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to put his plan in operation, and since 1882 M. Bertillon has been installed as chief of the bureau for the measuring and photographing of all prisoners in the Prefecture of Police. It must not be understood that M. Bertillon has discarded photography; he has only deposed it from the position of chief reliance to that of a subordinate assistant. Any mass of photographs can now be used with the utmost facility, and the desired portrait fished out in a few minutes; for each photograph is now attached to the proper bone measurements (taken by minutely accurate instruments) and records of the bodily peculiarities of all persons passing through the hands of the authorities; so that afterwards they are enabled at once to identify any such person, however changed or disguised, and to reject any other person who may be wrongly accused of being the subject sought. In a small room, literally millions of personal descriptions may be gathered, not one of which but can be produced when required in a few moments. Although so scientifically accurate, the Bertillon system can be worked by agents of the most ordinary intelligence. Since February 15th, 1889, the identification service has occupied one of the interior angles of the vast pile which has been so long gradually rising on the ruins of 1871, between the Boulevard du Palais and the Place Dauphine, in the Cité. The bureau of identification occupies two floors near the ancient Sainte Chapelle which was so miraculously preserved from the flames. The location is of significant importance. All the legal machinery of Paris, and a large part of that of France, is centred in the surrounding structures, which include over fifty courts, three prisons, and almost innumerable police bureaux. In such a tremendous administrative machine as the Palais de Justice and its adjuncts, it would not do for one wheel in the works either to take up too much space or to interfere with the general harmony. The anthropometric service has to work like the clever fowler, and bring down its prey “on the wing.” Happily it is the essence of the Bertillon system to require only the shortest space of time over each individual, while the more subjects brought under its notice in a given period, the more sure are its results.
Although the bureau of identification has somewhat to do with the in mates of the prison for prisoners on appeal (the far-famed Conciergerie), and those of the little annex to the Depôt (cantly known as the “ Mousetrap”) for prisoners on short remand, the main business of the bureau is to deal with the inmates of the great Depôt itself, the dumping ground where three times a day all the police-stations of Paris cast their
human prey-criminals, vagabonds, wandering mysteries, insane, lost children, &c., who, with some minor exceptions, are all expected to be packed off to various destinations or set at liberty within twenty-four hours, each case being meanwhile examined and provisionally or finally decided. Thus the anthropometric measurements must be taken in all this hurry of charges, denials, explanations, and decisions. If dependence for recognition in this same hurry were put solely on the old system of unclassified photographs, well might the crafty malefactor laugh at the vain efforts of the representatives of the law; but during the last few years the professional criminal has learned to laugh on the other side of his mouth in the matter of concealment of identity. In fact, such concealment has become in France one of the lost arts. There is more wholesome terror to the accused in that terrible mauvais quart d'heure in the identification bureau than in all the rest of the experience at the Depôt and the Judicial Palace. They know that all secrets will be revealed before that anthropometric judgment seat.
The bureau of identification, being just over the main entrance to the Depôt, has a private winding staircase, up which the prisoners are conducted, first women, from 8.30 to 9 a.m., and then the men, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, the total daily average being over one hundred. Previously, from 8 to 8.30 a.m., the mandates for the production of the prisoners to be measured are prepared from the lists of all prisoners who have been received at the Depôt during the previous night.
First, the prisoners having been made to take off their shoes and stockings, and in the case of the men to remove jackets and waistcoats, the height is taken, then the full stretch of the arms, then, each prisoner being seated, the height of the trunk is taken. All these measurements are crude affairs compared with what follows.
Next caliper compasses are applied to the skull, as shown in the sketch (Fig. 4 and Fig. 5). First, the extreme length from the root of the nose (the frontal sinus) to the furthest point at the back of the head (the occipital bone), the point of the compasses being moved gently in a close zigzag at the back of the skull, the extreme opening being noted on the metric scale. The screw being set, the process is repeated to ensure that no mistake has been made. If the compasses have been set one millimetre too open the point will not touch the scalp; if, on the contrary, they have been set one millimetre too close, some point will be found where they will not pass. The zigzag motion is important, as in the case of merely haphazard circular passages the compass end might slide around the very bone protuberance which gives the extreme diameter. All dangers from merely temporary swellings of the epidermis of the head are avoided by the ever-ready objections of the subject to have any sore spot approached. In fact, the whole operation has to be perfectly gentle, for the delicate business could hardly be properly carried on without the willing submission of the prisoners. The latter, however, can never have any reasonable objection, unless of conscious guilt, as the taking of anthropometric measurements involves neither indignity nor inconvenience.* The next measurement, that of the width of the head, is taken with the calipers in much the same way, with this important exception, that neither point has any fixed base, but both are moved in the same zigzag fashion to find the widest opening from one parietal bone to the other, which is usually (not always) just above the ears. Any error of a single millimetre will soon make itself evident in this case as in the other. Five of the nine measurements indicated in the plan having now been taken, the remaining four all require the use of the instrument in Figs. 6 to 9. It is simply the adaptation of the shoemaker's foot-gauge. First, the length of the right ear is taken (Fig. 6), but for this purpose a smaller gauge is used, this ear being selected merely for the facility of manipulation by the operator. Great care must be taken to allow the tender tissue of the lobe to swell to its natural extent, and even the crown may be depressed by careless handling. The ear is a very im. portant feature in anthropometric verifications, but not being a strictly bone measurement, is not used in classification, and only for verifications. There has been a question raised as to the increase of ear-lobes by
In introducing the Bertillon system into England, this point should be impressed on the public, as much uncalled-for venom has been vented on the service by wrong-headed critics like M. Rochefort. M. Bertillon's chief glory is the absolute protection afforded the innocent. As to the so-called “indignity" in taking the measurements, it is a phantasm conjured up by those impracticable egotists who wish to enjoy all the benefits of organised society and submit to none of its obligations. The measurements offend neither modesty nor self-respect. In studying the system one of my earliest lessons was my own measurement, the details of which have long been docketed in the Paris bureau, in the great mixture of innocent and guilty and many free visitors from all over the world. In the commotion raised last year in London about the arrest of two English youths on a Paris racecourse, the weakest item in the indictment against the French officials was the allusion to the measuring process as an "additional insult.” Take it for granted that these arrests were arbitrary and outrageous, and a little common sense should teach the victims that anthropometry was their very ark of safety. Accused of being well-known pickpockets, had the charge been true their personal records would be with the bureau ; but no one has ever found the bureau convicting the innocent. As a sample of the foolish way in which this case was worked up against the French officials, I may add that the sketches of the measuring “indignity" given in a London illustrated paper were pure inventions, matter for derisive contempt for anyone at all acquainted with the Bertillon process.
piercings between two measurements, but such rare cases in a matter of minor detail would not be any inconvenience. It must be a heavy earring to extend the cartilage much, and the very fact of the piercing would become at once a consideration in the second measurement. All such personal marks are recorded in each case, along with the anthropometric data. Next, the larger gauge is applied to its original use to get the length of the left foot (Fig. 7), which is also selected for the operator's convenience. He places the fixed tongue of the gauge firmly against the heel, the movable tongue being now moved up against the toe. In case of any considerable projection of a toe-nail, it is cut to ascertain the actual foot measurement. As seen in Fig. 7, the subject is required to stand on his left foot, the knee being bent slightly. The whole weight of the body being on the broad foot, the foot must be flat and fully extended. The eighth measurement (taken with the same foot-gauge) is one of the most important, that of the left middle finger, taken as shown in Fig. 8, the operator pressing the back of the fixed tongue against his own breast while he presses the back of the subject's finger flat in the gauge, the thumb and forefinger being passed by on one side, while the third and little finger pass by on the other. The left hand is selected for the same consideration of convenience, the back of the gauge being used, it having short back tongues for the purpose. Extra long fingernails are cut for the operation, just as in the case of toe-nails. In the small number of cases where certain avocations or accidents or natural deformity have so bent the finger as to render it impossible to press it straight, allowance is made for the curvature. Lastly, the ninth measurement (Fig. 9) is the length of the bared forearm from the bend of the elbow (the arm being bent at right angles) to the tip of the middle finger, the operator pressing lightly on the top of the wrist to ensure that the arm and palm are flat. The fixed tongue is placed against the "crazy bonc," and the movable tongue pressed up to the tip of the finger.
Although the measurements are taken to the nicety of millimetres, and seem very complex as thus described, there is really nothing in the whole process which cannot be learned in a week or ten days by anyone of ordinary intelligence, including the system of classification, which I will describe presently. As to the measuring process itself, it can easily be learned in three or four days by any careful operator, the essential value being in the extreme accuracy of all metric data. Feet and inches
would never do, even if there were no international consideration making it essential that the same measurements should be recorded by the same scale.
So much for the physical operations of our "scientific fad,” as practised daily in the Paris bureau; it is time to give some of the results, after which I will give some details as to how these results are obtained and their value in criminal jurisprudence.
Of course the first years of the installation of the Bertillon system in Paris had to be devoted to laying the foundations, accumulating mere measurements without immediate fruit. The early years were handicapped, too, by ignorant and incredulous officials, who put all manner of obstacles in the way of the new scheme.
Here are the complete figures for the ten years of operations :
It is well to remember that all of the “confessions of false names and many of the re-measurements are really to be credited among “recognitions,” the fear of anthropometry being the cause of the admissions of the truth. The great avalanche of confessions in 1888 (there were hardly any before) was due to the abolition in that year of a reward for any officer discovering a false identity. Of course, there was great temptation to bribe or cajole prisoners into purposely giving false names, to be discovered afterwards. It is found much more efficacious to go by fines rather than rewards. The anthropometric service has to pay for each failure, whenever discovered. In the early years these failures were very few, in 1892 but three. The immense development of the last year or two will be noticed. M. Herbette, the director of prison services, was unable to introduce the system into provincial prisons until 1888, but was so pleased with the result of a partial trial
* Not classified.
First use in provinces, $ Obligatory for first time.
|| Besides six in provinces.