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Historical background

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POLICING IN THE PROVINCE OF NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR

 

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The history of policing in Newfoundland and Labrador dates back to the year 1807 when Constabulary tavern keepers in the city of St. John’s were required to perform police duties as a prerequisite to obtaining a license to operate their taverns. This method of Policing the town survived for many years.

 

These tavern keepers were too busy making money and consequently did not afford the necessary protection to citizens and property. As a result of numerous complaints, the Government passed a Bill on July 19th. 1833 to provide a Night Watch for the Town. When extra assistance was needed for these night patrols, it was provided by the Imperial Troops, which consisted of two companies (Rifle and Artillery) totalling 260 men at the garrison of Fort Townsend and Fort William.

 

For the most part, this Night Watch was comprised of older citizens and while a bit on the shaky side insofar as their legs and arms were concerned, they were, nevertheless, the proud possessors of good lungs. Commencing at midnight and continuing every hour thereafter, they would blast out the word "Twelve o’clock and All’s Well!". These stentorian roars caused so much annoyances to citizens who became irrate at this disconcerting practice, that the Night Watch became the object of much ridicule. In fact, men were often injured by well-aimed objects being thrown at them from upstairs windows, not to mention being foully felled by groups of hoodlums.

 

On July 22, 1856 the Constabulary sallied forth arrayed for the first time in a regular uniform, which consisted of a blue coat, figured in white with a stand-up collar, a tall hat with a glazed top (called, in those days, "bell-topper"), and a pair of trousers. ( For accoutrements and aids to subjugation of the lawless, our local "Bobbies" sported a bull’s-eye lantern, a "toggle" which did duty as handcuffs, and a stick).

 

Around this time Sir John Harvey, Inspector General of Policing in Ireland, was appointed Administrator of the Colony. He sent for a Mr. Timothy Mitchell who had served in the Irish Force, and who, on his arrival in Newfoundland, served in this Company for 30 years. During the years of Insp. Mitchell’s jurisdiction the Port of St. John’s was visited by a great number of foreign shipping, which involved a large tonnage of English, French and American men-o’-war. Therefore in the summer months particularly, the Police Force had their hands full with the hordes of seamen, who, when they were not drinking themselves into unconsciousness in the liquor saloons, were putting their mates asleep in no gentle manner in the city streets. The members of the Force were all of splendid physique, and though good-tempered to a degree, did not shrink from a "tussle", and could always count on the assistance of the public-spirited citizens in times of disorder. Inspector Mitchell died on September, 1871. It was evident a more effective policing was necessary.

 

The Newfoundland Constabulary was established after the withdrawal of the Imperial Troops in 1871. The Constabulary policed the whole of Newfoundland until July, 1935. In 1935 the Newfoundland Ranger Force came into being. They were organized to perform duties in the smaller towns and isolated areas of the Island. The Constabulary remained at the larger towns and  settlements. The original Newfoundland Ranger Force of 30 men under the command of Major L. T. Stick, an ex-army Officer from World War I, was trained at Whitbourne under the direction of Sergeant - Major F. Anderson of the R.C.M.P. who was loaned by the Canadian Government for this purpose. After three months of extensive training, five detachments were opened in the Labrador District. A border post was opened in December, 1935 at Forteau. The following year, authorized strength was raised to 50 and other posts were opened along the west and south coasts of the Island as well as along the railway line in the interior.

 

During World War II, the Rangers were given a host of new tasks such as conducting National Registration, Aircraft Detection, Submarine Watch in the Coastal Areas, etc. Towards the end of 1941 their headquarters was moved from Whitbourne to St. John’s. By 1945 the Force had increased to a full strength of 77 men and two Officers and were operating 44 detachments including 9 in Labrador.

 

The RCMP was founded in 1873 and modelled after the Royal Irish Constabulary. Some years later 30 RCMP members were posted to Newfoundland for the purpose of enforcement of Federal Statutes. On August 1, 1950, as a result of an agreement between Deputy Commissioner Gray and the Honourable L. R. Curtis, Attorney General of Newfoundland, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police took over the duties of the former Newfoundland Rangers and of certain selected members of the Newfoundland Constabulary outside the city of St. John’s. The term of this agreement was from 1st. August, 1950 to 31st. July, 1956. In 1950 the R.C.M.P. was under the command of Commissioner S. T. Wood and the Force in Newfoundland was under the command of Inspector D. A. (Tony) McKinnon. The Force was given the responsibility of policing all of Newfoundland and Labrador except for the City of St. John’s which is currently being policed by the Newfoundland Constabulary. The 55 members serving in the Newfoundland Rangers were accepted into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as well as 20 members of the Newfoundland Constabulary. The strength of the Force in the Province jumped from 30 members in 1949 to 140 officers.

 

With additional annual increases in the R.C.M.P’s establishment, it was decided in 1954 to divide the Province into two sections for policing purposes. Subdivision Headquarters were opened in Corner Brook and St. John’s. As the Force continued to expand two more Subdivisions were organized, Gander and Labrador.

 

From 1950 on, the R.C.M.P. has spread its wings in various fields in the province; to name just a few, the introduction of Air Services, Marine Transportation, Highway Patrols, Forensic Identification, Police Dog Services, Computer Technology and Telecommunications as well as the expansion of federal policing. The RCMP in "B" division, as well as the rest of Canada, is undergoing major changes within the organization. "B" Division is currently structured under a Region know as the Atlantic Region which includes the Provinces of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

 

Today the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is being policed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

 


RCMP/GRC 1999

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