A history of the States Police
This article was first published in Jersey Life magazine in 1967
The States of Jersey Police Force has held this title since 1960. Previously it was known as the Paid Police Force, to distinguish it from the Honorary Police, a body which for centuries was the only police body in the island and which is still a highly valuable body which contributes in no uncertain way to the well-being of the island.
St Helier force
Up to 1853 the Honorary Police bore the brunt of the war against crime but in that year it was decided that there should be a uniformed and paid force in the Parish of St Helier to be paid for by the parish and entirely maintained by the parochial authorities, the Constable of the parish being its head.
Initially the force was formed as a 'night watch’, but as time went on its duties were extended; but up to the early 1920s the uniformed police constables still ceased patrols at 2 am, and left only a sergeant and a couple of men on duty at the police station at the Town Hall. Transport was non-existent apart from a cycle or two and the ‘truck'.
Many older residents still remember the 'truck' being trundled through the town streets to the Police Station on a Saturday night, with a drunk man or woman, strapped on it.
Times changed, crime became more prevalent and so the force gradually increased and in the 1930s an embryo plain clothes branch with two members, both now retired but happily still with us, Ben Shenton and Henry Nicolle.
Persons convicted of crimes were fingerprinted and a van and a car or two were acquired, but still the Paid Police were paid and controlled by the Constable of St Helier. The Paid Police had arrived and their services were becoming more and more appreciated, especially those of the plain clothes men and, as time when on, they came to assist the country parish Centeniers, but always with the permission of the Constable of St Helier.
St Brelade and St Saviour were among the first to enlist this assistance, but even as far back as 1906 members of the uniformed Paid Police, PC, later Sge Jack Jouan and PC, later Sge Jim Le reverend, had given valuable assistance to the St Saviour Honorary Police in a murder inquiry which resulted in the conviction and execution of the guilty man.
During the German Occupation the Paid Police remained at the Town Hall and the familiar blue uniform was the subject of many a picture taken by German troops for transmission back to the Fatherland as evidence that they were on British soil. Their task during those years was not always a happy one but they carried it out and their Senior Sergeant, Tommy Cross, received the BEM for his services.
After the Liberation several members who had joined the Forces returned and as time went on the strength of the force was increased, but it remained a parish body until 1951 when control wass vested in the Defence Committee, and in 1960 the title was changed to the States of Jersey Police Force.
After 1951 the force had jurisdiction throughout the island, but it must be admitted that there was some opposition to this among the more diehard of the country Honorary Police.
But this opposition died a natural death as it was realised that the Honorary Police could not cope with the expanding population and the influx of ‘foreigners’ from the mainland to whom a man with grubby boots wearing a silver badge did not mean a policeman.
He did, and still does, as many have found to their cost through the years.
Though the States Police have jurisdiction throughout the island without regard for parish boundaries, the responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of offenders and their offences remains exclusively within the powers of the Attorney-General, who is the titular head of the Honorary Police, and the members of that body headed by the Constables and Centeniers of the various parishes.
Many years ago this type of force was suggested but always rejected as unworkable. The first Chief Officer, Mr Henry Le Brocq, a Jerseyman with considerable experience in the Indian Police, made it work and it has been working ever since.
His successor, Mr H Johnson, carried out certain reorganisation and it was under his guidance that there came about an increase in establishment and the recruitment of women. He also extended the communication system and introduced the present system of radio communication for the men on foot patrol.
The newly appointed Chief Officer, James Axon, who has over 30 years experience at New Scotland Yard behind him, is enthusiastic about his own force and the help and support they get from the Honorary Police. He was here a couple of years ago in connection with the investigation of sex crimes and is full of priase for the help he had from all members of the Honorary Police.
‘The backbone of any polic body is the man on the beat; everything is built around him and in the English country districts the village bobby is the hub, he knows everyone’, Mr Axon said. ‘Here the Honorary Police perform the functions of th English bobby. They know everyone in their parish and even where to find a particular person at any time. I could not have carried out the investigation I did without their help.’
This is a great tribute from a highly experienced police officer and augurs well for the future co-operation between him and the States Force, and the centuries old system which has stood the test of time and is also a slap in the face for the detractors of the Honorary System of whom there are many.
At present the States Police Force has a strength of 129; 15 are members of the Criminal Investigation Department, which includes the photographic and fingerprint departments, crime prevention and criminal record office. The basic duties of the CID are the prevention of crime and the detection of those who commit crime, but they also do other work, such as the prevention of the drug traffic.
Communications are excellent and the Information Room, modelled on those used by bigger forces, is in constant touch with the mobile patrols by the use of the radios fitted to the patrol cars and motor cycles and also with the foot patrols on the beat who carry personal radios, as do the beat supervising officers and sergeants.
There are three police dogs and their handlers. The dogs and their handlers are highly trained, as are all members of the various branches of the Force and they have in their comparatively short history amply demonstrated their value. In 1964 women police were introduced for the first time and there are now four under their own corporal: their basic duties are to deal with women offenders; stopping young girls from wandering abroad and preventing them from getting into trouble; taking statements from females in sex offence inquiries and so on; but they are also trained in ordinary police work and are able to undertake any duty the men are called upon to do.
They proved their worth at the air disaster at St Peter a year ago when they rendered invaluable assistance in dealing with the relatives of the killed and these services were recognised in the Chief Officer's annual report.
There are two police photographers who are also in charge of the fingerprint department, Det-Cpl McLinton and Det Constable Seaward. Cpl McLinton has had seven years experience in this work and his photographs have frequently been produced at court proceedings. Their duties include the finger-printing of most prisoners, attending major crimes and serious accidents for the purpose of taking finger-prints and photographs.
Persons finger-printed are checked with the CRO at Scotland Yard and marks found at the scenes of burglaries etc are checked with Winchester, the main office of the Southern Group Criminal Record Office and also with the Yard. Extensive use is made of the States Laboratory in many cases and warm tribute is paid in the annual report to the valuable assistance given in this field by Mr Davies and members of his staff.
The mobile section was formed in 1950 with four men and two cars and was the idea of the late Senator George Troy who was at that time President of the Island Defence Committee. Senator Troy had a great interest in the police and many of his ideas are in use today. The mobile section now consists of one Sergeant, 'Jock' Neeley, who has passed a police advanced driver's course, 24 men and 23 vehicles, including Jaguars, Austins, Commer vans and Fords and also BSA motor cycles, Morris vans and cars and Velocettes.
The section gives a 24-hour service and patrols are available within minutes at trouble spots throughout the island by means of the information room service and radio; some 80% of calls received by the information room are dealt with by the mobile section.
The Police Dog section consists of Flash (8 years old) handled by PC Stokes, Zorro (5½ ) handled by PC Cowie and Panzer (2½ ) handler PC C Holmes; their duties include patrolling he town and in particular the suppression of hooliganism. The dogs are also used for tracking at the scenes of crimes and ire invaluable in flushing out a suspect.
They undergo a 13-week training at the Dog Training Centre in Staffordshire and this covers obedience, tracking, searching and general criminal work. The dogs live at the homes of their handlers in specially built kennels and with their handlers work a seven-hour shift, one hour of which is for grooming and feeding the dogs.
A comparatively recent innovation is a frogman section in charge of which is Sgt Ray Medder, with seven constables. It has rendered valuable assistance in carrying out searches in the harbour, bathing pools and ponds both in daylight and at night. Training is carried on whenever other duties permit, all the year round and the section is now highly trained and efficient.
A crime prevention section is also in operation and already useful advice has been given to States Departments, business houses and the general public in ways and means of protecting their property. With more co-operation this valuable work will grow for it is in the interests of the public at large to protect themselves as far as they are able against crime, for it is manifestly impossible for the police to be everywhere.
The use of the 999 system is extending and each and every call is investigated. The police do not mind how many of these calls they get for, even if there are some false alarms, there are many genuine calls and crime can be prevented by an alert citizen who sees something suspicious and dials the magic number.
The police deal with lost property and in a holiday island such as this, this can be and is a major task involving a huge amount of correspondence. Paper work is unfortunately a great part of a policeman's work but much of this has been taken off his shoulders by the use of dictating machines. A civilian typist can then type the report for him.
Many other aids to the quicker work by the police have been and will be introduced.
The Cadet section, now ten strong, is recruited from most of the island schools and gives young men who have just left school training in all aspects of police work. In addition the educational and physical side is catered for. The cadets will be the police officers of the future, taking the places of those who retire. etc.
This is only a brief survey of the States of Jersey Police Force but it is enough to show that the island has an excellently trained and equipped force, probably the equal, for its size, of any in the United Kingdom.
Chief Officer Axon, though he has only been in charge a short time, thinks so, and is tremendously proud of his officers and men.
More recruits are needed to keep the establishment up to strength and Mr Axon hopes that many young Jerseymen will offer themselves as candidates for what is a well paid, interesting and entirely worthwhile career with excellent prospects for promotion.