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History & Museum > History of the Winnipeg Police

The New Frontier | The Early 1900's | The Roaring Twenties | The Second World War Years | The Fifties and Sixties | Into Amalgamation | The Recent Past | Military Service of WPS Members

PART ONE - THE NEW FRONTIER

Researched and written by Staff Sergeant Jack Templeman (retired)

The City of Winnipeg came into existence because of its location at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in the fur trading area which had been granted to the Hudson's Bay Company and was called Rupertsland. In 1835 the Hudson's Bay Company produced the first written laws for the Red River Settlement. The company appointed a number of men as Justice of the Peace to enforce those laws. There was also provision made for a volunteer force to be called upon if necessary but they were not effective.

Main Street, Winnipeg, MBThe first official law enforcement body was created in 1870 soon after Manitoba became the "postage stamp" province. Captain Frank VILLIERS of the 2nd Quebec Rifles stationed in the settlement was given 10 soldiers from his regiment and hired 10 local men to form an instant Mounted Constabulary Force (MCF). These men were required to cover the entire area of the province and to work seven days a week which was not uncommon at that time. They were also responsible for transferring prisoners back and forth from Winnipeg to the first penitentiary located at Lower Fort Garry. The name of this Force was changed to the Provincial Police Force (PPF) and finally to the Manitoba Provincial Police (MPP). The duties of this Force changed over the years but they continued to serve throughout the province until 1932 when their duties were taken over by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Winnipeg was a rapidly growing community and the Provincial Government decided to grant it the status of a "city" without going through the usual steps of becoming a "town" first. The elections in January 1874 selected the first Mayor and Aldermen. These gentlemen quickly set about to hire key officials including a Chief of Police.

John S. INGRAMJohn S. INGRAM became the first Chief of Police for the City of Winnipeg. He was appointed on February 23rd, 1874 and this was confirmed by By-Law #4 signed in Council the next day. The search then began for two Constables to round out the size of the first authorized police force.

The term of office for Chief Ingram was rather short and filled with bickering between the Chief and the Council. In particular, Mayor Cornish was not impressed with the Chief who had a reputation as quite a scrapper and was also known to have a weakness for wine and women which eventually lead to his downfall.

Council was very concerned with the reputation Winnipeg had as a wicked city and demanded that the police crack down on the brothels and the saloons. At this time it must be remembered that Winnipeg was really the end of civilization in western Canada and the open space known as the North West Territories lay beyond the city. If you wanted to party or have the pleasure of female company, Winnipeg was the last place to do it.

The were some problems within the police department at this time anyway, but one July evening in 1875 Constables MURRAY and BYERS were making their rounds of reported houses of ill-fame when they entered the home of Ella Lewis and found a male visitor inside.

After a brief pause the male appeared and was identified by the two constables as Chief Constable John S. INGRAM. The officers laid a charge of "frequenting a house of ill-fame" against the Chief and he appeared the next day before Mayor Cornish who also served as Magistrate for the city. The Mayor/Magistrate fined the Chief $8.00 and he was suspended. There is no record of what Ella may have charged but it was certainly an expensive visit in the end. The Chief submitted his resignation to Council the next week and it was accepted which saved the Council the embarrassment of firing him.

The search for a new chief lead to various names being submitted by aldermen but none could get sufficient support and eventually Constable David B. MURRAY was proposed and selected as the second Chief Constable for the City of Winnipeg.

Chief Murray worked hard to improve the police department and managed to get a small increase in manpower with the addition of two more constables to bring the force to five. He was also responsible for drawing up the first Rules and Regulations which were on four handwritten pages of foolscap paper approved by Council in 1876. Chief Murray also lead the department into the boom years of the city in the early 1880's as the railroad pushed its way west and opened up the prairies. It brought hundreds of jobs to the city and a great influx of immigrants. It also brought an increase in crime. The city responded by increasing the police department several times and by 1882 there were more than 30 officers in the department. Pay was poor when you consider the men worked 7 days a week and 12 hour shifts so the turnover of personnel was a problem.

The police force had started out using a small area of the original City Hall but the building was poorly built and they were forced to move to a temporary location on Main Street and then into the Market Building behind the city hall. These accommodations were too small and according to newspapers the living conditions and the condition of the cells were not fit for humans.

Chief Murray fought for more men and better accommodations and the city finally built a new police station and court house at James Avenue and King Street in 1883. (The Mandarin Building now occupies this location). This station served as police headquarters for twenty-five years.

The boom years of the city tapered off by the mid 1880's and the city cut back on personnel reducing the police force to twenty-four officers and then by 1887 to only fourteen officers. Chief Murray protested the reduction and at the same time was faced with claims of corruption concerning payoffs from operators of houses of ill-fame. The hearings exonerated Chief Murray but did cause the dismissal of the detective accused of being the middleman. The pressure of the office finally caused Chief Murray to resign after twelve years of guiding the force from its early beginning to a well organized department. ( continued )

A Pictorial History - Hardcover!

Now Available!

Winnipeg Police History Book
From Force to Service (1874-1999)

Only $25 plus $15.00 shipping & handling. Send cheque or money order for $40.00 to:

Winnipeg Police Museum
P.O. Box 1680
Winnipeg, MB R3C 2Z7

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Winnipeg Police Museum
245 Smith Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba
1-204-986-3976

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