City Archives
New Orleans Public Library

Louisiana. Metropolitan Police District of New Orleans

Date range: 1869-1883
Size of Collection: 10 v.
Terms of Access: Available to registered researchers by appointment

Historical Note:

The Metropolitan Police District was created in 1868 by Act 74 of the Louisiana Legislature, as part of the Republican reconstruction following the Civil War. Section 1 of the act reads: ”Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Louisiana in General Assembly convened, that the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, and St. Bernard are hereby constituted and territorially united for the purposes of police government and police discipline therein, in one district, which shall be known and called, 'the Metropolitan Police District of New Orleans, State of Louisiana'.” Governance and discipline of the district was to be exercised by a 5-member board, appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Lieutenant Governor served as an ex officio member of the Board and presided at meetings.

The force was to consist of not more than one superintendent or less than two police surgeons, six captains, twenty-four sergeants, an unspecified number of corporals, twenty-four clerks, five hundred and seventy-five patrolmen and forty-four doormen, as well as a superintendent and assistant superintendent of police telegraph. The Board of Commissioners appointed the members of the force and promulgated all rules, regulations and orders to the force through the Superintendent of Police, who was to be the executive head of the whole force of the District.

The authority of the police was not limited to the three parishes mentioned above; their authority extended to the entire state, so long as they possessed a warrant issued by any magistrate.

The 1868 Act further required that the Board conduct an annual estimation of the expenses of operating the force in each city or parish within the Metropolitan District. Each of the cities and parishes were then required to levy taxes on real and personal estates in order to raise the amount of money apportioned by the Board to each locale.

The Metropolitan Police is perhaps remembered most for its participation in the "Battle of Liberty Place." On September 14, 1874, members of the conservative Democratic White League attacked the Metropolitans in a dispute arising from the disputed gubernatorial election of 1872 -- more generally, in an attempt to end Reconstruction rule in Louisiana. In the brief but bloody battle at the foot of Canal Street, the Metropolitans were routed and the White League seized the city. Federal control was reestablished within days, but the battle marked the beginning of a shift in power and of the end of the Metropolian Police.

The force was dismantled by Act 35 of 1877, which repealed all previous Metropolitan Police legislation and authorized the City of New Orleans, through the Mayor and Board of Administrators, to "establish, organize and maintain a police force which would be entirely under city control." City ordinance 3889 A.S. (April 26, 1877) reconstituted the local department under the control of the Mayor and an Administrator of Police.

Scope and Content

The 1868 act further stipulated that Board of Commissioners keep various "books of record": "of complaints against officers and members, and the judgments of the board thereupon; of time lost by officers and members; of accounts showing the amount of moneys received and expended, and how and for what purposes received and expended; of the proceedings of the board; of stolen money and property recovered, and the disposition made of the same; of suspected persons and places; of arrests and causes of arrests, and all other such books and records in and for the central office, and in and for the several police offices and stations as shall be required by the business of the department."

Few of these "books of record" have survived in the City Archives. With the exception of one volume of outgoing correspondence (which was continued in use by the Department of Police after the dissolution of the Metropolitan Police in 1877) and one volume of arrests, the extant records are entirely financial in nature.

The records are manuscript volumes, as follows:


Report of arrests made in the Second Precinct of the Metropolitan Police District, 1870-1873

          v. 1 2/6/1870 - 2/28/1873

This log of arrests made in the Second Precinct of the Metropolitan Police District includes the name of arrestee, age, color (this column is always left blank), sex, nationality, nationality of parents, occupation, marital status, literacy level, the complaint lodged, name of complainant, name of arresting officer, date of arrest, and disposition of the case (e.g., fines, incarceration, discharge of sentence.) The geographic area covered by the Second Precinct has not been determined, but it was one of 9 precincts, one of which was a harbor police district.

Eight of the first ten pages are damaged; some information on these pages is lacking.


Journal of Expenditures

          v. 1 1873-1876

Gives a breakdown of expenditures categorized by type (e.g. salaries, cost of prisoners, riverboats, furnishings, rent and repairs, etc.) along with amounts for each parish, monthly.

TPA 470

Ledger of Expenditures

          v. 1 1873-1876

Gives a monthly breakdown of expenditures categorized individually for New Orleans, the City of Carrollton, Jefferson City, and St. Bernard Parish by type. On pages 201-205, the total amount of expenditures issued in warrants from 1868-1873 are listed for the different parishes included in the Metropolitan Police District.

TPA 470p

Pension Fund Ledger

          v. 1 1870-1876

Act 35 of 1868 provided for the creation of a pension fund for policemen. Members of the force who were disabled in the line of duty or who became superannuated after ten years of service were eligible to receive a $150 annuity. Widows or children of policemen who died in the line of duty or who died after ten years of service received the same annuity.

The ledger gives the name of the police officer, the years the pension was paid, and the amount of the pension. If death is involved, the cause of death is often given, along with the number of children left by the deceased. The ledger includes information on officers who were killed or wounded (and later died) in the Battle of Liberty Place.

TPA 470w

Louisiana. Board of Metropolitan Police (Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard

Ledger of Warrants, Expenses and Taxes for the Metropolitan Police

          v. 1 1868-1873

This volume was used for a variety of purposes: to record issuance of cash warrants in various series (e.g., "Green" and "Gold" warrants), by number, giving date and amount only, and, in later pages of the ledger, to record taxes, collected, unpaid and uncollected. The amount of information given in all cases is minimal.

TPA 420w

Register of blue Metropolitan Police Warrants

          v. 1 4/13/1869 - 7/16/1869 (#3001 - 5950)
          v. 2 7/16/1869 - 10/20/1869 (#5951 - 8900)

During the Metropolitan Police years, opposition to the racially integrated police force and the Republican state government resulted in withholding by New Orleans and the surrounding communities of the taxes assessed to operate the force. Unable to raise the cash necessary to pay employees, the Board of Metropolitan Police issued salary warrants. The warrants were issued in several series designated by color -- blue, red, gold, green, etc. -- with a market value of anywhere from 85-50% of face value. In 1871, red warrants were made receivable for payment of taxes and license fees. Blue warrants could not be used for such purposes.

The volumes give the date of registration of the warrant, an identifying number, to whom the warrant was issued; what the warrant was issued for (patrolman's salary, for example) the amount of the warrant; and the name of the holder.

TPA 510

Outgoing Correspondence of the Treasurer

          v. 1 3/24/1873 - 4/10/1876; 3/17/1880 - 1/12/1883

Letterpress volume used originally for outgoing correspondence of the Treasurer of the Board of Metropolitan Police (through page 59, 1873-1876), purely fiscal in nature. The volume was continued in use (1880-1883) by the Administrator of Police. Much of the volume is illegible.

TPA 536

Metropolitan Police Warrants Handed Over to Treasurer Board Metropolitan Police by Administrator of Finance

          v. 1 1868 - 1874

Ordinance 2694 A.S., adopted on July 21, 1874, required the Administrator of Finance to "cancel and turn over to the Board of Police Commissioners all Metropolitan Police warrants now in the hands of said Administrator, and all such as may be hereafter received by him, taking duplicates, receipts for the same, one of which shall be filed in his office and the other in the Department of Public Accounts." This volume lists warrants handed over, giving the date, warrant number, and amount of the warrant.

TPA 650

Register of Certificates of the Board of Metropolitan Police Paid by Cash Warrants of Administrator of Public Accounts

          v. 1 10/1874; 1/8/1877 - 3/31/1877

Included is an identifying number; when the certificate was issued; to whom it was issued; the amount of the certificate; how it was paid(the Cash Warrant number); and the date it was paid. There is no reference to the reason for issuance of the warrant.

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7/23/2012 -- sk/iw