Bloody Bay


Bloody Bay

Grassroots Policing in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco

Darren A. Raspa

318 pages
3 photographs, index


November 2020


$55.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

November 2020


$55.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

November 2020


$55.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Bloody Bay recounts the gritty history of law enforcement in San Francisco. Beginning just before the California gold rush and through the six decades leading up to the twentieth century, a culture of popular justice and grassroots community peacekeeping was fostered. This policing environment was forged in the hinterland mining camps of the 1840s, molded in the 1851 and 1856 civilian vigilante policing movements, refined in the 1877 joint police and civilian Committee of Safety, and perfected by the Chinatown Squad experiment of the late nineteenth century.

From the American takeover of California in 1846 during the U.S.–Mexico War to Police Commissioner Jesse B. Cook’s nationwide law enforcement advisory tour in 1912 and San Francisco’s debut as the jewel of a new American Pacific world during the Panama Pacific International Exposition in 1915, San Francisco’s culture of popular justice, its multiethnic environment, and the unique relationships built between informal and formal policing created a more progressive policing environment than anywhere else in the nation. Originally an isolated gold rush boomtown on the margins of a young nation, San Francisco—as illustrated in this untold story—rose to become a model for modern community policing and police professionalism.

Author Bio

Darren A. Raspa is a Smithsonian National Museum of American History Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Immersion Scholar and an AFRL STEM program mentor at the University of New Mexico. He is also chief historian and director of the AFRL Phillips Research Site History Office in Albuquerque.


"Considering our current discussions and efforts to reform policing, the book offers much to consider in the movement for greater justice and safety in our communities."—John Baranski, New Mexico Historical Review

"Raspa pushes police historians to look beyond the formal police departments created by big cities and to examine more closely the relationships among the variety of state and non-state actors that only developed into the modern system of formal criminal justice quite late in this country’s history."—Sam Mitrani, California History

“A significant contribution to crime and criminal justice history, the history of San Francisco, and urban history generally. It is an original, innovative treatment of vigilantism in San Francisco and the mining regions and of vigilantism’s implication for policing.”—Wilbur R. Miller, author of A History of Private Policing in the United States

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: City on Fire
1. Of Heroes and Hounds: The Chilean Origins of Policing in San Francisco, 1846–1849
2. “Adiós, Caballeros”: Multiethnic Vigilantism and Derecho Vulgar in the Hinterlands, 1848–1852
3. English Jim and the Rise of Grassroots Policeways, 1851
4. Vigilant City: Organizing Community Justice, 1856
Interlude: The Politics of Protecting Chinatown, 1856–1876
5. Pick-Handles on the Plaza, July 1877
6. King of Chinatown: Community Policing Alliance and Dissolution, 1877–1906
7. Tiger Eyes, the Jewel of the Pacific, and Reorienting the Policing Model, 1912
Conclusion: Chinese Playground

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