. . . for the preservation of good order and the public morals therein. . . .”

With these words and to these ends, the Police Force of Kingston was created by the Common Council of Kingston on December 20, 1841. 

The history of the Kingston Police

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.  The following pages offer a comprehensive look at the history of Kingston Police.

In the beginning

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.  It is also an evolving history of steady growth and constant transformation as the force continues to adapt to social changes and embraces developing technology.

To understand the history of policing in Kingston fully, one must first understand the social milieu and the nature of law enforcement in the period leading up to the creation of the force.  As part of the Midland District of Upper Canada, Kingston was governed under a centralized authority.  Responsibility for judicial, legislative, and administrative matters was in the hands of the Justices of the Peace for the district, who were appointed by the Lieutenant Governor.  As well as making rules and regulations for the district, they appointed the High Constable and determined the number of constables for each community in the district.  In 1815, four constables were authorized for Kingston.  They were elected by the ratepayers and apparently were unpaid.  They operated under the direction of the Justices of the Peace and provided, among other things, a response to reported crimes.

In the early 1800s, the population of Kingston was largely transient in nature.  The War of 1812 filled Kingston with the soldiers and dockyard workers needed to protect the vital Lake Ontario–St. Lawrence River link.  It must have been an especially rowdy and difficult community within which to maintain any semblance of law and order.  The four elected constables would have had little power to deal with the frequent disorderly behaviour and the many minor infractions that were common at the time.  Following the war, Kingston continued to grow in size and importance as a port, a commercial centre, and a garrison town.  This growth was spurred in part by the large immigration of Irish workers required for the building of the Rideau Canal (completed in 1832); the Kingston Penitentiary (commenced in 1834); and Fort Henry, the main portion of which was completed in 1836.  At this time, the population of the community was reported to be 3,613.

A review of period newspapers and the activities of the Court of the Quarter Sessions indicates that the main crime brought before the courts of the day was that of being drunk and disorderly.  Penalties for more serious offences were harsh.  In 1822, they ranged from fines to whipping, standing at the pillory, capital punishment, and imprisonment.  For example, for assault and petty larceny, one received a one-month imprisonment and twenty-five lashes; a female keeping a disorderly house received three months’ imprisonment and had to stand twice at the pillory.  Into the 1830s, crimes and penalties had changed little, except that it seems that imprisonment on bread and water had become popular, at least with those doing the sentencing.  The British Whig reported on April 30, 1836, that a husband and wife had been convicted for keeping a disorderly house and sentenced to two months’ imprisonment on bread and water.  Their four children were made public charges during this time of imprisonment.

The role of a police officer in the nineteenth century was not synonymous with that of today.  Records of 1826 note that a gentleman named Henry Wilkinson was appointed police officer and street surveyor at a salary of £50 per year.  This is the first known record of a paid police officer in Kingston.  During the cholera epidemics of the 1830s, constables were required to enforce emergency regulations enacted to control the outbreak.  Constables were also required to enforce town rules and regulations covering anything from street paving and repair, slaughter houses, nuisances, inspection of weights and measures, and laws respecting animals.  Minor crimes and infractions of town laws were handled by courts where the mayor or a designated alderman sat as Justice of the Peace.  In 1840, Samuel Shaw, the High Bailiff, appeared as a witness and to collect the fines imposed.  On August 2, 1840, he gave evidence that he had observed I. A. Irons deposit a quantity of shavings on one of the park lots.  Irons was fined 20 shillings plus costs.  On the same day, Shaw gave evidence that he had ordered William McConnell to clean out his privy after receiving a complaint about the odour.  The defendant was fined 20 shillings for failing to comply with this order.

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.  The Mayor was chosen by the Common Council, which also had the power to appoint the High Bailiff. 

The Union Act, 1840, which took effect on February 10, 1841, united Upper and Lower Canada into the Province of Canada and, for a period, changed the fortunes of Kingston.  When Kingston was designated as the capital of the united Province of Canada, the population of the town grew rapidly, and construction of a grand Town Hall was begun.  In that year, the Town Council also had great concern over the level of crime and the efficiency of the constable system to deal properly with soldiers, sailors, boatmen, and the growing number of transients and immigrants.  In September 1841, a Report of the Grand Jury on the State of the Gaol urged the Mayor and Common Council to rectify the “unprotected condition of the Town of Kingston in regard to its police and afford the necessary security of the inhabitants.”  The Council resolved to establish a permanent paid police force.

Initially, the force was to be created on a trial basis for six months, beginning November 1, 1841; an advertisement placed in the Chronicle and Gazette on October 20, 1841, stated:

Notice is here by given, that application will be received at this Office until 7 o’clock on Monday Evening next, the 25th of Oct. instant, from such persons as are desirous to fill the situation of SUBCONSTABLE in the NEW POLICE FORCE authorized to be established by the Common Council, from the 1st day of November next to the 1st day of May 1842.  There are to be four SubConstables with a salary of £60 per annum each, and a suit of uniform at the disposal of the council.  The police force to be commanded by the High Bailiff of the Town.  The form of application will be by petition accompanied by certificates of character, recommendations, etc.

By order of the Mayor and Common Council.

On December 20, 1841, the Common Council of Kingston moved to make the force permanent and passed “An Act to establish a Police Force in the Town of Kingston,” which stated in part:

Whereas from the great increase in the trade and population of Kingston, and for the preservation of good order and the public morals therein, it has become necessary to make further provision for the Police thereof.

The first force consisted of a High Bailiff / Chief Constable, Samuel Shaw, and four subconstables:  James Brophy, John Chace, John Paisley, and John Lambert.  Since there were no suitable quarters available for the new force, the Midland District allowed it space in the Court House and Gaol located at the corner of King Street and Clarence Street.

It is interesting to note that the Town of Kingston was experiencing some financial problems at that time in attempting to cope with expansion.  The new police force, only a few months old, was referenced in a letter sent from the Common Council on April 12, 1842, to several insurance companies in Kingston.  In this letter, which sought financial assistance from the companies to expand Kingston’s “Fire Companies,” Council pointed out that:

Council . . . established a Constabulary Police Force at very considerable expense who have already been found efficient in giving an early alarm in cases of fire, and who from constant observation they are making in all parts of the town, can make a report of any combustible materials . . . likely to promote or communicate fire.

The court records of the day indicate that the small force was kept busy in pursuits other than watching for fires, including such infractions as pigs at large, dumping refuse on the market, drunkenness, and disorderly conduct.  It would also appear from these records that there was a noticeable rise in arrests for being drunk and disorderly after the new force came into being.  In the court records, the accused were often described as being so drunk that the constable had to “hire a cart” to bring the person to the Station House.  Dealing with the drunk and disorderly must have been a sizable task for the five-man force, considering that in 1842 there were 136 licensed taverns in Kingston and its suburbs, serving a community of approximately 8,000 to 9,000 inhabitants.  In the early 1840s, a Select Committee investigated the problem and reported that, on one street, over a distance of 180 yards there were “no less than thirteen licensed tavern or drinking houses, four of which adjoined each other” (City of Kingston, Report Book 1842–46).  These taverns and drinking houses served as meeting places for the working class and poor of the community, providing companionship and amenities not available at home.  The sale and consumption of liquor in Kingston must have been a difficult problem for the Council to address:  it was reported in the British Whig on March 3, 1854, that the sale of liquor licences in 1853 accounted for over 10 percent of the city’s total revenue, giving Council a vested interest in the consumption of alcohol.

As 1844 dawned, times began to change in Kingston.  The seat of government was removed from Kingston, and property values dropped as a result.  The substantial debt incurred in building the Town Hall was not being met.  As a cost-cutting move, Council decided to abolish the police force, which by this time had grown to six subconstables.  In a letter dated April 9, 1844, to Chief of Police Samuel Shaw, the Clerk stated:

I am directed by the Common Council to inform you that they have come to the resolution to do away with the Police Force, from and after the first day of May, and you will please, therefore, inform each of the SubConstables that their services will not be required after that period.

This position apparently was reconsidered quickly, and it was decided instead to reduce the size of the force and to decrease wages from £60 to £40.  Another letter was sent to Chief Shaw on May 2, 1844, which stated:

that the Common Council at their meeting, on the 29th ultimo, resolved that the Police force should be reduced to four subconstables at £40 each per annum and clothing from the 1st instant[,] SubConstables John Paisly and Isaiah McCandle being discharged from the 30th. . . .

Because of this reduction, the Clerk of the Peace was informed that constables would no longer be attending the courts, a service apparently provided by the force.

The plans for the new Town Hall included space for the police force.  The force moved into its new quarters in the basement of the Town Hall when it opened on November 21, 1844, and the Police Court was also held in the Town Hall basement.  The force’s accommodation consisted of one large day room and four cells, and these cells still exist today.  In commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Kingston Police in 2016, renovations to preserve and restore these original police holding cells were completed so that areas around the lockup could provide historical context through an accessible modern gallery showcasing some of the heritage collection belonging to the Kingston Police.

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.  The shifts were 11 to 13 hours long, officers had one Sunday off a month, and the pay was about $23 per week.  The force had two bicycles, no telephones, and no cars, and the officers did not carry guns.  The weekly hours of work dropped to 54 hours in 1937 and to 48 hours in 1939, but it was not until 1957 that the weekly hours of work reached the current level of 40 hours per week.

By 1932, the force had grown to 20 officers with a budget of $34,259.  It was not until after World War II that the force started to grow at a fairly constant rate.  By 1950, there were 36 officers policing a population of 32,924.  The first major annexation of property from the townships surrounding the city occurred in 1951, when the city annexed land west of Palace Road to the Little Cataraqui River.  With this came an increase of 10,000 in population, and 10 officers were added to bring the total to 46.  Post-war industrialization, with the building of Alcan, DuPont, Celanese Canada, and Northern Telecom, brought with it economic stability and steady population growth.  This resulted in an increase in the number of police officers, eventually reaching 116 in 1990.  The next ten years, however, were no doubt the most dramatic and demanding in the history of the force.  The decade began with provincial and federal government policies that placed intense pressures on the City’s annual budgets, followed by a local municipal restructuring under the Province’s 1996 Savings and Restructuring Act.  All of these events significantly impacted the Kingston Police and the manner in which they conducted business.

In 1993, facing increased budget deficits, the provincial government introduced the Social Contract Act as a means to reduce public sector salary costs.  It required both short-term cuts, causing employees across the province to take unpaid leave, and long-term reductions, whereby the savings achieved through unpaid leave were to become permanent cost savings.  Members of the force escaped having to take unpaid leave because of an agreement between the Kingston City Police Association and the Kingston Police Services Board that allowed approximately $1 million in a pension surplus fund to be used to cover these costs.  To cover the future annual long-term costs of approximately $250,000, the Board chose to offer retirement incentives to non‑commissioned officers; this resulted in the retirement in July and August 1994 of nine officers holding rank.  The ranks were permanently eliminated, but, as part of the incentive plan, six new recruits were hired in 1995 to replace the nine members who had left.

Feeling quite comfortable that it had met the budget challenges of the Social Contract Act, the Police Services Board was informed in late 1995 that it still had to reduce its 1996 budget submission by 14 percent (approximately $1.2 million).  Chief Closs, newly appointed in August 1995, had to find methods to help pay for a 1995 City deficit of $700,000, reduced federal grants in lieu of taxes, and sharply reduced provincial funding (the beginning of several years of provincial downloading of costs to municipalities).  Chief Closs recommended that the earlier retirement incentives again be offered to all members who qualified for retirement under the pension plan.  This resulted in an additional 8 officers leaving, reducing the sworn staff to 101 officers.  The Chief also recommended that additional revenues be generated through a program of alarm licensing, a program used in other municipalities but new to Kingston.  In addition, he was successful in having the Board authorize the implementation of a new driver education program, an initiative that was unique to Kingston.  Under the plan, drivers who were ticketed for more minor driving infractions were given an additional or “fourth” option for responding to a charge.  The new option allowed offenders to attend the police station to review safety material and write a test related to their infraction.  If successful on the test, participants paid an administrative fee—which could be credited to the City budget as opposed to the larger fine that would have gone to the provincial government—and their tickets were then not processed through the court system.  This “Option 4” program, as it came to be known, was popular with people who were charged and was quickly copied by several forces, both large and small, across the province.  The program remained in place until 2005, when the provincial government ordered all police forces to stop offering the extra option.

As part of the Province’s plan to reduce and download costs, in 1996 it passed the Savings and Restructuring Act, which dictated that smaller municipalities throughout the province should merge with their neighbours to create efficiencies.  The City, along with Kingston Township to the west and Pittsburgh Township to the east, was counselled to come up with an amalgamation plan or the Province would impose one.  After months of negotiation, the three municipalities agreed to amalgamate.  The mayor and the township reeves formed a Transition Board, which throughout 1997 was to develop the structure of the new city.  Policing was but one of the many issues that they had to tackle.  To complicate matters, Pittsburgh Township had been receiving free policing from the Ontario Provincial Police (a province-wide practice also set to end effective January 1, 1998, as part of the Province’s reforms) while Kingston Township had been paying for policing from the Ontario Provincial Police under a contract in effect until December 31, 1999.  With Pittsburgh being the more immediate issue, the Transition Board deliberated its options and ultimately asked the Kingston Police to take over policing in the Pittsburgh Township area in January 1998.  Seven new officers were hired to meet this commitment.

Because of the existence of the policing contract for Kingston Township, the newly formed city, which officially came into being on January 1, 1998, commenced operations with the Ontario Provincial Police providing policing services for the former Kingston Township area and the Kingston Police covering the remainder of the city.  Since this arrangement was viewed as temporary, on May 12, 1998, City Council debated a motion to Council that the Kingston Police take over responsibility for policing the entire city.  In the end, Council voted unanimously to have the Kingston Police assume policing responsibilities in the former Kingston Township as of July 1, 1999.  To that end, a steering committee was struck on June 15, 1998, in a joint meeting of Kingston City Council and the Kingston Police Services Board, to establish a framework for police services in the city of Kingston that would “enhance public safety and proactive service delivery with broader involvement of the community, leading to the integration of emergency services, while reducing overall policing costs.”

To meet the demands of the greatly expanded jurisdiction, the sworn complement of the Kingston Police increased by approximately one-third in 1999.  In consideration of the direction to reduce overall policing costs from pre-amalgamation levels (a combined officer complement of 155) the steering committee decided on a staffing model of 145 sworn officers for the enlarged force. 

As the force settled into its expanded role and experienced firsthand the policing demands in the new areas, it began to further analyse the full policing needs throughout the city, community feedback as to levels of service, and the impact of the Province’s Adequacy and Effectiveness Regulation.  The latter piece of legislation, a regulation under the Police Services Act in effect from January 2001 to set parameters for adequate and effective policing throughout the province of Ontario, along with other new provincial and federal legislation directly impacting on policing and the justice system, proved to be significant for resource levels:  by 2006, the force had grown to 182 sworn officers and 53 civilians.  A staffing review in 2006 identified a further need for additional resources and resulted in the sworn complement increasing to 198 officers by 2010; by the end of 2011, the civilian complement had increased to 60 positions.

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.

By 1951, the force had grown to 46 officers and 2 civilian employees.  Renovations began on the “Island Market” building (the wing extending westward from the main City Hall), which provided office space on two floors.  The holding cells were on the main floor, and the Magistrate’s Court and offices were on the second floor.  The force moved into this facility on October 27, 1952.

The city continued to grow, and with it the force, so that by 1969 the force strength was 92 officers and 8 civilians.  Again, larger and more modern quarters were needed.  During the same period, the City Administration and its various departments had outgrown the space allotted to them, and it was decided that a separate police building would be erected.  The Public Utilities Commission was on the move at the same time; thus, a narrow strip of property previously occupied by the Commission at the corner of Ontario and Queen streets was purchased, and a new 50,000-square-foot police headquarters was erected on the site.  This building was officially opened on January 14, 1972. 

Despite considerable internal renovations, with the rapid growth of the force in 1999 the Kingston Police outgrew the 11 Queen Street headquarters virtually overnight, and the planning process for a new headquarters began almost immediately with Rebanks Pepper Littlewood + Shoalts and Zaback, Architects in Joint Venture.  Site preparation and remediation was completed from July to December 2005 by Morven Construction Ltd., and in May 2006 M. Sullivan & Son Ltd. commenced construction of a new facility at 705 Division Street, just north of Railway Street. 

Full operations began at 705 Division Street on October 1, 2007.  The new headquarters constituted a dramatic departure from the status quo in the design of police facilities.  While many focussed only on security, the new headquarters was designed to be an expression in brick and mortar of ways to reduce environmental impacts and wisely use such resources as land, water, energy, and raw materials.  At the outset, the project rehabilitated a brownfield area recognized within Kingston’s Community Improvement Plan.  Upon completion and achieving a Gold certification, the new 121,087-square-foot Kingston Police headquarters was the first police building in Ontario and the first police headquarters in Canada with accreditation under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) standard.  The green building features incorporated into the facility demonstrate that building technologies and construction processes can be part of the solution to many of the environmental challenges facing society.  In addition to the LEED® requirements, the Kingston Police adhered to four guiding principles in making design decisions:  reduce (avoid using unnecessary materials); reuse (incorporate existing materials); recycle (incorporate existing materials in new ways); and rethink (look for new and better building solutions).  The facility was designed to accommodate up to 300 officers, but the site and building plans allow for future expansion.

The dedication and official opening of the new headquarters took place on January 28, 2008.  The following year, a dedication ceremony was held for the Victims of Domestic Violence Memorial that stands alongside the Kingston Police Fallen Officers Memorial at the front entrance.  Envisioned at the very beginning of plans for the new headquarters, this memorial, with its epigraph “To break the cycle of violence, we must end the cycle of silence,” is meant to be a very public testament that domestic violence is not acceptable and that learned behaviours that encourage violence within family units must change.

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.

Kingston is unique in Canada in that it is now and has been almost from the beginning a garrison town, a university town, and a penitentiary town.  These institutions have in some respects served to shape the police force, as well as the community.  Because of the demands placed on it by Kingston’s unique demography, the Kingston Police have often had to deal with major incidents not common in municipalities of comparable size.  By way of example, on August 15, 1954, Kingston’s police were called out when 200 of the almost 1,000 inmates in Kingston Penitentiary rioted and set fire to the old prison.  The fires resulted in the burning of the central dome, which later had to be replaced by a flat roof.  On this occasion, the entire police force was called in to surround the prison to prevent a possible mass escape.  On April 14, 1971, the inmates rioted again, took nine guards hostage, and released from the cells approximately 440 inmates, who took control of the prison cell blocks.  This incident lasted four days and resulted in the murder of two inmates at the hands of the rioters and in the complete destruction of the interior of the cell-block area.  When the inmates finally surrendered, Kingston Police detectives and identification staff were called in to conduct the resulting criminal investigations, a sizable task for a police force of approximately 92 officers.  For the next seven months, four detectives (one-third of the total criminal investigation staff of the force) worked exclusively on this task.  Over 500 interviews were conducted of the inmates alone.  As a result of this investigation, 13 inmates were brought to trial.  This trial was the largest criminal trial ever held in Canada, with all 13 inmates and their lawyers in one courtroom at the same time.    

The existence of penitentiaries in the area has also impacted police operations in the general community.  Beginning in the 1990s, increasing numbers of high-risk inmates began to be released into the city from local institutions.  These inmates, many of whom are sexual predators, are those who have completed their sentences but are deemed to be at high risk to reoffend.  This has meant an allocation of resources dedicated to high-risk offender management and to dangerous offender applications.  In addition, the force has provided officers for secondment to the Eastern Region Repeat Offender Parole Enforcement Unit.  Formed in 2002, this provincial unit works throughout eastern Ontario apprehending released inmates who have violated their parole.  

The Emergency Response Unit was established in 1981, following the review of an incident the previous year in which a barricaded sniper had wounded two citizens and fired at approximately twelve vehicles before being apprehended.  That same year the force had also responded to 25 other high-risk situations.  In an address to unit trainees in February 1981, Chief Rice stressed the stringent training requirements, as well as the high level of physical and psychological fitness demanded, to ensure the unit’s primary objective, the protection of life and property.

The Kingston Police Canine Unit was created in the summer of 1997 to support the Patrol Division and the Emergency Response Unit.  Constable Darren Keuhl and his partner, Razor, a male German shepherd, implemented the first Canine Unit for the Kingston Police, and a second canine team was added in 2009.    

A part-time Mounted Unit commenced in June 1999, thanks to a donation from the Downtown Business Association and the generous provision of horses and equipment from Kingston Police Constables Brad and Deb Wicklam.  The public relations benefit of the newly formed Mounted Unit became immediately apparent, for Constable Brad Wicklam and Monty, a Percheron thoroughbred cross, spent much of the first summer posing for pictures and meeting the public.  However, soon other values were recognized:  the visually large presence of horse and rider acted as a crime deterrent, and Monty’s height also allowed Brad to see into large gatherings.  Brad and Monty were soon called upon to assist in missing person searches, crowd control during major public events, and general enforcement, while maintaining regular patrols and enforcement in parks and the downtown core.  Upon Brad’s retirement, Constable Deb Wicklam took charge of the unit and assisted with succession planning for its continuation. 

Technological advances have created a new environment for criminal activity and thus another field for the Kingston Police.  In response, the force dedicated resources to the Provincial Strategy to combat Internet child exploitation and pursued ways to educate the public about the ever-increasing frauds generated electronically.

Conversely, advances in technology have also opened up a new medium for providing police service to the community.  Online reporting for certain non-emergency crimes or safety concerns was made available in 2011.  Initiated in 2005 and enhanced in June 2015, the Kingston Police online application process for police information checks earned the Municipal Information Systems Association Excellence in Municipal Systems Award in 2016.


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.

In 1939, the force installed its first radio transmitter and receiver in the police station and in its new cars; however, it was not until 1976 that three repeater sites were placed around the city, providing officers with not only mobile coverage but also with portable radio coverage when away from their cruisers.

The expansion of the force’s responsibilities in 1999 severely strained the limits of that system.  By realigning the repeater sites, mobile radio coverage was achieved throughout most of the city, but portable radio coverage was weak to non-existent in areas north of Highway 401.  As an interim solution, in-car repeaters were added to marked patrol cruisers.  This provided portable coverage in the rural areas, but it required officers to carry two portable radios with them, one for the old radio system and one for the in-car repeaters.  This solution was less than ideal; thus, following years of planning and work with both Kingston Fire and Rescue and the City’s Emergency Planning Department, a new radio system was installed and went operational in March 2006.  The new system provided the Kingston Police with a digital radio system with mobile and portable coverage across the city, as well as full encryption capability to provide a level of safety and security for the officers.  As well, for the first time, an Emergency Operations Channel was put in place to allow police officers, firefighters, utilities workers, and employees of the City Works Department to communicate with one another during an emergency.

In addition to the voice radio system, mobile data terminals were added to the marked patrol cars in 1990, allowing the officers on patrol messaging capability, query access to the Canadian Police Information Centre system, and partial access to the force’s records system.  This was the third stage of computerizing the force’s operation, with a computer-aided dispatch system and a computerized record-keeping function having been added in 1985 and 1988.

Mobile data terminals were replaced in 2004 with laptop computers, providing far greater functionality and the ability to generate reports from the field.  In 2015, this equipment was upgraded to Toughpad® tablets in concert with a move from a dedicated data radio network with a bandwidth of 23 Kbps to an HSPA (high-speed packet access) / LTE (long-term evolution) network.  To take advantage of new technology and additional features, in 2016 the Kingston Police moved to a shared city P25 700 MHz trunked radio system, which greatly improved interoperability with other city agencies.

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.  In the early years, several of the “Chief Constables” came from the military, but since 1947 all have been professional career police officers.
1840–1849 Samuel Shaw
Prior to the formation of the force, Samuel Shaw had already been the High Bailiff.  He served as Chief from December 1841 until March 12, 1849, when he was replaced by Robert Channonhouse.
1849–1870 Robert Channonhouse
Robert Channonhouse, prior to being appointed Chief, had for some time been an elected Councillor representing Ontario Ward.  When he resigned and replaced Samuel Shaw as Chief of Police, Shaw was one of the persons nominated to run for the Councillor’s position left vacant by Channonhouse’s resignation.  In the subsequent election, Shaw was unsuccessful and eventually was appointed Market Collector.
1870–1874 John Robb
John Robb next became Chief, having joined the police force in 1846.  He served for many years as Sergeant Major until he became Acting Chief of Police in September 1870.  He was not confirmed as Chief until November 1871 and held that post until his death in October 1874.
1874–1881 Colonel S. B. Hance
The death of Robb left the small force of eight subconstables, two sergeants, and a sergeant major without a Chief.  The British Whig, in an editorial published on Tuesday, October 20, 1874, strongly urged that there was no need to appoint a Chief since the force was too small and could adequately be supervised by the Sergeant Major.  The main benefit of this would be the saving of the $700 annual salary that the Chief had received.  The writer stated, “the duties of Kingston Chief of Police are more ornamental than urgent.”  The Police Commission of the day apparently did not agree and was not influenced by the editorial.  On November 10, 1874, a small report appeared in the British Whig announcing that “Colonel S. B. Hance, late U.S. Consul in this city, was elected Chief of Police by the Police Commission.”  Since it was a time when anti-American sentiment ran very high in some quarters, there was an immediate outcry demanding to know why an American citizen had been appointed Chief over other applicants who were British subjects (British Whig editorial, November 11, 1874).  The Whig demanded to know why “three Tory politicians” would appoint an American.  Feelings were so strong that an “Indignation Meeting” was held in Memorial Hall on November 12, 1874, so that the Mayor and members of the Commission could explain their actions.  It would appear that the meeting was well attended, particularly by those opposed.  A resolution was passed requesting that the Police Commission reconsider and appoint a local man or at least a British subject.  The Police Commission, being independent of Council, apparently was unmoved by the protests, and Colonel Hance commenced his duties as Chief of Police on November 16, 1874.  He served in that position for the next seven years. 
1881–1899 Captain Edwin Horsey
Captain Horsey (appointed Chief in 1881) and Major William Baillie (appointed Chief in 1899) both came from the military.  Captain Horsey retired after 17 years of service and was apparently well regarded by both the members of the force and the other civic employees and officials.  The former presented him with an easy chair and the latter with a clock on his retirement.  Dedications accompanying these gifts conveyed the “desire to speak in the highest terms of . . . [his] soldierly and gentlemanly bearing both to the Commissioners and to those under . . . [his] charge” (dedication from the Board of Police Commissioners, signed April 29, 1899) and how Captain Horsey had “won the respect and confidence of the men of the force” (dedication from the sergeants and constables of the police force, dated April 28, 1899).
1899–1918 William Baillie
Major Baillie was a local man, born in Barriefield.  He had been employed in several local businesses and had an accounting background.  Baillie retired from the Royal Canadian Militia with the rank of major.  He was 50 years old when appointed Chief and received a yearly salary of $800.  This apparently was a very popular appointment, for over 15 friends, prominent citizens, and aldermen were in attendance at his installation on Monday, May 1, 1899, at the Police Court.
1918–1919 Robert Nesbitt
Robert Nesbitt was appointed Chief late in 1918.  The Daily Whig on January 6, 1919, reported that he was 60 years old.  This seems to be in error, since he had already served 41 years as a police officer in Kingston.  Moreover, he was born in Ireland and was alleged to have had several years of previous police service in Liverpool before immigrating to Canada.  He was first appointed constable on May 1, 1877, and served the citizens of Kingston for a total of 42½ years as a police officer, the last year as Chief.
1919–1946 Captain Robert J. Robinson
Son of a noted Kingston boat builder, Captain Robert J. Robinson was born in Kingston in 1878 and, prior to World War I, was employed as an accountant at Livingston’s Men’s Wear.  In 1914 he enlisted as a captain in the 146th Battalion and went overseas as its Paymaster.  He returned after the war and applied for and was subsequently appointed Chief of Police on October 14, 1919, to fill the vacancy left by the death of Chief Nesbitt.  He was granted a leave of absence on June 15, 1946, and retired on December 31, 1946.  He was the longest serving Chief to date, appointed a total of 27 years.  Chief Robinson was the first President of the Police Association of Ontario, which from 1933 to 1950 represented all police personnel and their specific requirements and needs within the province of Ontario.  (In 1951, two association bodies evolved:  the Police Association of Ontario and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.)
1947–1958 John T. Truaisch
John T. Truaisch came to the force on June 15, 1946, as Deputy Chief after 11 years of service with the Ontario Provincial Police.  He was appointed Chief of Police as of January 1, 1947, and he served until his death in October 1958.  Chief Truaisch served as the 1955/56 President of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.
1959–1974 Robert W. Nesbitt
Robert W. Nesbitt, the grandson of the 1918 Chief Robert Nesbitt, joined the police force as a constable on August 1, 1940, and served in various ranks until 1959, when he was appointed Chief to succeed John Truaisch.  He retired in 1974 after 33 years of service.  He and his grandfather served on the force a total of 75½ years.
1974–1976 Roland R. Smith
Roland R. Smith was born in England and immigrated to Canada.  He served a number of years on the police force in London, Ontario, and held the rank of inspector with that force at the time of his appointment as Kingston’s Police Chief in 1974.  He died in 1976 while serving as Chief of Police.
1976–1994 Gerald S. Rice
Gerald S. Rice began his police career with Ottawa’s police force and then served with the police forces in Brantford and North Bay, the latter as Deputy Chief, prior to being appointed Chief in Kingston in 1976.  He served in that position until 1994, when he tragically died of a heart attack one month before he was to commence retirement.
1994–1995 William R. Hackett
William R. Hackett joined the Kingston Police in 1951.  He held several key senior positions, including Deputy Chief, before being appointed Chief upon the death of Chief Rice.  He held the position for one year while the Police Services Board conducted a search for a new Chief and retired in 1995 after 44 years of service, the lengthiest service ever recorded by an officer with the Kingston Police.  In recognition of his service, a city park was named in his honour, and in 1994 he received a Distinguished Service Award from Queen’s University for outstanding service to the university in his law enforcement role.  In retirement he continued to contribute to numerous community activities and accepted two six-year terms as a provincial appointee to the Kingston Police Services Board, in July 2002 and July 2011.
1995–2008 William J. Closs
After Chief Hackett’s retirement, William J. Closs was appointed Chief of the Kingston Police in August 1995.  He began his policing career with the Ontario Provincial Police in 1966 and ultimately achieved the rank of chief superintendent with that force.  He was honoured in 2007 with his investiture by the Governor General of Canada as an Officer of the Order of Merit of Police Forces for his incessant pursuit of policing excellence and accountability and for having the courage to lead by example in practising the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law.  By the time of the conclusion of his tenure as Chief of Police, Chief Closs had devoted over 40 years of his life to policing.
2008–2012 Stephen J. Tanner
On November 1, 2008, Chief Stephen J. Tanner became Kingston’s 15th Chief of Police.  He entered the policing profession as a member of the Halton Regional Police Service in the fall of 1982.  In 1998 he accepted the position of Deputy Chief of Operations with the Guelph Police Service, a position he held until relocating to Belleville, where he served first as the Deputy Chief in 2000 and then as Chief of Police in January 2002.  He served as the 2012/13 President of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and left the Kingston Police to accept an appointment as Chief of Police for the Halton Regional Police Service on September 1, 2012.
2013–2018 Gilles M. Larochelle

Chief Gilles M. Larochelle was appointed Chief of Police on June 17, 2013.  He began his policing career in May 1981 with the Ottawa Police Service and prior to his appointment as Kingston’s 16th Chief of Police had been part of the senior command structure of the Ottawa Police Service for over a decade, serving as an inspector, superintendent, and deputy chief in various assignments, including front-line command, investigation, community engagement, tactical operations, and media relations.

The Tip Staff

As a testament to the significant history of the Kingston Police, in 2016 a tipstaff was manufactured by Guthrie Woods Products Ltd.  At one end of the tipstaff is a Martello tower reproduction in bronze; at the other is a two-tiered hexagon containing engraved images of current and past crests/badges and police facilities.  Inside the tipstaff is an image of the original Kingston Common Council Act of December 20, 1841, imprinted on parchment, as well as a parchment containing the names and tenure of all chiefs of police (with reproductions of their signatures up to 2012).  Formally signed by Chief Gilles M. Larochelle during a meeting of the Kingston Police Services Board on December 15, 2016, this parchment will be signed by successive chiefs of police as command of the police service changes.  Adopted by the Kingston Police Services Board during the same meeting, the tipstaff will remain a symbol of the transfer of leadership to incoming chiefs of police. 

 2018–Current Antje B. McNeely
 On November 30, 2018, this tipstaff was bestowed upon Kingston’s first female police chief, Antje McNeely, who joined the Kingston Police in April 1985.  As a constable, sergeant (1992), staff sergeant (2001), and inspector (2007), she fulfilled assignments in the Uniformed Patrol, Special Services, Criminal Investigations, and Professional Standards units and headed the Patrol and Executive Services divisions.  Upon her appointment to Deputy Chief in July 2011, she assumed operational oversight for the Kingston Police and responsibility for developing strong strategic relationships within the Kingston community.  A graduate of Queen’s University, she achieved a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree in 1983 and completed the Professional Master of Public Administration in Policy Studies program in 2013. Chief McNeely was awarded the Police Exemplary Service Medal and first bar, as well as the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of her volunteer work.  In 2015 she was appointed as a Member of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces for her achievements and substantial contributions to the establishment of community partnerships in support of local law enforcement efforts.
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.

The first officer was Sergeant Samuel James Arniel.  On the afternoon of April 19, 1919, Sergeant Arniel was escorting a man whom he had arrested back to the police station.  The prisoner began to struggle with the officer, attempting to break free.  During the course of maintaining control of his prisoner, Sergeant Arniel suffered a massive heart attack and died.  Born in Kingston, he was 55 years of age and married at the time of his death.

The second officer was Merritt Carl Gray, who was appointed as a constable on May 3, 1946.  On Monday, April 26, 1948, while driving his motorcycle on Princess Street between Clergy and Sydenham streets, he skidded on a patch of oil and into a four-inch unpaved depression in the road.  Constable Gray was thrown over the handlebars and suffered massive head injuries, eventually succumbing to these injuries on April 29, 1948.  He had been married less than a year.  In August 2016 the Great Lakes Police Motorcycle Training Seminar dedicated the Merritt Carl Gray Trophy for the Elite Division in honour of this fallen motorcycle officer.

Just five years after the loss of Constable Gray, the force lost Millard Brennan, who joined the police force on May 1, 1942.  In the early hours of August 15, 1951, Constable Brennan was required to arrest a drunken man.  There was a scuffle, and the prisoner had to be carried to the police cruiser, as well as to the police cell.  Approximately 90 minutes later, Constable Brennan became ill and was taken to a local emergency room, where he died shortly thereafter from a heart attack.  Constable Brennan was only 39 years old and left a wife and two children. 

Detective Bruce Cooper also lost his life in the line of duty.  A 16-year veteran of the force, Detective Cooper received a gunshot wound through a closed apartment door while investigating a domestic incident on Lower Union Street on September 17, 1973.  He died on November 8, 1973, leaving a wife and six children. 

In the same decade, the force lost 29-year-old John Lau.  Constable Lau had stopped his police cruiser at the intersection of Brock Street and University Avenue and was killed instantly when the driver of a stolen vehicle, which was being pursued by anther police cruiser west on Brock Street, lost control and struck Constable Lau’s cruiser broadside.  Constable Lau was also married at the time of his death, July 29, 1978. 

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.

On March 9, 1961, the Board of Police Commissioners appointed Irene S. Cole to the new position of Policewoman, effective March 27, 1961.  Lois Yvonne Hill (November 13, 1961) and Mavis Orser (October 1, 1963) were the next appointees.  However, early policewomen were not viewed as a traditional police officers.  They worked only day shifts and were only allowed to drive an unmarked police vehicle.  Their limited duties included shadowing the police matron.  Moreover, they received no additional training and therefore had no ability to possess or carry a firearm.  Their uniform consisted of a skirt, shirt, jacket, and a female version of the forage cap, as well as the requisite hosiery and oxfords, even though this ensemble was no match for standing at intersections for crossing guard duty in winter conditions.

Linda Paul, hired in December 1966, in many ways cleared the path for those who followed in her footsteps.  In the early 1970s, she approached the Police Association about obtaining equal pay for female police officers.  The Association supported her, she and the only other policewoman at that time, Lois Knight, were successful in winning the right to equal pay.  In 1970 Linda was part of the first class of female officers to attend the Ontario Police College for recruit training, and her promotion to the rank of sergeant in 1981 was another first for women in the force.  She left the department in June 1988 after a rewarding career of 22 years to explore other employment opportunities.

In the latter part of the 20th century more women started to pursue a career in policing with the Kingston Police, and now female officers work throughout the organization.  Many have pursued promotional opportunities.  Antje McNeely, hired in April 1985, holds the distinction of being the first female officer to hold the ranks of staff sergeant (December 2001), inspector (January 2007), Deputy Chief (July 2011), and Chief of Police (November 2018).  She also was appointed as Acting Chief of Police from the time of Chief Tanner’s departure in September 2012 until the appointment of Chief Larochelle in June 2013.

The first generation of policewomen in Kingston had no female role models with whom they could identify, yet both men and women choose policing as a career for the same reasons:  to help people, keep the peace, and be part of a team working towards the common goal of a safe and secure community. 

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.  By February 1959 there were six members of the Kingston Police Department Clerical Staff:  Mrs. Mary Bradshaw; Miss Mary Jackson; Mr. Adrian O’Sullivan; Mr. Edward Porter; Mrs. Patricia Conner; and Mr. Nicholas Timmerman.  As employees of the Police Commission, in 1959 they sought and obtained affiliation with the Kingston City Police Association instead of the City Hall Staff Association for collective bargaining. 

As demands on police operations became more complex, civilian staffing expanded to assume crucial roles in administrative support, records control, court liaison, property and evidence control, information technology, human resources management, financial administration, and crime analysis, as well as a myriad of tasks formerly performed by sworn members, such as dispatching, front desk reception and non‑emergency reporting, court security and prisoner transportation, and prisoner monitoring.  By 2016 the Kingston Police operated with a civilian complement of 60 full-time employees and several part-time employees.

Community liaisons
No police force can carry out its mandate without the assistance and cooperation of other individuals and agencies.  The Kingston Police are fortunate to enjoy an excellent rapport with community partners too numerous to mention, but members of one community group are inextricably connected to the Kingston Police:  the Kingston Police Community Volunteers.

Initially starting with 25 members in 1996, the group now maintains approximately fifty volunteers.  Its mandate is to provide the Kingston Police with an enhanced community involvement, as well as to provide a wide variety of duties as required.  In a number of patrols, volunteer members have located stolen vehicles and property, assisted in accident scenes, conducted searches for missing persons, located intoxicated drivers, assisted in searching for evidence at crime scenes, and prevented public access to criminal standoffs.  In all of these instances, by providing direct support to the uniformed officers, the volunteers have allowed the officers to concentrate on their front-line tasks. 

The volunteers have also facilitated community outreach, by conducting child identification clinics, child car seat inspections, and station tours and by assisting with major events and parades.  They have also assumed the collection of abandoned bicycles, thereby relieving front‑line officers of this task.

Organizational evolution
Based on file archives, the organization responsible for policing services in the city of Kingston has been assigned several monikers, including the Kingston City Police Department, the City of Kingston Police Force, and the Kingston Police Force.  In the early 1990s “force” was replaced by “service” in many police agencies.  The Kingston Police Services Board opted for a different strategy:  by Resolution 94-29, passed on April 21, 1994, it decreed that Kingston’s police force shall be known as the Kingston Police.

Crests and badges for the city’s police force also changed over the years, although surviving samples indicate a consistent connection to the city’s regalia.  As part of preparations to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Kingston Police in 2016, the Kingston Police Services Board passed Resolution 15-9 on February 19, 2015, authorizing the Kingston Police to contact the Canadian Heraldic Authority and express the desire to receive armorial bearings from the Canadian Crown under the powers exercised by the Governor General.  On April 15, 2016, the Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada (Volume VI, Page 600) recorded armorial bearings for the Kingston Police.  The designs for the armorial bearings were also published in the Trade-marks Journal of October 5, 2016 (Volume 63, No. 3232).

The armorial bearings for the Kingston Police reflect the rich history of Kingston’s police force.  The artwork for the badge, which includes the shield of the arms of the city of Kingston in the centre, follows the traditional structure of municipal police badges.  The Royal Crown symbolizes the fact that the department assists in the administration of the Crown’s justice, while the maple leaves and trillium flower are references to Canada and to Ontario.  The ancient crowns and maple leaves in each corner of the flag symbolize that the force was established in the same year of 1841 that the city of Kingston was named as the capital of the Province of Canada.

The armorial bearings were officially acknowledged by the Kingston Police Services Board at its meeting of July 21, 2016, and presented to the community during the Kingston Police 175th Anniversary celebration held on December 20, 2016, at Memorial Hall in Kingston City Hall.  It was most fitting that this grant of armorial bearings and other 2016 accomplishments were commemorated at City Hall in the 175th anniversary year of Kingston’s declaration as the first capital of the Province of Canada and in the room in which Canada’s very first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, was laid in state prior to his funeral 125 years earlier.

Recent renovations preserve and restore the original City Hall police holding cells, in use from 1844 to 1906. Adaptation of the areas around the lockup provide historical context through an accessible modern gallery showcasing some of the heritage collection belonging to the Kingston Police.

City Hall  housed Kingston's original police headquarters. Opened in 1844, the design of the police department included working spaces for the constables and several cramped, dark basement cells to hold men, women and children arrested on suspicion of an array of crimes. These holding cells remained in regular use until 1906 and survive today as material evidence of nineteenth-century policing technique. The cells are currently the focus of a project to restore the spaces and use them to interpret the historical experience of ordinary Kingstonians and their encounters with social hardship, crime and the criminal justice system. Link to Historic City Hall - City of Kingston

The original dedication of Kingston’s police force was to the “preservation of good order and the public morals therein.”  That mandate is still a priority, but there are increasing demands on today’s police services, since they are available 24/7, to be the keepers of the social safety net, from preventing victimization to helping those with mental illness.  The men and women, sworn and civilian, who have chosen to dedicate themselves to this organization and its core values—

Respect Kingston Police Crest IntegrityKingston Police Crest Professionalism Kingston Police Crest Partnership Kingston Police Crest Leadership Kingston Police Crest Excellence

—provide an integral service to the Kingston community.  From its modest beginnings of five men, Kingston’s police force has been true to its purpose to promote safety and protect quality of life for everyone in Kingston, and that mission remains unchanged.

The British Whig, Kingston.

The Chronicle and Gazette, Kingston.

Closs, Bill.  “Cop Talk:  Women in the Force.”  Profile Kingston, May 14, 2008:  41–43.

Common Council of the Town of Kingston.  “An Act to establish a Police Force in the Town of Kingston,”

passed December 20, 1841.

Fyfe, Douglas.  “Transitions in Policing:  Kingston 1816–42.”  Historic Kingston 34 (1986):  68–85.

>Kingston Police Archives.

Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.  “Past Meets the Present:  A History.”  1986.

Porter, Edward.  “The Police in the King’s Town.”  Unpublished.

Upper Canada Statutes.  “An Act to regulate the POLICE within the Town of Kingston,” passed April 1, 1816.

---.  “An Act to Make more ample Provision for Regulating the Police of the Town of Kingston,” passed 1824.

The Whig-Standard, Kingston.