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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 TWO - THE EARLY 1900'S

Researched and written by Staff Sergeant Jack Templeman (retired)

The next man to serve as Chief Constable was John C. McRAE who was then a sergeant on the force. Chief McRae had a distinguished career and was a very respected officer. In 1885 he was shot and wounded during the escape of a cattle rustler. The bullet lodged in his groin and could not be removed. This reminder stayed with him for the rest of his life.

When Chief McRae took over the department the morale was low but his leadership brought it back to a well organized force. As the new century got closer the city continued to grow in size and population and so did the police force. Chief McRae was responsible for introducing the rank of a Sergeant- Major into the force in 1900 as his assistant. At this time there were only the ranks of constable and sergeant along with the chief. In 1904 Chief McRae also established the rank of Inspector of Police and this became the first officer rank of the force. The Sergeant Major continued to serve but was under the Inspector and acted more as a disciplinarian.

The increase in manpower caused overcrowding in the police station and the Chief started to campaign for a new station. Chief McRae also had the foresight to ask for sub-stations around the city. In l907 when the population of the city grew to 115,000 the department had 90 members. City Council finally approved the construction of a new station on Rupert Avenue and it was opened in l908. The police force had grown to l08 members by the time the station opened.

Although Council eventually agreed to construct sub-stations it was not until l911 that one was built in the north end and one in Fort Rouge. The stations were designated "B" Division for the south or Fort Rouge station on Jessie Avenue and "E" Division for the north end station at Magnus and Charles Street. The city had purchased properties in Elmwood and in the west end on Arlington Street for sub-stations but these were never erected. It appears that the missing designations of "C" and "D" Divisions would have been used for these divisions.

Chief McRae was also responsible for other advancements in the department. He was able to convince Council of the need for a police signal system with which patrolling officers could communicate with the station both on a regular basis or in emergencies when they needed help. The Seimens Corporation developed the system and Winnipeg became the first in North America and the third in the world to use this system when it was installed in 1913.

Early in his career Chief McRae had purchased bicycles as the first means of transportation for the use of the detectives and the sergeants. All other officers walked the beats. The first car was purchased in 1906 but was for the use of the Chief and the detectives. The next means of transportation was the purchase of motorcycles in l9l0.

It was also during the long and distinguished career of Chief McRae that the Winnipeg Police Force suffered the loss of the first policeman killed on duty. Constable John BEATTIE had only been on the department for 27 days when he was accidentally electrocuted at the scene of a fire at Water and Main Street on April 13th, l9ll.

Chief McRae retired in November l911 but was honoured in l913 with the award of the King's Police Medal for his long and distinguished service.

The next Chief Constable was Donald MacPHERSON. He had been the Deputy Chief Constable and was well qualified for the position. Chief MacPherson continued to modernize the department and was responsible for establishing the first School of Instruction in 1912. He also arranged for the department to purchase its first mechanized Patrol Wagon or "Paddy wagon" in 1913 along with an ambulance. The police signal system came into use the same year so that the beat patrol officers could communicate with the station or receive calls from the station.

In 1913 the Winnipeg Police Department was honoured with the awarding of three King's Police Medals. This high award was created in 1909 and given throughout the British Empire. The award could be for either long and distinguished service or for gallantry. At that time only one KPM had been awarded in Canada and it was for long service to a Chief in Ontario. The 1913 awards all came to Winnipeg with a distinguished service award to retired Chief Constable John C. McRAE and the first gallantry awards in Canada to Constables William TRAYNOR and Hugh BROWN. Unfortunately Constable Traynor died of typhoid fever just two weeks before the ceremony so the medal was presented to his widow.

The beginning of 1914 was to bring one of the dark times in the history of the department with the Krafchenko affair. John Krafchenko was arrested in Winnipeg for the murder of the bank manager in Plum Coulee and was detained in the Rupert Station although the case was the responsibility of the Manitoba Provincial Police. His lawyer persuaded one of the police guards to smuggle in a gun and rope with which Krafchenco escaped. Unfortunately for him the rope broke as he tried to climb down from the third floor window but he did manage to get away although injured. He was eventually captured, tried for the murder and executed. The investigation of the escape lead to the arrest of one of the jailors, Constable Robert James REID who was sentenced to 7 years in the penitentiary while the lawyer got 3 years. REID and another prisoner were killed just a few months later in an accident at the prison. The lawyer was eventually reinstated to the bar after his sentence.

The First World War from 1914 to 1918 brought a heavy strain on the department with a reduction in manpower caused by men taking leave to join the military. Some 152 members left to serve and 29 gave their lives in the bloody trench war in Europe. Of the survivors, only 78 men returned to the department and some of them did not last long due to their war injuries and poor health. Many of the officers had received battle awards and honours.

The department was involved in an unusual riot in 1916 that became known as the "Army Riot" and was aimed directly at the police. It started with the arrest of some drunken soldiers on Main Street who were brought to the Rupert Avenue Station and detained. Word spread and a great number of other military personnel came to the station to demand their release. The police officers were able to barricade the station but the rioters managed to smash every window on the front of the station before extra military troops arrived to restore order. The irony of the situation was the fact that the original arrests had actually been made by military police and the offenders were just being lodged in the city police cells until taken to Fort Osborne Barracks. This did lead to the huge metal gates being installed on the front doors of the station in case such a thing might occur again.

The Police Commission at this time received delegations from local groups demanding that policewomen be hired on the department and in December 1916, Mrs. Mary DUNN became the first official "Woman Police Constable". She was assigned to the Morality Department and her duties were described as "aiding women in distress" and "wayward children". She worked only in the station and was not issued a uniform or equipment except for keys and such. The pay scale for female constables was set below that of the most junior recruit and for the next fifty years no female officer was allowed to attain the rank of first class constable. A second female was appointed in January 1917 and for many years the department authorized only 2 female constables.

The next major occurrence in this period was the murder of Constable Bernard SNOWDON in April 1918. He was working the night shift on a beat on Main Street when he came upon a break-in. He entered the building unaware that there were two men inside and a lookout outside who followed him in. He was shot in the back and died instantly. The failure of Constable Snowdon to make his hourly call on the police signal system caused other officers to check his beat and his body was discovered. The quick response of the whole detective department soon lead to the arrest of the three responsible males. Two were eventually executed and the third who was a youth, was sentenced to prison.

The final occurrence in the career of Chief MacPherson actually began in 1917 when most of the members of the department formed a union. This was not only in contravention of a police notice prohibiting a police union but the members also associated themselves to the Winnipeg Trades and Labour movement which meant that they could technically go out on a sympathy strike that involved some other union. Chief MacPherson did not act against this breech of discipline which would prove to cost him dearly in the future. ( continued )

A Pictorial History - Hardcover!

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From Force to Service (1874-1999)

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