'Country Hopefuls'

Police parade "Under Arms" at Petrie Terrace Police Depot, Brisbane, 1867 (QP Museum)

Police parade "Under Arms" at Petrie Terrace Police Depot, Brisbane, 1867 (QP Museum)

A Police Act established the Queensland Police Force in 1863, or 150 years ago, and took effect on January 1, 1864. It stipulated that any applicants to the force be bachelors with no record of previous convictions or questionable associations of any kind:

No person shall be appointed Constable unless he shall be of sound constitution able-bodied and under the age of forty years of good character for honesty fidelity and activity and able to read and write.

The new colonial police had a complex role. In 1864, the population of the colony stood at 75,000 with a police contingent of 339 to preserve order and prevent crime in a colony that stretched over 400 square miles. The largest police establishment was in the capital of the colony, Brisbane. The men on the city beat were armed solely with batons. The physical requirements for entry into the force compensated for the lack of armaments. Stout uniformed men standing at near or over 6 feet in height with their batons at the ready were deemed an imposing enough sight to discourage potential depredators.

Recruitment and training took place in Brisbane at the Police Depot at Petrie Terrace, despite complaints from country hopefuls of their inability to travel to Brisbane. Although prevention of crime was the primary objective of Brisbane City Police, a Brisbane policeman was truly a jack-of-all-trades. Apart from the extensive policing duties (peace preservation, crime prevention, prosecution) the extraneous duties list contained on average fifty to eighty tasks:

James Lovett appeared to answer a summons for breaching a Town’s Police Act, when he was ordered to pay a total of 10 shillings for depositing manure on the North Quay. (Brisbane Courier, May 18, 1864)

We can only speculate how much police time these extra activities entailed.


The post, No Person Shall be Appointed Constable Unless, first published in Queensland Police Museum series FROM the VAULT on 12 March, 2013.