Celebrated Forty-niners

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Jan 20, 2013

I make a small joke about this, in Brilliant Deduction, but San Francisco’s 49ers are a tribute to the memory of the city’s early days, generally, and all of the individuals who transformed it from a tiny outpost to a major regional, then national and eventually world city. Said world city has, largely, forgotten the individuals behind the 49ers’ name, it’s true…

Still, I’m willing to presume that Isaiah Lees, an original forty-niner who embraced his adopted city wholeheartedly during decades as the captain of detectives and ultimately chief of police, would feel proud of the San Francisco 49ers’ securing this year’s NFC championship and returning to the Super Bowl.

On behalf of Captain Lees, then, congratulations to the Niners and best of luck in the big game, two weeks hence.

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In the jailhouse now

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Jan 16, 2013

Being a prominent detective had its up-sides. Fame, for a time; in a few cases wealth. It also carried considerable risks, trouble with the law being one of the biggest. After all, the position usually meant being regularly associated with criminals, and a constant “person of interest” to law enforcement. That’s like two strikes, right there. Three strikes and you’re in—jail.

Of the nine men profiled in Brilliant Deduction, nearly half were sentenced to serve time behind bars, after they had established reputations as detectives.

Vidocq was in and out of jails regularly in his youth, before changing sides, but long after he had made immeasurable contributions to policing history, the Paris gendarmes still threw him into the Conciergerie.

Isaiah Lees spent a brief period in jail early in his career with the SFPD, mainly for arguing with a particularly combative chief, though he found himself in hot water with the law a further time or two as well. (For what it’s worth, another SFPD chief went to jail, himself, during one of those later episodes; it was a rowdy era, you might say.)

After years of controversies and legal scuffling, William Burns was sentenced to jail late in his career for what he called jury surveillance and his opponents called jury tampering. As with an earlier case in which he was briefly wanted by the police, though, Burns avoided actually having the jail door clang shut on him…

Ellis Parker, however, was not so fortunate, and effectively ended his career with a lengthy prison sentence. The jury recommended leniency, and a public outcry eventually demanded a pardon, though neither did Parker much good in the end.

Read more…

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Happy birthday, Isaiah Lees!

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Dec 25, 2012

On this day, 182 years ago: Isaiah W. Lees born in Liverpool, England. Happy birthday, adopted son and valiant defender of San Francisco…

…and Merry Christmas to all who mark the day!

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