacted, paying attention to themselves and the principals in the drama, with a coolness that is entirely foreign to those who have not had this particular form of training.

Many commendations have come to us from our citizens on the alertness and coolness of the members of the department in handling trying police situation, which we know is entirely due to the instructions they have received in the school of instruction in the San Francisco Police Department.


Police recruit training at the Olympic Club in 1924A system of locks and holds has been devised by our athletic instructor, who is a member of the police department, for the handling of obstreperous prisoners in a humane manner, which assures safety to the officer and the scurity of his prisoner. The members of the school are taught the locks and holds and are compelled to master them.

During the time the recruit is going though the school he is placed under competent, experienced members of the department and given practical experience in all branches of police work, and at the conclusion of his schooling, if he has shown sufficient adaptability to grasp problems that are presented to him, he is graduated and sent to one of the outlying companies of the department, where he is closely watched by his superior officers in the particular company to which he is assigned, and is reported upon monthly, for a period of six months, at the end of which time he is either made a permanent member of the department or rejected, in accordance with the reports or recommendations of his commanding officer.

The school of instruction has been such a success in the department that it is the intention of the honorable Board of Police Commissioners and the chief to enlarge its scope and compel all members of the department whose age and physique will permit, to take this course.

All appointments to the San Francisco Police Department are predicated upon civil service examinations which are given by the Civil Service Commission of this city and county, and all candidates are required to undergo rigorous athletic and mental tests. Successful candidates are requisitioned for to the Civil Service Commission by the Police Commission as vacancies occur and additions to the department are required.

Jack Dempsey shows SFPD's Ed Dathe how to deliver a knockout punchPromotion in the department is based upon the same procedure, a police officer of the department being compelled, before he can be promoted to the next higher rank, to take a civil service examination. These examinations are given at the option of the Civil Service Commission and occur approximately every year or two, which means that the ambitious members of the department are constantly studying for advancement.


This department as composed at present is a semi-military organization; military tactics and drill are prescribed by the rules and regulations of the department; an annual inspection and military drill is held, and in preparation for this the members of the department constantly are being drilled.

Athletics are encouraged in the police department; a track and field meet between the members of the San Francisco Fire and Police Departments is held annually; a baseball league within the department is one of its features, and all these activities have a tendency to keep the men physically and mentally alert.

Great progress has been made by the San Francisco Police Department in initiating, adopting and using up-to-date methods in regulation in preventing of crime, which is its main object, the arresting of criminals and the preservation of law and order, and as the scope of the school of instruction increases we look for still greater progress to be made by the department.

San Francisco Bulletin
Diamond Jubilee Edition
September 8, 1925

Return to the top of the page.

This site and contents ©1995-2013 The Museum of the City of San Francisco