‘Sir, I respectfully offer myself a Candidate as Constable in the Queensland Police Force’

John Brannelly (Registered Number 296) handwritten application letter and the Royal Irish Constabulary character reference, 1871. Source: Queensland Police Museum

‘Sir, I respectfully offer myself a Candidate as Constable in the Queensland Police Force’ – all candidates for admission into the Queensland Police Force had to apply in person, with an application in their own handwriting, and such testimonials as they may have. Despite complaints from country hopefuls, who found it difficult to travel to the colonial capital, all men wishing to be considered for the position had to assemble at the Police Depot on Wednesday at 9 o’clock in the morning. The applicants had to be of sound constitution, stand clear at least 5 feet 8 inches without their boots, with chest measurements of 36 inches minimum and 38 inches when expanded. All men had to be free from any bodily complaint. Each applicant was assessed by a medical officer. Initially, the age bar was set to under 40 years old, but was shortly lowered to 30 years old. All candidates had to possess basic literacy skills; be able to read and write well. Queensland Police aspirants also had to produce satisfactory testimonials of character, either from those under whom they have served at home, or from persons of respectability in the colony. Candidates with previous experience in the military of the law enforcement, like John Brannelly's in the Royal Irish Constabulary above, were especially sought after.

Fifty years later, the physical requirements remained unchanged, while the educational requirements became more sophisticated. All candidates into the force had to pass a short examination in reading, writing from dictation, and the first four rules in elementary arithmetic – addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Aptitude Tests: Arithmetic, 1913 (Daniel Leo Gorman, Registration Number 1726), and Dictation, 1924 (Thomas George Jenkins, Registration Number 2767). Source: Queensland Police Museum

Moreover, all men had to be accustomed to horses, and able to ride well. As a rule, the men were examined in horsemanship at the Depot. A set of suitable character references had to be supplied with one from a local police, or other, officer. Similar to the requirements 50 years ago, married men were not eligible. Permission to marry was not granted until four years had elapsed since the date of enrolment.

D.L. Gorman (Registration Number 1726) handwritten application letter, and T.G. Jenkins (Registration Number 2767) character reference supplied by Sergeant David J. Anderson (Registration Number 534). Source: Queensland Police Museum

Upon admission, Queensland Police supernumeraries received their drill and service training at the Police Depot, Petrie Terrace. The training period varied considerably, until a compulsory term of three months was introduced by Commissioner William Parry-Okeden in the 1890s. However, even then the Register of Members of the Police Force shows the period between being sworn in and the first transfer was regularly under a month. In some cases, during the years the Force was extremely understaffed, Constables received their transfers the very same day they were sworn in.