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History & Museum >Historical Stories

THE FIRST CHINESE DETECTIVE

Historical Stories Main

Researched & written by Staff Sergeant Jack Templeman (retired)

Since the Police Museum is not well known even within the Department I thought I might submit small articles to the Blueprint on occurrences from the past and recent acquisitions for the museum.  I would also be pleased to try to answer any questions on Department history either through the Blueprint or directly for any members.

Recently I heard of some pictures being given to the Association from a scrapbook at an auction house.  I found these were just 3 snapshots dating back around 1912.

On closer inspection, I found that one was very important, as there is no other picture to my knowledge of a visible minority member of the Force from that period of history. (the picture was shown in the Blueprint issue)

Yes if you look closely (at the picture) in the first row, that man is definitely Chinese.  He is a detective/interpreter probably named Wai Hai Lee who joined on June 2nd, 1910.

Wai Hai Lee was actually the second Chinese detective I have found records of with the first being Gong Jung.  That man served only 20 days from May 13th, 1910 to June 2nd, 1910.  His reason for leaving is listed as "cold feet" which I suspect had to do with his nerves rather than the weather at that time of the year.

Gong Jung was issued the standard equipment for detectives, badge #151, rules and regulations, handcuffs and "Insp. Robertson's gun".  On June 2nd, apparently he got Wai Hai Lee to take over as there is a notation "All equipment turned over to his successor Wai Hai Lee without being turned in the storekeeper".

Wai Hai Lee got the same badge #151 etc. and even got Insp. Robertson's gun.  On October 13th, 1911, the gun was stolen from him and he was issued a Colt, serial #40588, WPD #81.

I have not found a retiring or resignation date for Lee but obviously he was still serving after October 1911 since he was issued a second revolver.

While Lee may well have been a visible minority, the special status of detective/interpreter was also given to members of Slavic origin.  The detective/interpreters did not serve as uniform officers first but joined directly into the detective division for special duties.

It would be interesting to know if they got equal pay or if their pay was also "special".


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