From the Library of Congress’s description:
“The film shows members of “New York’s Finest” parading at a crowded Union Square. There are members of the Bicycle Squad [Frame: 0396], mounted horses , and two regimental marching bands [2518, 3456]. At the time of filming, the New York City Police Department was still recovering from the corruption scandals of the early 1890’s that had severely tarnished the reputation of the department. A State Senate appointed group known as the Lexow Committee investigated the department and issued a scathing report that detailed serious criminal activity within the department. In 1895, public opinion was so low that the annual parade wasn’t held. That same year, Theodore Roosevelt was appointed president of the Police Board, and he is credited with initiating strict and effective reform measures that helped restore the public’s confidence in the police.
From a contemporary Edison Company catalog: NEW YORK POLICE PARADE. Unbuilding. An excellent view of “The Finest,” on their annual parade and inspection, June 1, 1899. The head of the column is just turning into 14th Street from Broadway, the Morton House forming part of the background. Crowds line both sides of the cable car tracks, falling back as the band heading the first division swings around Dead Man’s Curve and passes the camera. Chief Devery makes a fine showing, as also do his men, with their white gloves and helmets, shining buttons and spick and span appearance in general.”