Lingle Murder Forces Reorganization of the Chicago Police Dep’t

Earl Johnson

News Pilot (San Pedro, CA)/July 10, 1930


Alfred “Jake” Lingle, murdered Chicago Tribune police reporter, is said to have been known among gangsters as the unofficial police chief of Chicago. The chief himself, William F. Russell, was often referred to as a Lingle appointee.

This sinister side of Lingle’s career came to light shortly after he was murdered while en route to the races at Washington Park on June 12. It is recalled here because of its bearing on what happened to the police department after the reporter’s death.

More than a hundred gang killings had occurred in Chicago in the year before Lingle was put “on the spot” by his gangster enemies. But no previous murder established what appeared to be such an obvious link between the law and the outlaw. Lingle was a close friend of the police chief; likewise of Al Capone, the gang lord. Here the underworld’s tentacles seemed to be reaching far up into an important branch of officialdom. The situation was a challenge to the press as the palladium of the law-abiding public.

When Lingle was killed the Chicago Daily News, under the management of Walter S. Strong, was warring on the police department.

Now the Daily News was to be joined in the crusade by its competitors. Within 24 hours after the Lingle murder all of the city’s newspaper publishers met, resolved to unite in the war on crime and published the resolution on their front pages.

Almost automatically Russell’s police administration was doomed. He could not hope to withstand the fire of a united newspaper attack. The scandal of Lingle’s gang connections was bound to become public. As Lingle’s best friend, Russell saw no escape from becoming involved in popular suspicion if not in fact.

Took Only Course

So Russell took what seemed to be the only open course. He demoted Detective Chief Stege, assigned to an outlying station, and then announced his own retirement. In taking this action Russell admitted no guilt. He blamed his troubles on “snooping reformers” and “the impossible prohibition law.”

With Russell’s passing came one of the biggest “shakeups” the police department had experienced in many years. John “Iron Man” Alcock took the position of high command as acting commissioner, in one order he removed 700 plainclothes men from the detective bureau staff, took them out of their yellow squad cars, dressed them in uniforms and sent them out to walk beats.

“It will look better for the present” Alcock said candidly, “to have more policemen walking around where the people can see them.”

A dozen police captains were transferred, sent to new districts where they might not be tempted by old friendships to wink at speakeasies, gambling houses, vice resorts.

Alcock announced a tightening of disciplinary measures. Drunken policemen would be suspended. Records would be kept, lazy policemen punished. Crooked politicians were warned against interceding on behalf of gunmen, a practice which had impaired police efficiency for years.

Public Recognized

Alcock began walking through police districts incognito, making notes on conditions and taking them direct to the captains in charge.

“Captains have no working hours,” said the “Iron Man.” “They must keep in touch with their districts at all times.”

Even the traffic patrol felt the new discipline. Traffic policemen faced suspension for swearing at motorists.

Alcock went further. He recognized “the general impression of the public” that an alliance existed between ‘policemen, racketeers and gangsters.” Station commanders were ordered to survey their territories and submit in writing “any suspicion or knowledge you may have” regarding such alliance.

The end of Alcock’s “shakeup” is not in sight. Each day brings new transfers, suspensions, orders, all designed to create a police department strong enough to drive the gangsters out of Chicago or into court.

Meanwhile a fund of $55,000 subscribed by the Tribune, the Herald-Examiner and the Evening Post is waiting to reward policemen and civilian for information leading to the arrest and conviction of “Jake” Lingle’s slayer.

(Tomorrow’s dispatch in this series will deal with the charges and insinuations that racketeering is common among Chicago police reporters.)



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s