During the autumn of 1888, as the Jack the Ripper murders increased in their ferocity, the police were singled out for a great deal of press criticism of their inability to catch Jack Ripper. However, before the Ripper murders the letters pages of the local newspapers were already rife with comments about the lack of effective policing in the area.
In its edition of July 28, 1888 the East London Observer published a letter from a correspondent asked a simple question, "where are the police?"
The letter read:-
I would like to re-echoed "Pedestrians" question "Where are the police? "
A few nights ago I saw a gentleman go into a urinal, and whilst in there he was pounced upon by about 6 roughs, not only trying to do is watch and chain, but also brutally assaulted him. I would draw attention, of persons frequenting the Whitechapel-road and loitering for the purpose of making a few purchases or looking at the shops. So soon, as person stops to make a purchase, so soon. Is that person annoyed by having some of those loafers at their heels. Very fortunate indeed are they if they get safe away without losing their purse or some other article of value. I would also draw attention to the gang of roughs out side the penny shows. Now, sir, if this kind of goings on are noticed by private individuals, surely one would think that the police would be in the know, and put down what has now become a public nuisance. We are taxed heavily for the police: surely, we have a right for protection. Perhaps with your valuable assistance, and the authorities may get to hear of this sort of thing, and be moved to take some steps to suppress these goings on
W H BURCHELL
Meanwhile, the East London Advertiser carried a report of a case at the Thames Police Court concerning a "SHAM DETECTIVE:-"
Lewis Hahn, a singular looking man, described as a cabinet maker, was charged with falsely representing himself to be a detective.
On Monday the prisoner called at the house of Harris, a tailor of Samuel-street Commercial-road East, and said he was a detective from Leman-street Police-station, Whitechapel, and had called to search the place, and to see to all locks and latch keys, as he had tried the door on Tuesday night and found it bolted at the top, but not at the bottom. He asked for sixpence to go and buy a lock, but Harris declined to give him the money.
Last night the prisoner called again at Harris's, inquired of him if had heard anything about a coat, and invited him to an adjoining tavern and have a drink, which he declined.
At half pat 9 o'clock the same night, Sergeants new and White, H Division, were in James-street, Cannon-street-road, when the prisoner went up to them and said, " You know me. I am a detective from Leman-street station, and have got a little case round the corner; let me have 2s." Knowing that he was not what he represented himself to be, they took him into custody.
In consequence of the conversation they had with the prisoner they did not believe he was right in his mind, and ascertained that he had been to London Hospital and a number of other places where he had represented himself as a detective. He had also a book in his possession containing addresses, Charles Warren, Chief Commissioner of Police, being among them.
Mr Saunders said that if the prisoner was not a lunatic he had acted like one certainly. He sentence him for a week, to enable the medical officer of the gaol to examine him to ascertain his mental condition.
Another Thames Police Court case reported in the East London Observer illustrated, once again, the everyday perils faced by the police officers who policed the district where the Jack the Ripper murders would occur in a few weeks time. Under the intriguing headline "WHAT THE NEW BORN BABE DID" the article reported that:-
John Cashman, 19, was charged with assaulting Constables 227 H and 115 H while in the execution of their duty; and Emily Fitzpatrick was charged with attempting to rescue him from custody.
At a quarter to one on Monday Morning the two officers were called to Cable-street, St George's, where a fight was being held. Cashman said to the combatants, "Don't go away for boys like them." He then became very violent, knocked 115 H down, and then kicked him. He also kicked the other constable on the shin, and acted in an extremely violent manner.
On the way to the station the female prisoner tried to rescue him from custody - Cashman:- I am as innocent as a new born babe - Mr Montagu Williams:- I dare say you are. That new born babe has committed more crime than anyone under the sun. You will go to prison for 10 days with hard labour, and the female will pay a fine of 10s or three days.