Tell Us
Have an idea for an entry? Click here and tell us.
Public Servants

Otto Raphael - Jewish NYPD Officer

Otto Raphael began boxing at an early age and went on to become one of the legends of the NYPD, befriending Theodore Roosevelt along the way

Born: 1871 - Unknown
Died: September 2, 1937 - Brooklyn, New York

Otto Raphael in NYPD Uniform
Otto Raphael in NYPD Uniform
Otto Raphael was raised on New York's Lower East Side. His family had recently emigrated from Russia and his father was a peddler and butcher. As a young man, Raphael began boxing with the prizes sometimes being gold and silver watches.

Displaying a knack for heroics from an early age, in 1895, Raphael and his father saved over 12 people from a burning tenement on Allen Street.

As the result of these heroics, he soon came to the attention of Theodore Roosevelt who was then the New York City Police Commissioner-in effect police chief. Roosevelt who described Raphael as "a powerful fellow, with good-humored, intelligent face" suggested that Raphael take the police exam, which he did, and passed. In fact, among 380 applicants he obtained the highest score on the physical exam and came in tenth in the mental portion.

With his new position as a police officer, Raphael could now afford to pay for education for his younger brothers and sisters and to bring over family members left behind in Russia.

Raphael blazed his way through the police department ranks. In 1905, ten years after his initial appointment, he achieved the rank of sergeant; in 1910, he became a detective; and finally in 1917, he rose to the rank of detective lieutenant.

Engaging in one heroic act after another, Raphael became a legendary police officer. A sampling of these events included, arresting a murderer who had killed 14 people; saving a crowd of children from a runaway horse, where he sustained major injuries; getting shot while taking a prisoner; and, in 1914, breaking into a Mott Street apartment, to save a young girl who was being held as a "white slave" within a secret room in a wall, and beating her captor senseless.

Roosevelt and Raphael became lifelong friends. Raphael taught Roosevelt boxing, and they became sparring partners. During his career Raphael engaged in many exhibition matches, including one where he fought John L. Sullivan, who was credited as being the first heavyweight champion in the world.

Raphael retired in 1921 and died in 1937.

Interesting Facts
  • A plaque was placed where he was buried at Brooklyn's Washington Cemetery reading, "Lieutenant Otto Raphael. Who has done credit to the uniform he wore - Theodore Roosevelt."
  • Raphael said the traditional prayer for the dead over Theodore Roosevelt's body before he was buried.
Further Reading
Some of these sites were used as source material for this entry and may be of interest to those looking to learn more about this person/topic.


Copy the text below to cite your paper or article:

Meyer, Daniel. "Otto Raphael - Jewish NYPD Officer." J-Grit: The Internet Index of Tough Jews.