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British Columbia Provincial Police

British Columbia Justice Over 92 Years - - 1858 - 1950 - - A Short History

by Lon Godfrey with excerpts from the History of the B.C.P. Police - submitted by Eric Hallam

Usually a 50th anniversary is a time to celebrate, but for many ex-members of the British Columbia Provincial Police it is a sad memory. For on August 15th 1950 the B.C. Government closed down this once proud police force as it was absorbed into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

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But what was this police force that so few people know about to-day? The first territorial law enforcement body west of the Great Lakes, the British Columbia Provincial Police had its beginning at the historic site of Fort Langley in November 1858 - 15 years before the formation of the North West Mounted Police. It had taken the British authorities 15 years to heed to the pleadings of Governor James Douglas for adequate policing for this new colony, although there was but one policeman patrolling 360,000 square miles in the northern part of the territory of gold miners, trappers and traders.

Governor Douglas appointed Judge Mathew Baillie Begbie as the first Supreme Court Justice - he later became known as The Hanging Judge and is buried in Victoria, and Chartress Brew as Chief Inspector of Police who was laid to rest in Barkerville. He had served as an Inspector with the Royal Irish Constabulary in Cork, Ireland, and indicated that the force should be formed from people in the communities. With a population of about 20,000 people British Columbia subsequently entered Confederation in 1871.

By 1910 the force consisted of 186 men and in 1923 the Commissioner reorganized the force, which included a new administration system by dividing the province into divisions; issuing uniforms of khaki and green; semi-military ranks; new rates of pay; a training school; and a mounted troop. The need for faster communication brought the first inter-city radio telegraph system in North America fully integrated with radio equipped cars and coastal patrol vessels whose high-frequency radios were designed and built in the police work shops. At sea came the same high degree of modernization and in the 1920Ăs these sailor policemen were manning a fleet of gasoline and diesel motor launches operating over 5000 miles of shoreline.

The force became the first law-enforcement agency to develop an air arm crime laboratories; sophisticated sections for fingerprints; firearm and ballistics; identifications; highway patrols and investigation divisions. Thus recognized as one of the most modern of the worldĂs police organizations, during World War II the force was entrusted to recruit for the armed forces. They also examined fishing and hunting licenses; provided custom and excise services; did livestock brand inspections; issued trap-line permits; were Registrars for Vital statistics; served civil court documents; even issued dog licenses. Besides investigating crimes they also acted as Court prosecutors, jailers and prisoner escort services - overtime work was a necessity but extra pay was never heard of nor received. Following the Second World War many members who had enlisted rejoined the force, bringing with them youth, enthusiasm, experience, regimentation, dedication, common sense and discretion.

In the early days the police halted the toting of guns by American miners; put an early end to community wars, put the fear of the law into bad Whites and Indians, of which there were many during the 1860Ăs. They went into quick action whenever the Sons of Freedom did their strip tease acts and arson; did outstanding prevention work when the rum runners were active during prohibition days; they removed from circulation many who sold liquor to Indians as well as those trafficking in narcotics. A number of force members laid down their lives in the line of duty.

By August 1950 these were the men who had stood for law and order for the previous 92 years. As they passed out of the picture, the British Columbia Provincial Police Force consisted of 520 men and they became part of our stirring history. They cost the province nearly $2,250,000 per year to administer in 1949-50. Last year similar policing costs exceeded $ 46 million. Now,142 years after the formation of the force there are some 100 Veterans and a known 47 widows of ex-members in the Association, who remember the ˘good old days÷ and many of them meet regularly each month to relive their friendships and memories. Over the years plaques commemorating the history of the force have been presented to many municipal governments to ensure the general public become aware of this important historic police force.

J.A.L. (Lon) Godfrey. was born in Saskatvchewan in 1926. Lon joined the Canadian Navy (RCNVR) l944 - 46. He was studying pharmacy and for summer employment joined the B.C.P.Police in l948. After 3 months probation he was transferred to Williams Lake, then transferred to R.C.M.P. in August l950. In 1953 Lon purchased his discharge for personal reasons and went into private business of General Insurance, Real-estate and Notary Public. At present he is the Okanagan Vice President for the B.C.P.P. Vets Assn. He is also a director of the RCMP Vets Okanagan Division. E-mail Lon Godfrey - lgodfrey@silk.net

Eric R. Hallam was born in British Columbia in l926. He joined the Royal Canadian Navy as a boy seaman in l943, purchased a discharge in 1946. Early in l947 Eric joined the B.C.P.Police. Six weeks before the change over took place he was stabbed in his heart and lung. The RCMP demanded he sign a waiver that they would not be responsible if he had heart or lung trouble. He was directed by the compensation board not to sign. After he recovered in l951 Eric Hallam went to the New Westminster City Police. After marrying a local girl he left New Westminster in September of 1952. In December l952 Eric went to the West Vancouver Police where there was a force of nine members. He stayed at West Vancouver until l974 when he left as Deputy Chief with a force of 80 plus employees. The B.C.P.P. Vets Association was formed in 1964 and Eric was secretary for the first l8 years. He was off for about four or five years and the back in one office or another. At present Eric Hallam is both President and Secretary of the B.C.P.P. E-Mail Eric R. Hallam (EricR._Hallam@telus.net)

Red's Bones - The first of a series of short stories concerning the British Columbia Police Department,
written by long-time essayist at The Inditer, D. Grant DeMan.(DeMan's page)

The Inditer Index - - - The Inditer Main Page - - - Email Lon Godfrey - - - Email Eric R. Hallam

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