Grave but Uncorroborated Accusations are Made Against Chief Sullivan and Captain Wittman

San Francisco Call/February 10, 1901

Witnesses Repeat What Chinese Have Told Them of the Creation and Payment of Police Blackmail Fund to Insure Immunity

 Legislative Investigators Receive Startling Testimony Which Proves That San Francisco is a Slave Market for Sale of Chinese Girls

The first week of the legislative inquiry into the alleged corruption of the Police Department is ended and still there is nothing more than hearsay testimony and suspicious collateral circumstances to prove that Chinese have bribed officials for immunity in gambling and social vice. At the sessions of the investigating committee yesterday witnesses testified that many years ago the Police Department was unquestionably corrupt in its relations with Chinese and that bribes were offered even to the chief of police

Testimony was given that Chinese gamblers have told white men that they paid blackmail to the Police Department, that Sergeant Brophy was the collector for the department and that Chief of Police Sullivan and Captain Wittman had given assurances that the police would not molest gamblers or disturb illegal houses if the money were paid.

This testimony is the most direct in its accusations of any which has been given during the investigation, but at best it is the testimony of Chinese presented through the medium of white go-betweens. The names of the Chinese who are said to have made these damaging assertions are known, and the coolies will probably be called by the committee.

In support of this testimony was evidence tending to show that gambling in Chinatown is now being conducted absolutely without check; that in the last few months the Chinese have been more daring and open in their operations and have conducted themselves as if they were assured of protection. A lawyer swore that the Chinese keepers of disreputable houses, which he was employed to protect, informed him that they had no further use for his services as they were dealing directly with the police. They told him that if he could assure them absolute immunity in gambling and social vice they would pay him thousands of dollars and would give many other thousands to persons who would fix the police

It was also testified that even now announcements are posted on the walls of Chinatown giving information of the sale of slave girls in this city. That San Francisco is a slave market for Chinese girls was therefore for the first time announced in a judicial proceeding. These, in outline, were the developments yesterday in the inquiry.


The courtroom was crowded to the doors yesterday morning when the legislative investigators resumed their inquiry. The affair has been a subject of great public interest since its commencement and the developments of each day simply add to this interest. The poice placed a witness on the stand yesterday and had the chagrin of known that they had committed a most serious blunder. They called E.A. Finn, a watchman employed by the Chinese. He has worked in Chinatorn for ten years and swore that he never saw to his own knowledge a house of bad repute or a gambling house in the district. That sort of testimony had the expected effect upon the committee. John Boyle, the Examiner reporter, told how he had secured for Assemblyman Wright the privilege of playing fantan.

Ex-Chief of Police Patrick Crowley was one of the most interesting witnesses of the day. His testimony left no doubt upon at least two points of the inquiry. He declared that it is extremely difficult and always has been for the Police Department to suppress gambling in the Chinese district. Further than that Chief Crowley said that there is no question that in times past there has been corruption in the Police Department in reference to Chinese. Not only was this the fact, but Chief Crowley declared that an effort was even made to bribe him.

His testimony consequently was of extreme interest. He said that the great obstacle to the suppression of gambling is the extreme difficulty under which the police must secure competent evidence. The Chinese use implements in their gambling which are apparently innocent. As far as Captain Wittman is concerned, Chief Crowley said that he had never found anything which convinced him of the dishonesty of that officer When the charges were brought several years ago against Captain Wittman, ex-Chief Crowley said that he believed the charges to be true. Investigation convinced him, however, of his error

As far as police corruption is concerned ex-Chief Crowley said that twenty years ago there was corruption in the department and twenty-three men were dismissed for dishonesty. What the character of the present administration may be the witness did not presume to say. About six years ago ex-Chief Crowley said that a deliberate effort was made to bribe him. He was offered $6000 if he would permit abandoned women to live on the first floors of houses. He, of course, declined to do so.

The next witness was the Rev. Dr. Gardner, who translated a notice which has been and is now posted on the walls of Chinese. It is a notice and announcement of the sale of slave girls who are held in bondage in Sullivan alley. This is the first instance, perhaps, in this city in a judicial inquiry where the authoritative statement has been made that San Francisco is today a slave market. Not only this, but Dr. Gardner told of other signs which showed that in Chinatown today Chinese girls are for sale. This, in a way, is one of the most startling bits of testimony given at the investigation.

Dr. Gardner also testified that it is as easy to get into a Chinese gambling game as it is to enter a courtroom in the Hall of Justice. He has heard also that gambling in Chinatown appears to go on without interference through some arrangement with someone. The houses are being beautified and are being made alluring and remarks have naturally followed this condition of affairs. As far as any direct allegations were concerned Dr. Gardner could make none. He showed, however, that crime and vice are rampant and are growing very rapidly.

Jerome Millard, an interpreter, gave the startling testimony that he was told by Chinese that they paid their corruption fund to Sergeant Brophy and were assured that if the money were paid Chief Sullivan and Captain Wittman would guarantee immunity.

Robert Ferral related his woes as an attorney who had lost employment by Chnese slave owners. He declared that his clients told him that they were dealing directly with the police. A recess was then taken until 9:30 o’clock tomorrow morning.

Tells of Slavery and Police Bribery

Yesterday’s Session Produces Important Testimony From Men of Standing in Community

While yesterday’s sessions of the legislative committee’s investigation of the Police Department were devoid of any sensational features, the testimony was of a most important character.

That gambling and vice had joined hands to corrupt the Police Department was testified to by ex-Chief of Police Crowley, who not only had heard a few years ago that some of his officers were dishonest, but had been approached himself with the view of allowing the criminal element of Chinatown to be guaranteed immunity.

Another important fact was brought out, namely, that Chinese gamblers and lottery dealers had openly claimed that they had paid money to Chief Sullivan and Captain Wittman. The testimony was merely hearsay, but such as it was it behooves the Chief and his captain to disprove it.

Flaring immorality and the barter for gold of human chattels were told of by Rev. Dr. John E. Gardner, who is, without doubt, the best qualified man in the United States to testify as to the doings of the Chinese in this city. For many years Dr. Gardner has waged war against the slave dealers in his capacity as Chinese Inspector and Interpreter for the Federal Government. His testimony yesterday might have referred to the city of Peking rather than to San Francisco, so terrible were the facts disclosed.

For the slave trade which exists in San Francisco the local police cannot be wholly blamed. Corrupt federal officials have been exposed many times, all of whom were in league with the slave dealers. For many years The Call waged war on the slave dealers and their white allies and today the bars are closely guarded by the government to prevent the importation of the female wares.

At the morning session of the legislative investigation yesterday, Speaker Pendleton of the Assembly and Arthur Fist, who fathered the “searchlight,” were on hand to witness the proceedings. Although the session was called for 10 o’clock, there were no witnesses present until an hour later.

Alden Boyle, a student of the High School, was the first witness called. He testified that he was a brother of J.J. Boyle, the reporter for the Examiner who had previously given evidence to the committee. The witness had accompanied his brother to Chinatown when the latter bought lottery tickets. He went to Chinatown six times and visited about twenty lottery rooms. Boyle saw his brother buy tickets and had himself purchased some. Many white men were in the lottery rooms. Witness had never visited a fantan game.

At the request of Attorney Dunne, who represents the police. D. A Finn, a watchman in Chinatown, was called to the witness stand. It would have been better if Finn had not been put forward, for he made a sorry exhibition of himself. In his efforts to prove that white men were not allowed to play fantan Finn went so far as to describe the Celestial quarter as being as pure as snow. He furnished considerable amusement to the members of the committee and the crowd of spectators.

Watchman Finn in a Forgetful Mood

He Is Placed on the Stand by the Police, But Makes a Very Poor Witness

Finn was examined by Assemblyman Webber, and in reply to questions said: “I am a watchman in Chinatown. I watch stores, loading-houses, family houses and warehouses. There are no gambling places in my district. There were a few fantan games some time ago, but none now. I don’t know of any houses of ill-fame, or lottery places being in my district. I have never seen white men play fantan with Chinese. They will never let a white man in. Once I wanted to show some visitors how the game was played, and I asked the gamblers to let us come in. They let us in the room but there was no game in progress. I am not a special officer and have no star. I a well known to the Chinese. I know were 731 Pacific Street is. I have never been in it, but have seen white men go in.” (This is the place where Witness Boyle purchased lottery tickets.) “The white men who went in were police officers. I never saw any other white men go in there. I have seen Chinese women in houses, but never saw anything to offend the eye.”

“Do you know of any houses in Chinatown being used for immoral purposes?”

“I cannot say that I do.”

“You watch all that property you have described and know for what use each house is put to, do you not?”


“Will you not swear that some of those houses were used for immoral purposes?”

“I will not swear that some of them were so used.”

“You never saw a fantan game?”

“No, I have been in houses where I was told it was played, but never saw the game.”

The witness then stated that opium was smoked in almost every house in Chantown, but that there were no places where men went to in order to smoke. At the request of Mr. Webber the witness described the buildings which are on either side of Baker alley.

“Is not Baker alley the most notorious in Chinatown.”

“No, there are no gambling dens there.”

“Are there any houses of ill-fame there?”

“Women live there, but I cannot say they lead immoral lives.”

“D you mean to tell us that in your experience in Chinatown you do not know that these houses in Baker alley were houses of ill-fame and that the women who live there lead notoriously immoral lives?”

“Only what I have heard.”

“Will you swear that white men don’t play fantan, or cannot get into the gambling rooms where it is played?”

“I won’t swear they don’t play and I won’t swear they can’t get in.”

“That will do”

Reporter J.J. Boyle was recalled, and at the request of Mr. Dunne was asked for the address of the house where he went to on Friday night with Assemblyman Wright, where the latter played fantan with Chinese. The witness stated that the house was situated at 808 Dupont Street, and the room they played in was on the second floor. He described the place as being a “big Chinese restaurant.” The witness denied that he had made any previous arrangements for the game, but divulged the fact that he had made arrangements with a white man to take Mr. Wright and the witness to the game. This admission caused a loud laugh in the courtroom, and Attorney Dunne asked that Boyle furnish the name of the white man with whom arrangements to visit the game had been made. Boyle promised to have the man on hand when wanted by the committee.

Ex-Chief P. Crowley on Witness Stand

Tells of His Experience with Chinese and Offers Made to Corrupt Him

The afternoon session commenced sharp on time and ex-Chief of Police Patrick Crowley was the first witness called. Chairman Knowland put the questions to the ex-Chief, who testified as follows:

“I have lived in the city for more than fifty years and was Chief of Police for twenty-five years. That was the only position I ever held in the department. I am now connected with the Hibernia Bank. I can say nothing as to the police methods of this city at the present time. I was sick when I left the department and have not taken any interest but in my own business.”

“I want your opinion as an ex-Chief of Police of this city as to the best methods to suppress gambling in Chinatown.”

“That is a hard job.”

“Were you ever able to suppress it?”

“I did all I could.”

“Why is it difficult to suppress fantan games and lottery?”

“It is difficult to secure the legal evidence.”

“Do you think it is the fault of the laws?”

“To convict in these cases we must have certain testimony. The law might be amended to allow the introduction of certain evidence. The Chinese use beans, peas, buttons and even candy in playing fantan. The law ought to allow these things to be introduced as evidence in gambling cases. Regarding immorality in Chinatown, I used my efforts to have a aw passed which allowed the reputation of a house to be introduced in evidence. To suppress immorality the only way to do is to blockade the water where the houses are. It would take 200 men to do this in Chinatown. I have done it, but it left the rest of the city without protection. I know of the slave trade existing in the city. It exists far differently to what most people think. Some newspapermen understand the methods of the dealers because they have investigated the subject.”

The ex-Chief then went into detail as to how the slave dealers get hold of young women of their race and force them to lead lives of shame. He told how women are brought from China, anded under the guise of being native-born Americans, married if necessary to a Chinaman to satisfy the courts and then placed in the slave dens. He also told how respectable women are torn from their husbands or families by the slave dealers using American courts of law.

“A trumped up charge of larceny is made, warrants are issued, the woman is arrested and taken away from the place where she lives into another city. There bail is furnished for her by one of the gang, the dealers get possession of her and that is the last seen of her by her friends. She is to be found in the slave dens of Chinatown.”

Crowley Thinks That Wittman is Honest

Personally Questioned People Who Brought Charges Against the Captain

“What is your opinion of Captain Wittman’s record in Chinatown?”

“I think he did his duty. Charges were made against him some years ago. I investigated them, personally questioned women and assured the of the protection of the law if they testified, and was satisfied that there was nothing in the charges against Wittman. He was acquitted by the Police Commissioners. No special complaint was ever made against Wittman from Chinatown. There is always trouble up there, however.”

“Do you know of police corruption by the Chinese?”

“I have no personal knowledge, but heard rumors. Some years ago I discharged a number of officers who had done duty in Chinatown. No direct proof of corruption was forthcoming, but the conduct of the officers warranted dismissal.”

“Was any offer ever made to you by the Chinese of a large sum of money in order that they might be allowed to gamble and run houses of ill fame?”

“Twenty years ago such an offer was made to me by the gamblers through an attorney who is now dead. Seven years ago an offer was made to me by the Chinese through a white man who had business dealings with them.”

“What was that offer?”

“They wanted to be allowed to run houses of ill-fame unmolested by the police and offered me $6000. I had previously made the women move from the street floor to the floor upstairs and they wanted to be allowed to occupy their old quarters.”

“Who was the white man who made this offer to you?”

“I prefer not to say. He is alive, but has no further dealings with the Chinese. He did not tell me the names of the Chinese who had asked him to make me that offer. I know that he told them that it was useless to see me and that all the gold in the world would not make me flinch from my duty. They insisted, however, that he come to me with the offer. I never heard a complaint of police blackmail. I never knew of white men visiting Chinese houses of ill-fame except through rumor.”

Tells of Traffic in Slave Girls

Rev. Dr. Gardner Throws Light on Chinese Bartering Girls in This City

Rev. John E. Gardner was then called to the witness stand and examined by Assemblyman Schillig The witness testified as follows:

“I am an inspector of Chinese and interpreter for the federal government and engaged in carrying out the provisions of the Chinese exclusion laws. I speak Chinese and studied it in China, Australia, Canada and in this country. I am constantly in Chinatown. I have never seen white men play fantan, but I have seen them go into places where signs were displayed that the game was played there. I have never been in the lottery places. They also have signs displayed. My work in Chinatown and elsewhere is to prevent the illegal landing of Chinese and not to suppress vice. I saw some of the gambling and lottery signs last night in Chinatown. The signs showed that fantan, pi-gow and lottery games were carried on inside.”

The witness was here handed a red paper bearing Chinese characters and was asked if he had ever seen a sign like it displayed in front o a gambling place. He answered in the negative.

“The gambling house signs are mostly written on white paper. I have seen signs like this posted on the street corners. I was in Chinatown when a reporter asked me to translate this sign. I did so and he tore it down. It was posted up on the corner of Sacramento and Dupont streets on the southwest side.”

“Will you translate that writing for us?”

“I will give you a free translation. It reads as follows: ‘The stock in trade and good will of a house of prostitution for sale. Madame Law Wong Sut of this city secretly escaped and returned to China on the 14th day of the present month, leaving behind the business, stock and trade of the house of prostitution on Sullivan Alley. Madame Law Wong Sut owed a lot of money on goods advanced to her by people of wealth. The creditors have agreed to take the whole business and sell it to pay her debts. Any countryman wishing the business let him go to the house of prostitution and talk to the creditors. As to the amounts owed by Madame Law Wong Sut they will be reported by the 20th of the month. Bills will be presented up to that time and not after. This notice is given so that there may be no after talk. Dated Qwong Suey, 26th year, 14th day, last month.’”

“That date corresponds with February 4, 1901.”

“Do you know where that house is?”

“I do not. It is an easy matter to recognize the Chinese houses of ill-fame. They all have lattice work windows, look-out windows and painted women behind the windows soliciting men who pass along the street. These houses exist in Sullivan and Ross alleys.”

“Have you seen white men go into these places or young white men?”

“Yes, I have seen these women soliciting soldiers, mostly young soldiers. I have never seen white boys go into these houses.”

“Have you seen white men and boys go into the lottery places?”

“I have seen men and young men go into them. They went in a few at a time. I cannot say that I saw police officers near when these men went in.”

“Are there more lotteries and gambling places in the last few months than previously?”

“I am afraid to say I have noticed that.”

“Have you heard the Chinese talking about immunity from arrest?”

 A Tranquil Air Pervades Chinatown

 Gamblers and Slave-Dealers Act in a Free Manner, Indicating No Fear of Arrest

“I have not heard them so talking, but there was a feeling in the air that something of the kind existed. As the Chinese say, there was a tranquil air. The number of lights in front of the gambling and lottery places were increased and the Chinese would go in and out of these places in a free manner, not at all alarmed or careful”

“What do you know of the slave trade?”

“As a federal officer I am most familiar with it. I have prevented the landing of many girls destined for the slave dens. I have rescued many girls from the dens while aiding the ladies of the missions.”

“Do you know of girls being sold in Chinatown.”

“I do. I have one in my charge now who was recently rescued from a house of ill-fame by the mission people. The girl is a minor. She will be deported to China by order of the federal courts. Girls rescued from the slave dens have told me in the mission homes the prices they were sold for. They all tell the same unhappy story. Many have been lured from their homes and forced to lead lives of shame by their owners. They are brutally treated and intimidated. I have often seen signs displayed announcing girls for sale. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the sign I have translated is a sign announcing the sale of human beings. I recently translated similar signs for Captain Wittman.”

“Have the lookouts for the gambling places been as active in the past few months as they were previously?”

“No, they have not, but the solicitors for the lottery places have been most active. They accost people passing along and say to them, ‘Tickets, gentlemen, tickets, gentlemen.’ It is as easy to go into one of those lottery places as it is to come into this courtroom.”

“What remarks have you heard the Chinese make as to the air of tranquility you have spoken of?”

“I have heard them say the tranquil state was not secured for nothing. The gamblers seem to be having a good time. the lookouts have been withdrawn and the places seem to run without interference.”

“Knowing the Chinese as you do, what would you infer from the remarks you heard that the tranquil time was not secured for nothing?”

“I inferred that gambling was to be allowed to go unmolested.”

“Have you ever complained to the police of the conditions of Chinatown?”

“I have. Captain Wittman helped to close up the highbinders. If that work had been kept up they would all have been driven out of the city. Today they are very much alive.”

“How do you know that?”

“On account of the frequent murders in Chinatown. I have seen Chinese men accost white men and ask them to go in to the houses of ill fame.”

Accusing Testimony Against the Police

Interpreter Millard Says Chinese Spoke of Bribing Chief Sullivan and Wittman

Jerome Millard was then called and testified that he was a Chinese interpreter to the courts of this city and county. He had acted as interpreter for twenty years. He was in Chinatown every day. He talked freely with Chinese and mingled with them.

“I know,” said the witness, “all the gamblers by sight. I have known Qwong Hing, Chan Chin, San Jose Charlie, Buckeye and Wong Fook for many years. They are all interested in gambling houses. I have talked with Qwong Hing about police protection. He acknowledged to me that gamblers were to pay for police protection. He asked me how the white people felt about Chinese gambling and running houses of ill fame. I cannot remember all the conversation I had with the men mentioned. This occurred three years ago. They told me they belonged to a committee to secure police protection for the gamblers and keepers of the dens. Qwong Hing told me that the future management of the gambling houses would be in the hands of Chief Sullivan and Captain Wittman. This was three weeks ago. I have talked with them about a corruption fund. They said they had to pay the police for the privilege of gambling They spoke of Sergeant Brophy as the man who collected the money once a week.”

“For what purpose did they say they gave the money to the police?”

“To secure immunity from arrest.”

“Who told you this?”

“Quon Been and another man whose name I cannot remember. They said they gave the money to Brophy once a week. They said the rate paid was $10 for a gambling house and lotteries. They told me that certain of the police had made promises of protection.”

“Whom did they mention?”

“Chief Sullivan and Captain Wittman.”

“Did they state that they had received personal assurance from the chief and from Captain Wittman of immunity from arrest?”

“That was the idea I got from them.”

In reply to a question from Attorney Dunne the witness admitted that he was friendly to the Examiner and was friendly with Reporter Boyle. The witness had accompanied Boyle through Chinatown on many occasions.

Chinese Discharge Attorney Ferral

Judge Robert Ferral then took the stand and testified that he had for many years been employed by the Chinese. He formerly had a contract with them.

“What was the nature of your duties?”

“I represented the women of ill-repute when they were arrested.”

“Do you still represent them?”

“No, I do not. A few weeks ago they told me indirectly they had no further use for an attorney as they were doing business with the police direct.”

“The fees you got went to the police?”

“I suppose so.”

Judge Ferral, who was in a convivial mood, volunteered a statement when he was excused from the witness stand. He said that the Chinese gamblers had asked him if he could fix things with the police so that they might carry on gambling and maintain the dens without fear of arrest.

“They said that there would be thousands of dollars iin it for me if I could fix it and thousands for the police I consulted Attorney Dunne, but, of course, we could not do it. We had no power with the Police Commission to alter the law. I told the Chinese it was impossible, but that ‘Barkis was willing.’”

Whether Judge Ferral made his last statement in jest or in earnest was not asked by the committee of inquiry, but it is possible that he may be called upon to explain what he meant.\

The inquiry will be resumed tomorrow morning and the committee will sit morning, noon and night until all the evidence is in.

Big Raid is Made on Chinese Gaming Club

Ninety-Five Fantan Players Captured by Captain Wittman and Squad of Police

One of the largest raids that has occurred in Chinatown for some time was made last night by Captain Wittman and a squad of police. The gambling club of Qwong Hing at the corner of Clay Street and Waverly Place was broken into and ninety-five fantan players captured. All were booked at the Hall of Justice. With the exception of a number of Japanese all were immediately released on bail.

The capture was a clever one. A drainage pipe leading from the gaming room was located several days ago and plans for a grand haul were immediately laid. Sergeant Donovan, followed by a number of patrolmen in citizens’ clothes, approached the place, and when they commenced to chop the barred doors down the keeper of the game attempted to dispose of the paraphernalia by dumping it down the pipe to the sewer.

Sergeant Christiansen had removed a section of the sewer pipe, and when the evidence camd down he caught it in a basket. The players were then placed under arrest.

(Source: Chronicling America,