SFPD corruption report from 1937

Here's a long-lost 1937 report on police corruption in San Francisco:

In 1935, the citizens of the city of San Francisco were indignant when tales of police officers having amassed huge fortunes through payoffs, graft and bribery came to light. In a convulsion of civic anger, District Attorney Matt Brady and Mayor Angelo Rossi were pressed to act, and they hired private investigator and former G-man Edwin N. Atherton. The so-called Atherton Report prompted dozens of cops to quit or lose their jobs, some went underground, one killed himself and his family. The entire police commission was forced to resign and reports of police payoffs, staged raids on gambling houses and brothels, bail bond skimming, unpaid loans to public officials and other were laid at the door of the House of McDonough.

Lost for more than seventy years, here is the infamous Atherton Report.

The 1937 San Francisco Police Graft Report by Edwin Atherton (Thanks, hankchapot!)


  1. These days the private investigator would be more likely to be stopped in the street, beaten, arrested, have drugs planted on him, and die in prison of “self inflicted” wounds.

  2. It does seem that some things never change, though.  The rich get the best law they can afford to buy, and the poor get shafted.  Now it happens at the court level more so than at the street level.

  3. Nothing has changed.  Only the players have.  SF cops are some of the most corrupt I’ve ever encountered in the US.

  4. Actually, one of Atherton’s investigators got beat down and arrested. After they knocked him to the ground they told him lying on the sidewalk was a pinchable offense.
    I’m giving away my research and selling a novel “Bordello Politique,” based on one of the characters from this episode, Dolly Fine, San Francisco’s most notorious madam.

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