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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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The Bertillon System in Grand Rapids

The Bertillion system of identification of criminals has been in use by the police department of Grand Rapids since 1897, when the system was first extensively used in the United States. It is of French origin. The chief and important measurements are those of the head and hand. All scars and birthmarks are carefully noted. The department takes the measurements of all who are arrested that are suspected of belonging to the criminal class. If the department has no local data concerning the suspect his measurements are sent to the Central bureau of identification at Washington, where is kept a record of all criminals with a history. If the suspect has a record the return mail brings it with a complete history of the man’s crimes, aliases and imprisonments. If any one is arrested by the local department and convicted of crime his measurements and description are taken and kept on file at headquarters and also sent to the Central bureau for future use. Grand Rapids was among the first cities to become a member of the American association, and has a high standing among other American cities and the secret service department of the federal government for its excellent work with the system.

Excerpted from the History of Grand Rapids by Dwight Goss, pg. 952

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