RECORDS OF EARLY POLICING IN VICTORIA


Police Historian Gary Presland described early policing in the Port Phillip District and provided sources of information for reasearch.

In May 1836, Police Magistrate George Stewart arrived in the Port Phillip District with Sergeant John Shields and Constable Timothy Callaghan of the Sydney Police to investigate an affray between European settlers and aborigines. Their stay was brief but it was obvious that the settlement at Port Phillip needed a permanent police force and thus the Native Police Corps was formed.

There were three separate groups of Native Police. The first, under the command of Christian Ludolph Johannes de Villiers, lasted from 28 October 1837 to 7 January 1838. This group concentrated on marching and drilling. They were located at Narre Warren on property bounded by Dandenong Creek, Police Road and Stud Road.

De Villiers resigned and was reinstated as commander from April 1838 to January 1839. This group was located at Jolimont adjacent to Police Magistrate William Lonsdale's house, in an area bounded by Wellington Parade, Punt Road and the Yarra River.

The third group of the Native Police Corps was commanded by Henry Edmund Pulteney Dana from January 1842 to November 1852.

For information on the Native Police Corps read "Good Men and True - The Aboriginal Police of the Port Phillip District 1837 - 1853" by Marie Hansen Fels.

The City of Melbourne and County of Bourke Police Force was formed in September 1836. Robert Day was appointed District Constable, Joseph William Hooson and James Dwyer were constables. Henry Batman replaced Robert Day and in October 1837 was promoted to the rank of Chief Constable in charge of seven constables and several mounted policemen. Two ex-prison warders from Van Diemen's Land were employed to identify escaped convicts but proved to be ineffectual.

In August 1838 William Wright became Chief Constable. He commanded eleven constables and one scourger. The latter was employed to flog minor offenders whose punishment was flogging rather than imprisionment, as jail space was scarce.

The world's first Detective Branch was formed in Port Phillip in 1844. It consisted of about four detectives and acted as an entirely separate body.

The Rural Bench Constabulary was made up of police attached to the office of Police Magistrates in country districts such as Portland and Geelong. Gwen Bennett's article in the Journal of Police History ( Volume 7, No. 1 ) is of interest.

Another group of rural police was the Mounted Police. They were set up in 1838 from Sydney to man stations along the main road to Melbourne. In 1840 there were seven sergeants, twenty-one mounted troopers and seven dismounted troopers. Information about this group is found in Volume 6, chapters 9 & 10, of "Historical Records of Victoria" (PROV).

Henry Gisborne, as Commissioner of Crown Lands, formed the Border Police in September 1839 to monitor land acquisition by squatters. The Border Police were armed, mounted police and sometimes convicted military men were employed in exchange for a reduction of their sentence.

To be transported around the coastline, Charles La Trobe organised the Water Police in 1841. Stationed at Williamstown they were absorbed into the Victoria Police in 1853 as was the Detective Unit.

The discovery of gold was the catalyst that produced centralisation of the Victorian Police Force. The Native Police Force still existed and had the onerous task of checking mining licences. They worked alongside the Gold Fields Police as did private and government run gold escorts. Control of police in Melbourne had become centralised in January 1850 and in January 1853 the Victorian Police Force came into existence.

Studying police records is worthwhile as our ancestors names may turn up as members of the police forces, victims of crime, perpetrators of crime, witnesses of crime, or as members of juries. Other sources that Gary recommends are "The People's Force" by Robert Haldane, "Cops and Robbers, a Guide to Researching 19th Century Police and Criminal Records" which he co-wrote with Helen Doxford Harris. Her website has many links of helpful information.

(The Above is a Report on the Address by Gary Presland
at the Annual General Meeting on 12 March 2005)

Contributed by Jan Hanslow ( PPPG Member No. 1057 )


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