Lord Buckley's Police Station Interview, October 1960

After his Cabaret Card was lifted, purportedly for his failure to mention in his application arrests that had occurred eighteen and nineteen years previously, Buckley, accompanied by Harold "Doc" Humes, who was acting as his agent, went to the local precinct to confer with the desk officer in order to try to have the Card reinstated. Humes, thinking that a bribe might be solicited, secretly taped the interview. The desk officer is identified as "Sergeant Z."

Humes transcribed the interview and gave it to attorney Maxwell T. Cohen when he engaged him to represent Buckley at the hearing that was scheduled for November 3, 1960. Cohen included the transcript in his book The Police Card Discord (Metchuen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press and the Institute of Jazz Studies/Rutgers University Press, 1993), an invaluable resource for Buckley fans.

Sergeant Z.: Were you ever arrested?

Buckley: It was so many years ago. Was it some small arrest of some kind?

Sergeant Z.: You don't know?

Buckley: Well, I don't recall.

Sergeant Z.: You don't recall 1941, 1943, 1944, 1946?

Buckley: Was it for drinking?

Sergeant Z.: One was 1941 . . . That one was for drinkin'.

Humes: How long will it be before he can get his Card back?

Sergeant Z.: At such time as there's a hearing.

Humes: Why don't you have the hearing first and pull the Card later?

Sergeant Z.: If you had told the truth we would have.

Buckley: Yeah, I was wrong, I guess.

Humes: Would you have given him a Card?

Sergeant Z.: Not if he admitted everything (unintelligible).

Humes: It's your jurisdiction to decide this?

Sergeant Z.: Yeah.

Humes: I'm a friend of Lord Buckley's, and I was just curious to know why people come around and pick up his Card without giving him any reason.

Sergeant Z.: Well, he's well aware of his criminal record.

Humes: These are criminal charges (unintelligible) . . .

Sergeant Z.: Using reefers, marijuana and tax act.

Humes: Are there any convictions on these?

Buckley: There were no convictions.

Sergeant Z.: There's no conviction on that . . . This we got to ascertain yet.

Humes: But you pull the Card first and ascertain that afterwards. Is that right? Is there a statute that authorizes you to do this?

Sergeant Z.: That's right . . . Administrative Code of the City 436-1.

Humes: That you can lift somebody's cabaret Card?

Sergeant Z.: Uh-huh . . .

Humes: This is all new to me, and I'm anxious to know why.

Buckley: How long will it be before we can get a hearing?

Sergeant Z.: Whenever you file a request for it, then you'll have one.

Buckley: Do you have the hearing here?

Sergeant Z.: Upstairs.

Humes: How long will it be? He's not able to work without that Card, according to you.

Sergeant Z.: That's right.

Humes: What happens if he works without the Card?

Sergeant Z.: Then we give the premises a violation and we close them.

Humes: You close down the premises? Pretty rough way to treat people, don't you think?

Sergeant Z.: It depends on the people.

Humes: Depriving a man of his livelihood without due process of law?

Sergeant Z.: There are some people when they're selling narcotics saying we're depriving them of their livelihood (unintelligible).

Humes: This is a different thing; he's an entertainer.

Sergeant Z.: It's not a different thing.

Humes: You don't lift a taxi-river's license before you . . .

Sergeant Z.: We'd lift it more quicker than we would ever lift an entertainer's.

Humes: How may years ago was this?

Sergeant Z.: The last one, the (unintelligible) tax act was 1946. The 1956 is minor. Six traffic misdemeanors - whatever they are.

Humes: Well, those aren't criminal; I mean, a traffic offense is not criminal, when you speak of a criminal record. Are there any convictions on these?

Sergeant Z.: This is what we are sending to find out - to ascertain.

Buckley: What shall we do? Call you back on it?

Sergeant Z.: We asked him the question, "Were you ever arrested?"

Buckley: I said, "No," because (unintelligible).

Sergeant Z.: We are lifting it on the false statement on the application.

Humes: I see. But you also state that if he had said that he was arrested, even if there were no convictions, you wouldn't have given him a Card?

Sergeant Z.: If he would have proved there was no conviction at that time, then there would have been (unintelligible) question to be determined, depending on (unintelligible).

Humes: Would you know a way he can have his Card while this is being ascertained?

Sergeant Z.: No.

Humes: Why is that? Is there any point to that? I'm just trying to understand why he can't work. He needs the money very badly.

Sergeant Z.: He may need the money very badly, but his involvement as far as reefers and marijuana . . .

Humes: But there was no conviction on that! Now, in fact there was a nol-prossed, is that right?

Sergeant Z.: Has he got proof of that to show us at this time?

Humes: Well, I mean the point is, don't you need some stronger evidence than that?

Sergeant Z.: No, we don't. The evidence that I'm going on, I'm basing on his false statement. From there I'm going to investigate.

Humes: The traffic offences - do you have to put them down, too, with the rest of them?

Sergeant Z.: Not the traffic offenses. Other than traffic.

Humes: But my point is: What about double jeopardy? It seems to me that when he was arrested, there was no conviction.

Sergeant Z.: This has been tested in the courts and you want to test it again. If you want to test it, you can.

Humes: What tests in the court? Can you give me decisions on that?

Buckley: If I have proof there was no conviction, can I get a Card?

Humes: How long will it take to get a hearing? You see, I have a percentage of this man's livelihood, and I'm profoundly concerned about that, because it's going to jeopardize his . . . He's just booked into the city for the first time, and we have other dates lined up for him, and this is very seriously liable to jeopardize him. If there's a false arrest here, it seems to me the city is liable for it.

Sergeant Z.: There is no false arrest here.

Humes: But you are certain that you can pull a man's Card, and this has been tested in the courts?

Sergeant Z.: That's right.

Humes: Can you give me the decision on them?

Sergeant Z.: Friedman vs. Valentine - the year, that's about '46. If you look up the administrative code . . .

Humes: This is all new to me, and I couldn't get hold of an attorney to come with us on this.

Sergeant Z.: You will find there have been numerous citations under it.

Buckley: Do you know how soon the hearing will be?

Sergeant Z.: Well, I'll tell you. You want to request a hearing now. Is that correct?

Humes: As soon as possible. Is it possible to have the hearing this afternoon and clear this up?

Buckley: Couldn't a phone call clear this up? Or I could call the attorney who defended me on it in Washington. If the attorney calls him or writes him . . .

Sergeant Z.: At the hearing, we'll inquire into the circumstances of these arrests and you'll explain them.

Humes: When will the hearing be?

Sergeant Z.: Well, that's what I'm asking you. Whenever you request it. Either Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday in the afternoon.

Humes: Why can't you have it tomorrow? You mean he's going to be out of work this entire week, which probably means the end of his contract?

Sergeant Z.: Could be.

Humes: Could be? And it doesn't concern you any more than that . . .? Not when it's . . .? Who put this power in your hands? That's what I can't understand. Who put this power in your hands?

Sergeant Z.: People (unintelligible).

Humes: Let me jot down a number of the statute.

Sergeant Z.: 434 of the charter and 436 . . . It's the administrative code and a charter of the city. 434 of the charter and 436 of the administrative code, and the key case is the city vs. . . . Friedman vs. Valentine.

Buckley: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Let's see. Can you ascertain by Tuesday whether there is no conviction on the case?

Sergeant Z.: We'll attempt to, yes.

Humes: This is liable to jeopardize his entire future livelihood.

Sergeant Z.: Could be.

Humes: Could be! My God! Suppose someone did this to you.

Sergeant Z.: We have the attitude we would like to keep a certain type of element out of this field. That's our purpose.

Humes: When you say "a certain type of element," you make a statement which is prejudicial to . . . I mean . . . There is no conviction on this.

Sergeant Z.: Well, this I don't know. That's what we have to find out. If I say his statement wasn't false on here and he admitted it and I was dismissed then I would . . .

Buckley: . . . I was excited . . .

Humes: If I hadn't had a conviction, then I would probably put down "No" because he's already said (unintelligible).

Sergeant Z.: The question is, "were you ever arrested?"

Humes: I don't see what you're driving at. My point is that if you make a statement, if you admit this, you won't give a Card. The man's livelihood is at stake.

Sergeant Z.: It depends on (unintelligible). If he admits he wasn't convicted, and admits that he was using narcotics . . .

Humes: Well, I don't think there is any statement that you can adduce from this thing alone.

Sergeant Z.: No, I'm just saying just as an example, under certain circumstances . . .

Humes: (to Buckley): Is this the case you told me about fifteen years ago.

Buckley: Yeah.

Humes: (to Sergeant again): Can I call you back on it . . . ? What is your name.

Sergeant Z.: Sergeant Z.

Humes: What are these? Are these traffic?

Sergeant Z.: No. One was disorderly conduct in Nevada.

Humes: Misdemeanor.

Sergeant Z.: I assume that it may even only be an offense. I don't know. In Indianapolis, it was vagrancy.

Humes: That's also a misdemeanor. Is that right?

Sergeant Z.: No. Well, that's an offense, but that was dismissed. If it wasn't, I would have referred you to the State Liquor Authority, because I didn't have the power to give you a license. Since that would be (unintelligible).

Humes: No power to give a Card?

Sergeant Z.: Yeah.

Humes: You mean a vagrancy charge is a record?

Sergeant Z.: Depending on . . . You have to ascertain what the vagrancy was, because all types of procuring is vagrancy.

Humes: This is astonishing to me. This gives us the power of censorship . . .

Sergeant Z.: Procuring is vagrancy. Every type of prostitution is vagrancy.

Humes: Well, if you're charged with prostitution, it's not vagrancy?

Sergeant Z.: (Unintelligible)

Humes: Not under the law . . .

Sergeant Z.: Under the law, mister. You're talking like you don't know what you're speaking of.

Humes: You mean that a vagrancy charge, if someone's up for vagrancy, and it's dismissed, you can keep the Card?

Sergeant Z.: If somebody was up for prostitution, he's charged with vagrancy. That's the charge. The technical charge. There is no charge prostitution.

Humes: Well, it's procuring, isn't it?

Sergeant Z.: Yeah, and it's also under the vagrancy section. You see, that's the problem (unintelligible).

Buckley: We better call you back and get a hearing on it.

Sergeant Z.: Another thing is, you want to pick the time for the hearing. It has to be Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday afternoon.

Humes: That means he's out of work for a week.

Buckley: Possibly he can't help it.

Humes: Yeah, but this means the end of his contract, too. There's no way you can let him work this week and then do this thing?

Sergeant Z.: Not in this space of time.

Humes: Does it say this is the statute, that you must lift the Card before this . . .

Sergeant Z.: It don't say this, no. It's understood policy.

Humes: That's a policy which you people make?

Sergeant Z.: That's right.

Humes: Who do they go to about seeing this policy changed? I would like to have him working this week, if possible.

Sergeant Z.: I'm the one in charge here now and I . . .

Humes: It doesn't do any good to prevent the man from earning a livelihood.

Sergeant Z.: Well.

Buckley: I guess it's a question of the rules.

Humes: Well, I'm just questioning these rules.

Sergeant Z.: Well, you're not alone in questioning.

Humes: If the statutory authority for this case is one thing, but if this is a policy I would like to press for an allowance. I would like to ask for a waiver since the charge was dismissed.

Sergeant Z.: That we wouldn't give on one that turns in the F.B.I (unintelligible).

Buckley: They don't know whether there's a conviction on it. That's the hangup. There was no conviction. It was nol-prossed.

Humes: But I mean, a man is innocent until proved guilty in this country.

Sergeant Z.: No . . .

Humes: It seems to me that you're depriving him of a livelihood and also you're seriously jeopardizing his future. It's his first time in New York.

Sergeant Z.: Uh-huh.

Humes: And we've got club dates lined up for him.

Sergeant Z.: There are many fields that if you made a false statement on the application, they would also deny you employment. Right?

Humes: I don't see where you have any business asking him in the first place, to tell you the truth.

Sergeant Z.: You can take that up with the legislature.

Buckley: We'll call you back.

Humes: Thank you.

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