Fed­eral polic­ing ex­pert once as­sisted Eliot Ness

The Washington Post Sunday - - OBITUARIES - BY MATT SCHUDEL matt.schudel@wash­post.com

Arnold Sagalyn, a one­time as­sis­tant to crime-fighter Eliot Ness, who later used his po­si­tions in fed­eral law en­force­ment to ad­vo­cate for non­lethal po­lice prac­tices and a cen­tral­ized call sys­tem, which led to the cre­ation of the 911 emer­gency num­ber, died Sept. 11 at his home in Washington. He was 99.

His wife, Louise Sagalyn, con­firmed the death but did not pro­vide a spe­cific cause.

Af­ter stints in jour­nal­ism, law en­force­ment and busi­ness, Mr. Sagalyn was named di­rec­tor of the Trea­sury Depart­ment’s Of­fice of Law En­force­ment Co­or­di­na­tion in 1961. In that po­si­tion, he di­rected Trea­sury en­force­ment poli­cies in the Coast Guard, In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice, Se­cret Ser­vice and the for­mer Bureau of Nar­cotics and Bureau of Cus­toms.

He served as the U.S. rep­re­sen­ta­tive to In­ter­pol, the in­ter­na­tional polic­ing agency, and later had a staff po­si­tion with the Na­tional Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion on Civil Dis­or­ders, also known as the Kerner Com­mis­sion for its chair­man, Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner (D). Among other things, the panel ex­am­ined the cause of ri­ots that had en­gulfed cities such as Los An­ge­les, Chicago and Detroit in the 1960s.

In March 1968, the com­mis­sion is­sued a re­port about the root causes of ur­ban crime, no­tably in­sti­tu­tional racism and poverty, and con­cluded that the coun­try “is mov­ing to­ward two so­ci­eties, one black, one white — sep­a­rate and un­equal.” The re­port, which rec­om­mended neigh­bor­hood-build­ing and civil rights ini­tia­tives, be­came a best­selling vol­ume in paper­back, but its im­pact was blunted by a new set of ri­ots af­ter the as­sas­si­na­tion of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4.

Through the 1960s, Mr. Sagalyn be­came known for speak­ing and writ­ing in sup­port of non­lethal force in po­lice pro­ce­dures. He ad­vo­cated for the use of mace or other de­bil­i­tat­ing spray pro­pel­lants to im­mo­bi­lize sus­pects and the use of paint pel­lets fired from guns to iden­tify flee­ing sus­pects and get­away cars.

He also helped draw up rec­om­men­da­tions for a na­tion­wide emer­gency re­sponse num­ber, us­ing his frus­trat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of “wait­ing up to 75 rings with­out an op­er­a­tor responding,” as he wrote in an un­pub­lished mem­oir.

Mr. Sagalyn in­cluded his find­ings in let­ters to the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion, which spurred ac­tion ul­ti­mately lead­ing to the estab­lish­ment of the 911 emer­gency call­ing sys­tem.

Arnold Sagalyn was born March 2, 1918, in Spring­field, Mass., where his fa­ther was a busi­ness­man. He grad­u­ated in 1939 from Ober­lin Col­lege in Ohio, then went to work in Cleve­land for Ness, who was the city’s di­rec­tor of pub­lic safety at the time.

Ness had pre­vi­ously been a U.S. Trea­sury agent who helped bring down Al Capone and other crime lords dur­ing the Pro­hi­bi­tion era and who was por­trayed byRobert Stack on the hit 195963 tele­vi­sion show “The Un­touch­ables” and later by Kevin Cost­ner in a 1987 film ver­sion.

Mr. Sagalyn came to Washington in 1942 to or­ga­nize a na­tional law en­force­ment ef­fort to cur­tail pros­ti­tu­tion. Later, he served as an Army of­fi­cer, help­ing to reestab­lish civil­ian or­der in Ger­many af­ter World War II. From 1947 to 1954, he held re­port­ing and edit­ing jobs with Life mag­a­zine, the New York Times and NBC News.

He then spent three years in the lum­ber busi­ness in Ore­gon be­fore re­turn­ing to the Washington area in 1957 as a part-owner and ed­i­to­rial page editor of the North­ern Vir­ginia Sun, a daily news­pa­per based in Alexan­dria. He left the money-los­ing pa­per in 1961 to take the law en­force­ment job at Trea­sury.

In the 1970s, he was a staff mem­ber of a House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives panel in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pos­si­ble im­peach­ment of Pres­i­dent Richard M. Nixon. Mr. Sagalyn op­er­ated a con­sult­ing firm, Se­cu­rity Plan­ning Corp., from 1970 un­til his re­tire­ment in 1990.

Sur­vivors in­clude his wife of 59 years, the for­mer Louise Edel­man Lon­don of Washington, and their daugh­ter, Lis­beth Stone of Chicago. Mr. Sagalyn adopted his wife’s three daugh­ters, Lau­rie Sagalyn of New York City, Rita Lon­don of Brook­lyn and Dana Sagalyn, who died in 1986. Other sur­vivors in­clude three grand­chil­dren.


Arnold Sagalyn, who worked in jour­nal­ism, law en­force­ment and busi­ness, ad­vo­cated for non­lethal force by po­lice and helped propel the de­vel­op­ment of the 911 emer­gency call­ing sys­tem.

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