Before the Devon County Constabulary and Cornwall County Constabulary were formed in the 1850s, parish constables were elected once a year by the vestry meeting in each parish. The office of parish constable was often an unpopular one, for they received no wages and many attempted to buy their way out of having to serve. However, once the Constabularies had been formed the locally-appointed parish constables passed into policing history.
The parish constable’s tipstaff and, later, truncheon were ‘badges of office’ as opposed to their modern-day use as weapons of defence. These officers wore no uniforms, so many used to hang their truncheons outside their cottages to indicate their presence and authority.
Parish constablesGeorge Gater Potter (pictured with his wife) (image © Mrs Frances Peek) was the last recorded parish constable of Abbotskerswell, a village near Newton Abbot. This photographic print was taken from an old glass plate negative dated about 1860, or possibly a little earlier, at a time of the infancy of the Devon Constabulary.
Equipment1. Parish constable's truncheon from East Allington. 2. Parish constable's truncheon from Stoke Fleming. 3. Parish constable's truncheon from Bere Ferrers. 4. Parish constable's truncheon from Peter Tavy. 5. Parish constable's tipstaff from Ugborough dated 1819. 6. Parish constable's tipstaff from Meavy 1832. 7. Parish constable's truncheon from Diptford 1822. 8. Parish constable's truncheon from Colebrook. 9 and 10. Handcuffs from the same period.
Small borough forces were created across Devon and Cornwall managing crime and disorder within towns.
Between 1857 and 1860, these borough forces were merged to create two county forces, Cornwall constabulary and Devon constabulary.
In 1926, the increase in volume of traffic in Plymouth was creating a problem with the safety of pedestrians being a concern for the local police force.
Contacting the Police
In the 1930s, technology was beginning to have an impact on policing and it was during this time that the 999 system was introduced.
This video showing footage from the 1950s explains the training undertaken by new police officers at Hendon. It also explains the techniques used by detectives of the time in dealing with serious crime.
This video showing footage from the 1960s shows how technology started to have an impact on the way officers policed. Although it looks antique now compared to modern techniques, at the the time this was ground breaking.
Devon and Cornwall Police
In 1966, the two county police forces merged into the one force, creating Devon and Cornwall constabulary.
Female Police Officers
Although female worked within the police service before this time, it was only in 1970 that females were fully integrated into the force with the same powers as their male counterparts. This archive video sows many of the differences for women compared to modern day policing.