Kingston Police

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History

THE KINGSTON POLICE:

SERVING OUR COMMUNITY SINCE 1841

 

Based on “150 Years of Service:  The Kingston Police Force 1841–1991”
by Staff Inspector Earl C. McCullough, May 1991,
published in Historic Kingston, Volume 40, 1992.
Revised by Deputy Chief Daniel L. Murphy in December 2006
and Donna Harrington in December 2016.

In the Beginning
In the Beginning

With these words and to these ends, the Police Force of Kingston was created by the Common Council of Kingston on December 20, 1841. From humble beginnings and representing one of the oldest Canadian police forces in existence, members of the Kingston Police have established a long and proud tradition of serving the Kingston community. It is a history that has seen the force sustain itself through the prosperous as well as the hard times that the city itself has endured.

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A Police Force Is Born
A Police Force Is Born

Throughout the early part of the nineteenth century, Britain struggled with ways in which to govern its Canadian colonies, just as communities within the colonies struggled with the form of government under which they would exist. In 1838, Kingston was incorporated as a town with four wards. The Town Council was composed of four aldermen and four common councillors. 

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Growth and Change
Growth and Change

The size of Kingston's police force fluctuated between 8 and 10 officers during the 1850s and then increased to 12-15 officers in the early 1860s, with a total police budget of about $4,500. The force strength remained virtually unchanged until well into the next century. During this time, Kingston had grown from about 15,000 in 1860 to 22,368 in 1920. In 1919, there were 15 officers on the force. They worked a 72-hour week, on nights two weeks out of three. 

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Police Facilities
Police Facilities

As the force expanded over the years, its requirement for space also increased.  By 1906, it was located on the main floor of the City Hall between the Market Building and the main building, with the Police Court across the corridor.  At this time, the strength was 14 officers. 

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Unique Challenges and Specialty Units
Unique Challenges and Specialty Units

The nature of policing has changed since 1841, and the Kingston Police have kept pace with these changes.  Prior to and during the nineteenth century, the security of the community and the maintenance of peace and order fell to the military for the most part.  In times of emergency, the town depended on the military to assist in cases of riot, civil disorder, and major fires.  However, as the force grew with the city, these duties were taken over by the professional police force.

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Equipment
Equipment

The history of Kingston’s police force, like that of all forces, is tied to the changes and advances in technology.  With the advent of the automobile, the problems of traffic control and enforcement escalated.  At the same time, the ability to respond to the needs of the city improved when the officers were then able to use cars rather than bicycles or horse-drawn vehicles. 

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The Keepers of the Peace
The Keepers of the Peace

No history of an organization would be complete without reference to the people who, through the years, provided the leadership that shaped the character of the force and, most important, to those who gave their lives in upholding its ideals.

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In Memoriam
In Memoriam

The Kingston Police are aware of five officers who died as a result of actions that occurred while they were on duty.  Their names are inscribed on a memorial at the entrance to police headquarters to remind us of the ultimate sacrifice they made.

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The Thin Blue Line Is in the Pink
The Thin Blue Line Is in the Pink

Although women were often employed as civilian “police matrons” (mature women who searched and escorted arrested females to their cells and monitored their well-being) “policewomen” were not hired until 1961.  The topic was broached by Chief Robert W. Nesbitt during the meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners on February 14, 1961, at which time the Board resolved that “Chief Nesbitt be authorized to appoint a police woman to the force at the commencing salary of $3,000 and to make arrangements for her training at the Police School in Toronto.”  Notably, the salary for a male probationary constable in 1961 was $3,603.60, and the collective agreement specified a police matron’s salary as $3,693.82.

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Civilian Complement
Civilian Complement

As the police service grew in officer strength, so did the complement of civilian staff dedicated to supporting the many facets of police service delivery.  

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