John Mangin was born in Tipperary Ireland on January 10, 1828. His father Thomas Mangin was a land steward on a local estate. The educational opportunities for young Mangin were very limited and were obtained with great difficulty. He was required to walk 5 miles to a school, which was held in a shoemakers shop, and his father was required to pay the sum of seven shillings and sixpence a quarter. It is perhaps because of this that Capt. Mangin had such a strong admiration for the American system of public schools.
At the age of twenty, John Mangin married Mary, daughter of Michael Purdy, and soon after emigrated to the U.S. He arrived in N.Y.C. in August of 1848. His first employment working in his new country was for the Hudson River Railroad which was under construction at the time. He earned a salary of 75 cents a day. His faithful performance of duty attracted attention and when the trains began running he was appointed acting station agent at Manhattanville. He remained in this position for 8 years and was then appointed station agent in the Town and Village of Yonkers. He remained in Yonkers from 1857 until 1860. In 1860 John Mangin joined the NYC. Metropolitan Police Department and, having subsequently shown his ability and intelligence by making several arrests, at the completion of only 10 months, was promoted to the supervisory rank of Roundsman. Incredibly, it was only 2 months later that he was again promoted, this time to the rank of Sergeant.
Following the outbreak of the Civil War there was great public anger over the "conscripting" of male civilians into the military, against their wishes, to fight in the war. As a result, a state of chaos, rioting, looting, and lynching erupted all over NYC. It was during these infamous "draft Riots" in 1863 in which hundreds of people died, including many police officers, that Sgt. Mangin played a prominent part and was reportedly severely injured.
Following the end of the Civil War, in August of 1866 Sgt. Mangin was advised that the Town and Village of Yonkers NY had expressed a desire to have the NYC. police open a sub station in their community. Apparently Yonkers' system of constables and "part time" police officers had been deemed to be completely ineffective. For these services Yonkers would pay $ 20,000 to the City of New York. Mangin, along with a Sgt. James Flandreau and 12 police officers were detailed to Yonkers and did establish a sub station of New York's 32nd police precinct. The 32nd precinct and the Yonkers sub station were under the command of NYC Captain Alonzo Wilson. The detail of NYC officers arrived in Yonkers on August 10, 1866 and established their police headquarters at 9 Dock Street. (Since renamed Manor House Square.) This location was a 3 story building and was formerly Melah's Hotel. Mangin and Flandreau began their assignment of setting up a police station with relatively nothing to start with.
However they fashioned their operation just as a NYC police precinct would be operated. This included strict attention to detail and strict, but usually fair, discipline.
For the next five years this group of officers did an admirable job of initially organizing and then maintaining a professional police presence, and providing excellent service to the citizens of Yonkers. Due to a marked reduction in crime and disorderly persons, it was decided by Yonkers' city leaders that Yonkers should have it's own police force. On March 30, 1871 an act providing and allowing for the formation of a local police force in Yonkers was signed by the Governor of New York State.
On April 10, 1871 the newly established Yonkers Police Department began it's operation. All 14 NYC. police officers were given the opportunity to either return to the New York police department or, remain and become a Yonkers policeman. Many returned to New York and were replaced by newly hired Yonkers men. Others stayed with the new department. The most important decision that needed to be made was, who to name as the leader of the new Yonkers department. Both Sgt.'s Mangin and Flandreau had elected to remain with Yonkers. Should they choose Sgt Mangin or, Sgt Flandreau who was actually senior to Mangin in time in service with the NYC Police Department. Speculation was that both men wanted the new position, but it would be John Mangin, who had made many friends in Yonkers years earlier, that would be chosen to serve as "Captain of Police". This position was the equivalent of a Chief of Police. Sgt. Flandreau, who was no doubt disappointed, decided not to remain a sergeant working for Captain Mangin and returned to NYC.
In the ensuing years Captain John Mangin provided the direction, the guidance, the strict but fair discipline that molded new policemen into experienced and capable officers. Many of the newly hired men found they were not suited to the long hours and military style discipline that Capt. Mangin employed. Many simply resigned, and many others were dismissed from the department for violating departmental rules and regulations. The rules and regulations of the Yonkers PD were promulgated and patterned after the NY police. In fact initially Yonkers followed the same rule book as did NYC. Although Capt. Mangin was the departments leader, he was subject to direction by, and needed approval of most requests by, a Board of Police Commissioners. Capt. Mangin was in command 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In fact he would personally hold roll calls as often as was possible.
Ultimately the Yonkers Police Dept. became known as the best in the area. Over the years there were many programs initiated by Capt. Mangin that enabled his police officers to better deal with a variety of crime problems in the city. But the most innovative concept initiated by Mangin was the creation and implementation of the very first "Police Telegraph System" in the United States. This invention provided the police desk officer with the ability to be in touch with the police officer out on his post, using a series of designated coded sounds sent to a specific telegraph call box. There was no voice communication. Our very first telegraphic call box was installed in March of 1874 on Ashburton Avenue.
Though innovative, aggressive, feared by the law breaker, tireless in his drive to make his department the best, and respected by all who knew him, John Mangin was still just a man. His human mortality would soon become apparent.
On Sunday evening, February 14, 1897, Capt. Mangin left headquarters and returned to his home at 45 Post Street to retire for the night. On the next morning the captain was found by his family in an unconscious state. He had apparently been overcome by the fumes from the gas stove in his room; most likely carbon monoxide poisoning. After being treated by doctors he seemed to begin to feel better. For the next few days it was reported that Mangin was alert and cheerful. He eagerly met with visiting friends at his home. The captain seemed to be recovering from the effects of the fumes, and it was thought that he would be able to resume his duties. However the captain suffered a relapse, after which his health failed rapidly. He went into a coma and at 10:15 PM on March 11, 1897 Captain of Police John Mangin died at the age of 70 years.
The news that the captain had died spread rapidly throughout the city and everywhere the deepest sympathy was expressed to the bereaved members of the late captains family. The officers and men who had worked for him were surprised and a general air of gloom pervaded police headquarters. Captain Mangin was one of the most widely known and popular police officials in the country, and his reputation was of the highest. Although well beyond the age limit requiring retirement, so confident were the police commissioners and the public in the executive ability of the captain that, the question of his retiring was never seriously discussed.
The splendid department which he led and which was taken as a model throughout the state, was organized by him and brought to a state of perfection by his tireless efforts, attention to duty and practical experience. Following his death the interior and exterior of headquarters was draped in black mourning cloth. Flags throughout the city were authorized to be flown at half mast.
The funeral for Captain John Mangin was held on Monday March 15, 1897. All members of the department were allowed to attend with the exception of two officers. The large funeral procession passed through the streets from the captains house to St. Peters Church. Crowds of people lined the streets and watched the cortege move slowly by. Two carriages were needed to convey the elegant and costly floral tributes. One was a large police captains badge of yellow, with violets used to form the words "Yonkers Police Captain". It stood nearly four feet in height and was surmounted by an American eagle formed of yellow roses. The funeral procession contained not only Yonkers officers, but great numbers from the NYC Police Department. During the mass the late captain was laid out in his full dress uniform, with gold striped sleeves, and his gold police shield. During the service the priest commented, "To you, the police force, by his example and guidance, I will say, he has made you a model force and a credit to the city. Now when he has left you, try to emulate his example, and keep his memory fresh".
Around this same time back at headquarters an unknown man entered and asked permission to see the late captains office as it had been left. His request was willingly granted.
Over the door leading into the small office was a life-like portrait of the deceased captain which was shrouded by funeral drapings.
When Captain John Mangin died, he had gained the respect and admiration of the police department and the entire community. He earned this by his strict regard to duty. His well known integrity and honesty of purpose rendered his example worthy of emulation. Any fair evaluation of the accomplishments of Captain Mangin's 37 year police career, 26 years as the leader of the Yonkers Police Department, and especially the leadership he provided to our newly formed organization, will conclude that he was truly.............
"THE FATHER OF THE YONKERS POLICE DEPARTMENT"