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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

From our archives, 100 years ago

Spokane’s commissioner of public safety, Z.E. Hayden, made a startling proposal: that the city’s police force should no longer enforce morality on the city.

He proposed a five-person “public welfare commission to look after the problems of the social evil, gambling and juvenile delinquency.”

The “social evil” was the 1913 euphemism for prostitution.

“With a commission of this kind, the burden of looking after fallen women, secret gambling and juvenile delinquency would be lifted from the shoulders of the police,” said Hayden. “In this way, the city administration as a whole could grasp and share the responsibility for the moral program … and could maintain direct control of the situation.”

Hayden was convinced that the police were in an impossible position.

Enforcing the laws was nearly impossible, yet failing to enforce them opened them up to “perpetual and usually false charges of graft and dishonesty.”

“There is no reason why the police department, any more than other city officials, should be the sole dictators of the city’s morals,” said Hayden.

Little did he know that the problem was about to get worse. At the beginning of 1916, the state enacted Prohibition, giving police one more vice to quell.