Fremantle Stuff > organisations > police. See also: police stations.
Policing in Western Australia
In 1829, the British Home Secretary established the London Metropolitan Police Force at Scotland Yard with 1,000 employees. It may have been coincidence that Robert Peel did so in the year that James Stirling arrived in the Swan River Colony. It was not coincidence that Stirling immediately set out to model his first steps in policing on the British model. In his Proclamation on 18 June 1829 he sowed the seeds of the way law enforcement and justice would proceed in the Colony. By December Stirling had appointed eight Justices of the Peace and Constables at Fremantle (4), Perth (5), Canning (1) and Swan (4). From 1829 to 1853, constables were employed - on foot, on horse and on water on a needs basis including soldiers from the military establishment. In 1853 the foot and mounted police were formed into a unified force; the water police joined the mainstream force in 1876. Diane Oldman, personal communication.
The Western Australian Police Force was officially established by the Police Ordinance Act in 1849. This Act established a formal police force with a Chief of Police, supported by a legislated organisational structure.
The first published Code of Rules and Regulations governing the Western Australian Police Force appeared in 1853, outlining a new administrative structure and regulations.
During the last few decades of the Victorian era and well into the 20th century, the view from the highest point of Fremantle Prison enabled the eyes of residents and random visitors to settle on several sites resonant with law officers and law enforcement in the port city. The Henderson Street police quarters, with a station and lockup attached, lay just below the prison. Within easy walking distance, but closer to the sea, the earlier police station, barracks and stables were located directly east of the Round House, not far from the Water Police station and the old traffic office. During the time of the Convict Establishment, the sight of the courts by the Round House, the Commissariat, the Enrolled Pensioner Force (EPF) parade ground and the pensioner guard and warder cottages will have struck a chord with men in blue uniforms.
Most of these buildings have since disappeared or changed beyond recognition, but the remnants enhance the historical traditions and heritage of Fremantle, one of the best preserved traditional port towns anywhere. Fremantle’s survival from 1829 as a continuing and discrete law enforcement jurisdiction, with a local chief of police, also makes it a rather old police district in world terms. Examination of policing in the port from 1829 until the 1872 police district reforms is a worthy exercise, one involving the early policing geography of Fremantle, working conditions of the colonial constables, the type of work they did and the kind of people they were, or wanted to be (Conole, 2010: 12).
Hitchcock, writing in 1919:
But to return to the ‘Gaol Hill’. Descending the steps from the Round House we will wend our way up the old time High-street taking the northern side first. The first buildings were the Police Station and constables’ quarters, located close to the tunnel and on both sides of the street. These were old fashioned structures, and in these days would be considered too primitive for even a bush township. The police of those days had ample work to do. About half the adult male population were either expirees or ticket-of-leave men over whom they had to exercise surveillance. ‘Are you bond or free?’ was the question every one was liable to be bailed up with if he ran against a policeman to whom he was unknown, and a refusal to answer meant being run in without more ado. The practice was continued long after any necessity for it existed.
Peter Conole was the WA police historian. See his books and papers below.
Bentley, Mollie 1993, Grandfather was a Policeman: The Western Australian Police Force 1829-1889, Hesperian, Carlisle.
Conole, Peter 2002, Protect and Serve: A History of Policing in Western Australia, WA Police Historical Society, Scarborough.
Conole, Peter 2006, 'Fremantle 1919: A Slice of Policing Life', Western Australia Police Historical Society.
Conole, Peter 2010, 'Policing the port in early colonial times', Fremantle Studies, 6: 12-28.
Conole, Peter 2016, Irish Lives in the Western Australian Police, Western Australia Gaelforce Promotions, Kingsley.
Hitchcock, J.K. 1919, 'Early Days of Fremantle: High Street 50 Years Ago', Fremantle Times, one of a series of articles on 'Early Days of Fremantle' publ. 21 March - 20 June 1919.
Oldman, Diane, three websites: Royal Sappers and Miners in Western Australia, Crimean War Veterans in Western Australia, and Redcoat Settlers in Western Australia 1826-1869.
Pashley A.R. (Don) 2000, Policing Our State: A History of Police Stations and Police Officers in WA, 1829-1945, Educant, Cloverdale.
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