6. The Bad Cop Employed as Lincoln’s Bodyguard
Despite numerous threats to his safety, Abraham Lincoln often went about unescorted. He sometimes walked alone at night from the White House to the War Department, attended church or went to the theater without bodyguards, and generally disliked the fuss of a military escort. When he did use a bodyguard, the quality available was dismal. An example was John Frederick Parker (1830 – 1890), a plain bad cop. One of the first officers to join Washington’s Metropolitan Police Force when it was created in 1861, Parker stood out for his ineptness and unsuitability as a policeman.
Parker was frequently hauled before the police oversight board on a variety of charges, any of which could have gotten him fired. He was let off each time with a slap on the wrist. Parker was frequently charged with conduct unbecoming a police officer. His infractions included abusing civilians, cursing, frequenting whorehouses, being drunk on the job, and sleeping in a streetcar when he was supposed to be walking his beat. Each time, he got away with no more than a reprimand. Despite that poor record, when in November, 1864, the Metropolitan Police Force created the first permanent detail to guard the president, Parker was one of four officers selected.