There’s a scene in the original Robocop movie where the eponymous robotic lawgiver arrests as suspect after spending like 10 minutes carefully throwing him through a bunch of plate glass windows. We’ve talked about it before and how actual, real police officers found the scene hilarious. Well today we’re here to talk about a real police officer from the 1920’s and 30’s who did shit like that all the time. Johnny Broderick.
Depending on which source you consult, Johnny Broderick was either an upstanding paragon of justice who fearlessly faced down New York’s toughest gangsters or a total piece of shit who used the law as an excuse to beat up people he didn’t like. Regardless of which source you believe, there’s one thing that is consistent in both versions, Johnny Broderick was a man you didn’t fuck with and most everyone except the lowest dregs of society thought he was a god-damn hero.
After joining the NYPD in 1923, Broderick quickly established himself as one of the NYPD’s most useful assets with a string of spectacular arrests that invariably involved at least one criminal limping away with a shattered collarbone. Soon after joining the NYPD Broderick became an almost mythical figure in the criminal underworld when it emerged that he’d never once used a gun during any arrest he’d ever made and that he’d instead ended every encounter he’d ever had with a bad guy with a single, retina re-locating straight to the jaw. Broderick’s right hook was so meaty that heavyweight boxing legend Jack Dempsey went on record as saying that Broderick was the only man he’d be scared of fighting outside the ring and even once hired Broderick to serve as his bodyguard. Broderick’s fearsome reputation for being able to end conflict also earned him the frankly fantastic nickname of “Broadway’s One-Man Riot Squad”.
By the time Broderick had been promoted to detective (which only took him five months instead of the usual 5 years it took most other, lesser, cops) criminals across New York were already terrified of pissing Broderick off to such an extent that he was able to end most confrontations just by turning up. In one case, a guy called Francis Two Gun Crowley was holed up in a building with, you guessed it, two guns and Broderick was able to make the guy surrender by walking into the room he was hiding in and telling him to cut that shit out. In response Crowley meekly gave up and left without incident.
If you’re wondering why Crowley didn’t just try shooting Broderick, that’s probably because like every other criminal in New York in the 20’s, he’d heard that pointing a gun at Johnny Broderick was a really fucking bad idea. There are numerous, confirmed reports of Broderick ending confrontations with armed criminals pointing guns directly at his face by punching them to the floor before they could pull the trigger. One time Broderick was called to a prison where two convicts had managed to wrestle a gun away from a guard and were currently hiding behind some boxes at the end of a long, easy to shoot down corridor. As soon as he’d been filled in on the situation, the unarmed Broderick loudly announced to the convicts who he was before slowly walking in a straight line to where they were hiding. The convict, realising how fucked they were, opted to commit suicide rather than face Broderick’s wrath.
Another time a criminal called Legs Diamond let it be known that he wasn’t scared of Broderick because he had the NYPD in his pocket, a few hours later Broderick kicked down the door to his club, strode across the dance floor and punched him in the back of the head. When Legs’ ahem, associate, tried to pull a gun on Broderick, he was similarly knocked to the floor with a punishing uppercut to the ribs. Broderick then snorted loudly before stepping over the crumpled gangster and leaving the club, all while dozens of his friends watched. Legs Diamond never bother Broderick again.
Thanks to stories like this, Broderick was basically given carte blanche by the police force to do whatever the fuck he wanted as long as he kept arresting criminals and the numerous, totally legitimate claims of police brutality Broderick had levied against him by criminals he’d beaten half to death always ended up being mysterious swept under the carpet. As an example of how stupidly untouchable Broderick was, an entire street of people once saw him slowly and methodically throw an entire gang of men through a series of windows, one after the other before booking them all for malicious destruction of property because he saw them being rude to a lady and nobody complained.
Which probably had a lot to do with the fact the public loved this guy for his no nonsense approach to crime. It also probably didn’t hurt his reputation that Broderick would often personally offer to escort young women home on dark nights and was known to drive to houses of domestic abusers and punch their livers into foie gras.
But here’s the best part. According to Broderick’s wife, when he was at home Broderick was one of the nicest men you could ever hope to meet and he’d often entertain himself by sitting and watching her play the piano wearing a pair of custom-made, mongrammed silk underwear.