HISTORY'S BLOTTER

A look back in time at a moment in law enforcement history

For a long time, if you entered any police or sheriff’s department in the country, you would be greeted at the front desk by a sergeant presiding over a large bound book. Everyone who came into the station, every call patrolmen answered—it was all documented in that book, called a blotter. The National Law Enforcement Museum has acquired blotters from all across the United States. They are an important part of our collection—teeming with information about day-to-day law enforcement activities and touching on national events as they affected specific agencies. Find below our version of a national blotter: History’s Blotter draws from events in many places and times to present the collective experience of law enforcement in America. Take a look at the entry featured this month (below), and scroll down to explore the History's Blotter archive.

Pizza Connection Trial Begins | September 30, 1985

Courtroom Scene from the Pizza Connection Trial, CC BY Image courtesy of
The Courtroom Sketches of Ida Libby Dengrove, University of Virginia Law Library

“He had no idea what was happening. Here was Sal Catalano, shocked, in his pajamas, being told he’s under arrest by the FBI.”

—Carmine Russo, FBI Special Agent

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, several locally owned pizza parlors in major East Coast and Midwest cities were fronts for an international heroin organization. Led by a Sicilian baker named Salvatore Catalano, the network served the Bonanno family, the most powerful mob crime family in New York City at the time. The heroin often arrived to the US in food cans, smuggled from Sicily by conspirators in Italy and Spain. The money was then laundered through Swiss banks before being deposited into Italian accounts. The media later dubbed this “The Pizza Connection.”

In 1982, the FBI and the DEA began a joint investigation of The Pizza Connection, working with the NYPD and the US Customs and Border Control. The agencies shared surveillance, informants, and wiretapping intelligence during the two year investigation. Additionally, the nature of the investigation required the FBI to establish unprecedented working relationships with Italian, Spanish, and Swiss law enforcement authorities. All international agencies agreed to share sensitive information, allow FBI special agents to work internationally, and coordinated same day arrests in all four countries.

On April 9, 1984, many of the men indicted for involvement in The Pizza Connection were arrested in the United States, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland.  In the United States, 24 of the 32 men who were eventually brought to trial were arrested that day. The trial of all 32 men began on September 30, 1985, and lasted 17 months. It was one of the longest in US history. All but one defendant were convicted.

History's Blotter Archive

1611
First Lawman in the Colonies? | May 1611

1775
New-Gate Prison | December 11, 1775

1788
Ben Franklin on How to Improve the Nightwatch | August 1788

1819
Night Watchmen | January 1819

1841
Mary Cecilia Rogers, The Beautiful Cigar Girl | July 25, 1841

1844
Cherokee Light-Horse | November 13, 1844

1844
Eliza Farnham, head matron at Sing Sing | March 18, 1844

1852
Irish Police in Boston | January 5, 1852

1857
New York City Police Riot | June 16, 1857

1858
Boston Police Get New Uniforms | November 1, 1858

1865
Abraham Lincoln Authorized U.S. Secret Service | July 5, 1865

1871
National Police Convention | October 21, 1871

1872
Tragedy at Going Snake | April 15, 1872

1874
Apache Tribal Police | September 1874

1875
Ranger Daniel Webster Roberts' Colt Revolver | September 13, 1875

1877
US Marshal Frederick Douglass | March 17, 1877

1880
Revenuers and Moonshiners | April 30, 1880

1884
Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves | February 8, 1884

1886
Haymarket Riot | May 4, 1886

1892
Borden Murders, Fall River, Massachusetts | August 4, 1892

1898
Marie Connolly Owens | March 14, 1898

1908
The Dog Squad | January 19, 1908

1908
Pat Garrett Assassinated | February 29, 1908

1909
Police Autos | June 1909

1911
US Marshals in Alaska Territory | January 14, 1911

1915
Aletha Gilbert, City Mother, LAPD | May 26, 1915

1915
The Black Hand | April 15, 1915

1919
Boston Police Strike | September 9, 1919

1920
Wall Street Bombing | September 16, 1920

1923
Izzy and Moe call on Governor Al Smith | January 18, 1923

1926
Eliot Ness | August 26, 1926

1931
Calling Dick Tracy! | October 4, 1931

1934
Deputy Ted Hinton | May 23, 1934

1934
Dillinger is Killed | July 22, 1934

1941
Agent Robert L. Shivers | December 7, 1941

1942
Saboteur Trial | June 13, 1942

1950
Truman Assassination Thwarted | November 1, 1950

1950
Kefauver Investigates the Mob | May 3, 1950

1956
The Mad Bomber | December 2, 1956

1957
Apalachin Mafia Summit | November 14, 1957

1957
Dragnet and Police Procedurals | July 26, 1957

1958
Morris Childs | October 22-23, 1958

1963
Medgar Evers | June 12, 1963

1966
Texas Tower Shooting | August 1, 1966

1967
In the Heat of the Night is released | August 2, 1967

1968
First 911 Call | February 16, 1968

1971
Phone Phreaking | October 1971

1980
ABSCAM FBI Sting | February 3, 1980

1981
FBI Agent Joe Pistone aka Donnie Brasco | July 26, 1981

1982
Broken Windows Theory | March 1982

 

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