In June 1836, the settlement of Port Phillip (which was then a district of New South Wales and continued as such until 1851) consisted of 177 persons. The first police were appointed at Sydney on 14th September 1836. Robert Day was District Constable at 3 shillings a day and Joseph W. Hooson as Constable at 2 shillings and 3 pence a day. In the same month James Dwyer was appointed as a constable. Each of these men had served in the Sydney Police, Dwyer as Assistant Chief Constable and Day & Hooson as constables. They had forfeited their positions through drunkenness and owed their reappointment on this occasion to the fact that no men could be spared from the small body then employed, and, of the outside applicants, they were the best. Day and Dwyer were very capable men.
Governor Bourke had proclaimed Port Phillip one for settlement on the 9th September, and appointed Captain William Lonsdale, of the Fourth King's Own Regiment, to be resident Magistrate of the district. He arrived by HMS "Rattlesnake" on the 29th September. The police and other public servants forming Captain Lonsdale's staff arrived at Port Philip on the 5th October in the brig "Stirlingshire". The whole of the Government party, including 30 convicts, camped on the land that became known later as the "Government Block" (now bounded by Bourke, Collins, King and Spencer Streets). The first "police station" and gaol was erected on that block and near to the site now occupied by the Bourke Street West Police Station (1837).
Henry Batman, brother of the more famous John Batman, the founder of the settlement, was appointed District Constable on 11th January 1837 and later in the year to the rank of Chief Constable.
On the 1st May 1837, two constables were appointed, in Van Diemen's Land, as Constables for Port Philip. These appointments were made because of the fact that a large number of convicts (prisoners and ticket-of-leave holders) were frequently escaping from the island and finding their way to the mainland. Captain Lonsdale regarded that class of people as undesirable colonists and took steps to deport such of them as could be found. An order for deportation could only be made on evidence of identity and prior conviction, hence the appointment of these two men as constables. Both were formerly prison warders and knew all the convicts. They subsequently proved worthless and were permitted to resign.
In September of this year a Police Magistrate and three Constables were sworn in at Sydney, and subsequently established a police station at Geelong to deal with numerous outrages committed by aborigines in the Western District of Port Philip.
By October there were seven constables to guard Melbourne, but Lonsdale considered this force inadequate and procured several mounted men from Sydney. Disliking their appearance, he demanded that they should be supplied with some recognisable uniform (a scarlet waistcoat). It would seem that nothing came of this, for, in the early eighteen-forties, the Melbourne police had a uniform of dark-blue with pewter buttons, and a top hat with a glazed leather crown and upright side-bars of iron to protect them against brickbats and bottles.
In October of 1837, Mr C.L.J. de Villiers was appointed as superintendent in charge of the newly formed body of Native Police, his salary being £100 a year. A camp for these police was established at Narre-Warren (three miles from Dandenong). De Villiers resigned a year or so later and, no other person competent to undertake the control of the corps being available, it was disbanded and the men became wanderers.
Mr George Wintle was appointed Gaoler at £100 a year on the 1st January 1838, and the Russell Street Gaol became known as "Wintle's Hotel".
On 5th August 1838, William Wright, better known as "Tulip", was appointed to Chief Constable. About this time the force consisted of one Chief Constable, 17 Constables and 1 Scourger. A Scourger attached to certain Police Stations in those early days was a necessary evil. Many of the minor offences dealt with by Justices were punishable by flogging. Orders for imprisonment were not often made because there were no gaols in which offenders could be kept. Every Police Bench had a scourger on the staff, and the pay of that individual ranged from one shilling to 2 shillings a day. The Scourger was, in every case, an ex-convict. In addition to his pay, he received rations. In those days the order of the Justice was sufficient to justify, or rather to legalise, the infliction of the lash.
In 1838 the first nucleus of "Mounted Police" arrived in the Port Philip District (six troopers and one sergeant). These were soldiers recruited in New South Wales for police duties. By April 1939, there were 29 Mounted Police stationed in the Colony - the "5th Police Division" in New South Wales.
The Mounted Police in 1840 consisted of 7 Sergeants, 21 Mounted Troopers, and 7 Dismounted Troopers. The Sergeants received 2 shillings 4 pence a day, Troopers 1 shilling and Dismounted Troopers 6 pence, all with rations. In this year a station was opened at Portland.
In September of 1839 the first troopers of the "Border Police" arrived in the Colony under "Commissioner of Crown Lands", Henry Fysche Gisborne (the township of Gisborne is named after him). Their task was to adjudicate land disputes and maintain peace between the natives and settlers. All the Troopers were recruited from "Military Prisoners" (soldiers who had been court martialled) and were not paid. Forty men served, at various periods, in the "Border Police"
On 19th January 1841, Governor Latrobe announced the establishment of Water Police at Williamstown. Uniform consisted a straw hat with badge, sou'wester with ditto, white shirt with blue trimmings, flannel shirt, oil skin coat, blue cloth trousers for winter, white duck trousers for summer, shoes or boots.
In May 1841, William Wright resigned as Chief Constable, being succeeded by Edward Falkiner in June. The latter was "retired" in 1842. The census of 1841 showed a population for the Port Philip District of 11,758 (Melbourne 4,479).
In 1842 the corps of Native Police was revived under the control of Henry Edmund Pulteney Dana, who was appointed as superintendent. The full strength of the corps in its early days was 1 Superintendent, 1 white Sergeant, 1 black Sergeant, 24 Constables, and 5 horses. The uniform was green jacket with opossum skin facings, black or green trousers with red stripes, and green cap with red band. The arms were short carbine and bayonet. When mounted they wore swords. This corps was disbanded on the death of Dana in November 1852.
In the eighteen-forties great difficulty was experienced in obtaining uniforms and it was an everyday experience to see constables dressed in plain clothes, a broad leather belt around the waist, a baton slung thereon, and badge or band upon the hat or cap, bearing the words "Melbourne Police".
Charles Brodie succeeded Falkiner as Chief Constable, and in 1844 was placed in charge of the Bourke District, his place being taken by William J. Sugden, who resigned in 1848.
Joseph Bloomfield succeeded Sugden in 1848 and held office until 1850 when he also resigned.
Towards the end of the 1840's the small force of Border Police, made up of refectory soldiers and ticket-of-leave men who had been performing duty in Melbourne and Geelong for a number of years, was disbanded.
Police Officers in Swanston Street were opened on 2nd August 1849. In the same year the (Military) Mounted Police were disbanded due to a reduction of British Troops in the Colony. A (Civil) Mounted Police was organised with the first nucleus (three troopers) being sent to Geelong (1851).
Until 1850 the administration of the Police Force had been under divided control and authority. On 1st January 1850, Mr. Evelyn Percy Shirley Sturt took charge of the Melbourne and County of Burke Police as Superintendent. The Police in country districts were under the local control of resident Police Magistrates, but Sturt was the recognised head and exercised full control until March 1853, when he was appointed Police Magistrate for the city.
The uniform of the Police at this period was a longtailed blue cloth coat, buttoned from the throat down to the waist with metal buttons. The collar stood erect and was about two inches in height. White thread work enclosed a space on each side of the front of the collar and was used for the number of the constable. Blue cloth trousers were worn. For night duty, cloth caps with straight peaks of leather were worn instead of the usual stovepipe hats, worn during the day. Overcoats of the "Long-Tom" or coachman pattern were worn at night. With these overcoats a broad, black leather belt was worn and upon that belt that constable suspended his baton, lamp, and rattle. The lamp was abandoned when the city was lit by electricity, On a still night, the rattle could be heard half a mile away.
Victoria separates from New South Wales 30th April 1851
By the end of this year the whole of the community was infected by the gold fever and the greater part of Melbourne's male population had rushed to the diggings. Police and public alike had ceased to think calmly or to act decently, and crime was rampant. Out of the 50 men who comprised the City Police, 40 had resigned and proceeded to the gold fields, as had 15 of the Country Police. Although the rate of pay of constables was increased to 6 shillings a day, the exodus continued and a further 5 men resigned. It was then found necessary to engage 130 military pensioners from Van Diemens Land.
By 1853, there were in existence in Victoria seven distinct bodies of Police, each acting independently and without communication with the others. They were known as the "City Police", "Geelong Police", "Goldfields Police", "Water Police", "Rural Bench Constabulary", "Mounted Police", and the "Escort".
Owing to the discovery of goldfields in the colony, the population increased rapidly and, in 1852, Melbourne was raised to the status of a City, which necessitated the creation of a genuinely civilian Police Force. In July 1852, a Select Committee of the Legislative Council made a report on the Police Department and, among other things, suggested the enrolment of not less than 800 men, exclusive of Water Police. They also recommended that the Home Government be requested to send out 200 selected, experienced men to form part of this Force. The division of the Colony into Police Districts and the Police control of such districts were also dealt with. It was recommended that a Police Depot be established for receiving recruits and horses required for mounted police purposes, and the establishment of certain ranks in the Police Force such as Sergeant Major, Sergeant, Cadet, and Constable.
Sturt anticipated the recommendation by enrolling, with the permission of the Governor, 12 men to form the City Mounted Patrol, and a Depot was established at the corner of Punt Road and Wellington Parade South. The "Police Paddock", of which the Depot formed part, was that area where the Melbourne Cricket Ground is now situated.
In 1852, the "Cadet" system was introduced. The Cadets were the Gentlemen of Society training to be Police Officers. The number appointed up to 1856 was under 300 and many of them served but very brief terms. They were divided into detachments, mounted and foot, and on completion of training, were sent to districts; foot police to provincial centres and mounted constables to the country. These latter were engaged on various duties on the goldfields. 55 of these cadets attained the rank of officer, but it soon became apparent that the Cadet system was unsuited to the requirements of the Police Force of Victoria.
On 8th January 1853, the Legislative Council of Victoria passed an Act (16 Vic. No. 24) for the regulation of the Police Force. This enactment repealed the New South Wales Act and gave power to the Lieutenant-Governor to appoint a Chief Commissioner of Police and such number of provincial and other Inspectors, Sub-Inspectors, Chief Constables, Sergeants, and Cadets as he might think necessary. Subsequently, Mr. William Henry Fancourt Mitchell was appointed Chief Commissioner on the 29th January, with Captain MacMahon to assist him, and they organised the Police Force on its present basis. Chief Constables were dispensed with, and Police Magistrates ceased to exercise any control over the Police.
The City of Melbourne was mapped out in this year for Police purposes into sections and beats, and patrols were established. In May 1853, Inspector Samuel Freeman, 3 Sergeants, and 50 Constables of the London Police (volunteers for service in Victoria), arrived at Melbourne by the "Bangalore" and "Exodus", under a ten-years' engagement with a right to remain in the Colony. This nucleus expanded into a properly constituted and uniformed Force of True British civilian type.
In 1854 Captain MacMahon succeeded Mitchell as Chief Commissioner.
The first Police Code containing instructions for the guidance of the members of the Force was compiled by MacMahon and published in 1856.
An alteration in titles of some ranks was made this year, namely: Inspector to Superintendent, Sub-Inspector to Inspector, Lieutenant to Sub-Inspector, Sergeant to First-Class Sergeant, and acting Sergeant to Second-Class Sergeant.
The Detective Force, which owed its inception in 1848 to Chief Constable Sugden, did not assume definite proportions until 1858 when it was organised by Inspector Nicholson. In this year, Frederick C. Standish succeeded Captain MacMahon as Chief Commissioner.
With the policy of decentralisation adopted by Captain Standish, who established about 40 new stations throughout the Colony between 1858 and 1861, the organisation of the Police Force may be said to have been completed, and subsequent history does not record any notable change in its composition.
A rapidly increasing population from overseas, together with the many disappointed gold seekers, provided an ample supply of candidates for the Police Service and but little, if any, difficulty was experienced from that time onward in finding recruits.
So far as can be ascertained, the first Russell Street Police Station and barracks was erected in the year 1859.
By 1881 the old Police Depot at Richmond was found to be quite inadequate and a change was made to the Victoria Barracks, St. Kilda Road, where mounted constables were quartered and recruits trained until 1921. The Police Depot (now the Victorian College of Arts) in St. Kilda Road was established, and officially opened in 1926, only to move once again in 1973 to Glen Waverley where the present Police Academy is located.
The foot police of the early sixties, with their blue tunics and blue or white trousers, differed little from those of the present day. The Bobby helmet was not introduced until the latter part of 1877.
Edward (Ned) Kelly, outlaw, bushranger, born Beveridge, Victoria, in 1854. One of the most infamous criminals in the annuls of Victoria Police history was Ned Kelly. At the age of 15 years he was accomplice to Harry Power, bushranger. In 1878 he was involved with the Kelly Gang at Stringybark Creek when three police troopers were shot down. He went on to hold up the Bank at Euroa, Victoria in 1878, escaping to the rugged bush country northeast of Glenrowan. In February 1879, the gang crossed the border into New South Wales at Jerilderie.
On a night in June 1880, two members of the gang murdered Aaron Sherrit at Beechworth, Victoria. The gang was cornered at the Glenrowan Inn, Glenrowan and three of its members were shot by police troopers. Ned Kelly was captured after a gun battle lasting several hours. Kelly was finally hanged in the Melbourne Gaol on the 11th November 1880.