Hero Spotlight: Sargent John Foppiano

The Memphis Police Depart Detective Squad and Sgt. John Foppiano.

Written by Joe Lowry with research and editorial assistance by Trish Gully.     

One of the reasons Police Inspector William “Will T. Griffin was able to be successful, was due to the fact he had some of the very best detectives in the United States. It’s true that Will Griffin brought a new concept of Police investigations to the MPD and he did change the image of how the MPD was accepted by the public, Detectives dressed as businessmen, this changed the way they were perceived and the way they dealt with the public. They were nice and cordial, but they were an effective investigative unit. Detective Sgt. Morris Solomon could take simple clues and develop an entire case that would catch criminals with ease. Sgt. Solomon and Detective Sgt. Mario Chiozza was a threat to all burglary rings and suspects of the day. Detective Sgt’s John Long and David Jamison developed and solved some of the most baffling robberies. Both were assigned to the Pawn Shop Squad.  Detective Sgt. William Raney and his partner Detective Lee Quianthy Jr. amassed a lengthy record of running down pickpockets, confidence men, fake promoters and big-time criminals.

The assistant commanders of the Detective Bureau were Lieutenant Granville Heckle was an expert on safe robberies and Lieutenant Lee Quianthy Senior’s specialty was stick up men and gangsters. Gangsters didn’t stand a chance with these two working the case. Detective Sgt. Wilbur Miller and Melbourne Hinds broke several robbery gangs through their aggressive and diligent efforts.

One Detective stood out as one of the best in the United States and he was Detective Sgt. John Foppiano, a man who preferred to work alone and at night. According to Memphis Police Historian Joe Walk, his experience and arrest records would fill a book. He was recognized nationally by other police departments as an authority on pickpockets in the United States. His name appeared in numerous newspapers because of the cases he solved. Many were high profile cases involving all kinds of crimes such as the Flossie Park murder case of 1905. He knew the names and faces of hundreds of underworld characters. His name alone was feared by all criminals who did not want to be found in Memphis. He was personally credited with recovering approximately one million dollars of stolen loot during his career.

He had a way about him that a criminal would spill the beans on his accomplices. In 1906 Detective Foppiano and his partner Frank Turner posed as Railroad Conductors in order to catch blackmailer and extortionist Ernest Williams who was preying upon Frisco Rail employees. Using marked bills, and dressed as RR Conductors arrested Williams on the spot. In 1906 he investigated and then found and arrested Caruthersville career criminal Charles Short for a series of robberies at the Cochran Hotel in North Memphis. In 1907 Detective Foppiano and his partner Frank Turner were credited with clever detective work which enabled them to arrest dangerous criminals, Emery A. Burns of Vicksburg who was charged with a brutal highway robbery.

In 1920, he stopped a major hotel burglary spree that was happening in both Little Rock and Memphis by the same gang. He worked with Little Rock Detectives and they caught the trio of crooks. In 1931 John was promoted to Captain of the Detective Bureau. On January 17, 1934, several churches in Memphis were the victims of petty thefts during church services. Captain Foppiano publicly stated that he would put every detective in town into the churches to stop these thefts. On July 10, 1935, the esteemed Captain John Foppiano of 919 Dickinson Street died of a stroke. He was 61 years old and served the citizens of Memphis for 32 years.


Memphis Police Department, Some Highlights and Sidelights from the Past by Joe Walk, MPD

Historian. ( pp. 61-63)

Chattanooga Star, (April 9, 1908, p.1)

Hotel Robbins Case, Arkansas Daily Gazette. ( April 1, 1920, p. 1)

Birmingham News (July 11, 1935, p.7)

Vicksburg American, September 7, 1907, Saturday, (p. 1)

Owensboro Messenger, Owensboro Kentucky,( May 12, 1906)

Pemiscot Press, Caruthersville Mo. ( August 1, 1906)

Standard-Speaker, Hazleton Penn. (January 17, 1934)

New York Daily News, October 19th , (1928 p. 38)

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