Thames Police: History - Establishment
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Table of Contents > Origins > Establishment > Government Sponsorship > 1900 To WW2 > WW2 To Present Day

The Police Establishment by Dick Paterson

The Police Establishment had a number of rowing galleys, each manned by a Surveyor (equivalent rank to today's Inspector) and three waterman Constables under the direction of a Superintending Surveyor. He had his own supervision galley with a crew of four. All Surveyors were empowered both by the crown (an oath taken before the magistrates) and also sworn and issued with an excise warrant by Customs and Excise Service.

Additionally during those two years, many ship and quay guards were also employed on a part time basis. They were visited and supervised by the boat patrols, these constables were employed only when the West India fleets were in the river and being discharged when there was no need for them. They were in time to become the first River Police Special Constables.

Although small the force of around 50 river Officers were well trained and armed to control the 33.000 or so people who worked the river trades. Colquhoun wrote that a third - nearly 11,000 workers were known criminals. All the trades on the river were said to be 'on the game'.

The first six months were particularly difficult, the river thieves were losing their good living and a riot took place outside the Office allegedly some 2,000 men arrived intending to burn it to the ground with the magistrates and some police officers inside. Harriott successfully quelled the riot, during the conflict one of his officers, Master Lumper, Gabriel Franks, was shot and died later in hospital, the first recorded police death.

After a year, Harriott was able to give his first report to the Home Office stating 'instead of many waterman's boats hovering nearby while ships unloaded, the river now appears quiet and peaceful, except for those going about their lawful business'.

The initial cost for the formation including the hire of the premises and the policing methods to be set up was 4,200, in this interim report the patrols had established their worth by saving 122,000 worth of cargo and by the rescuing of several lives.

Continue to the next section to learn more.

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