Early Police Identification

Early police identification clerks were known as "Bertillon officers" or "Bertillon operators" and logged [anthropometric] measurements on mug shot arrest cards. Bertillon identification was Dayton's first modern criminal record-keeping system. In 1903 civilian Superintendent Frank Withoft was appointed to head the unit but replaced in 1906 by C.W. Kauffman. By 1910 the Dayton Bureau of Identification (B of I) had been in operation for seven years, overseen by two civilian superintendents, and comprised of five civilians.

On the national level, the Bureau of Investigation (the BOI ... forerunner of the Federal Bureau of Investigation) had been created in 1908. The federal BOI greatly expanded in 1910 and would become the national vanguard for identification techniques. But in 1910, the private Pinkerton's National Detective Agency still possessed the most comprehensive system of criminal photographs and identification in the United States. It would remain this way until the FBI was established in 1934.

The Bertillon System for decades had been the accepted national standard by law enforcement as the best system for identifying criminals but in 1910, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) endorsed fingerprinting as the better practice. That year a new Dayton civilian (non-sworn) superintendent, Joseph Wilcox, was appointed. By 1915, he was modernizing Dayton's B of I in transitioning from using the Bertillon identification system to classification of suspects through fingerprints.

 


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