William West, A Black Police Officer Who Arrested a Sitting U.S President In 1872

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Police Officer Who Arrested a Sitting U.S President

This story may come as the most surprising thing to you today, mostly if you had never come across a headline like this before. However, this is a review of what many termed the biggest achievement of William West.

Filled with power, not just the white house but a sitting president. This sounds weird for a police officer to arrest a sitting president of the United States of America but it happened. Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 was arrested at the corner of 13th M streets in Washington DC.

Grant was the man who led the North to victory in the Civil War. As per the report, Grant was the sitting President then, a big admirer of horse carriages who equally loved sitting behind a pair of spirited animals. The one time US President was a good driver who sometimes let them out to try their mettle.

The most intriguing part of this story should be the fact that he was arrested by a black police officer and taught the sitting President of America that no one is above the law that governs him.

William West, the only policeman who ever arrested a president – Pic Credit: potus-geeks.livejournal.com

Here is why Grant was arrested; the police had been receiving complaints of speeding carriages at the time, and a mother and child had been injured as a result of this reckless driving.

Grant was driving a pair of fast steppers and a black Policeman held up his hand for them to stop as reported.

This is the Conversation that Grant and the policeman both had;

“Well, officer,” he said, “What do you want with me?”

The policeman replied: “I want to inform you, Mr President, that you are violating the law by speeding along this street. Your fast driving, sir, has set the example for a lot of other gentlemen.

The president apologized, promised it wouldn’t happen again, and galloped away. The following evening, at the corner of 13th and M streets the president came barreling through speeding so fast that it took him an entire block to stop.

“Do you think, officer, that I was violating the speed laws?” the president asked the same policeman he had encountered the previous day.

“I do, Mr President,” the policeman said.

“I am very sorry, Mr President, to have to do it,” he said. “For you are the chief of the nation, and I am nothing but a policeman, but duty is duty, sir, and I will have to place you under arrest.”

Grant was arrested for speeding in his horse-drawn carriage. The interesting part of this story is that the police officer who arrested him was a black man named William H. West, who fought in the Civil War.

With the powers of law, West took the president down to the police station. However, they were unsure if they could charge a sitting president if he had not been impeached so they let him pay a fine of 20 dollars.

West came about being one of the policemen during reconstruction. He (West) was one of two black policemen working in the Washington DC Police Department. 

Quoting Cathy Lanier, who is today’s D.C. police chief, “the president was racing his buggy on M street, where he was taken into custody. His horse and buggy had to be seized”, she confirmed and also said that “the metropolitan police department stopped and cited Ulysses S. Grant three times for speeding.”


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