The British Columbia police, 1858-1871

Frederick John Hatch
The British Columbia Police was established in September, 1858, by James Douglas (later Sir James Douglas) . At that time Douglas was Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company and Governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island. When the Fraser River gold rush occurred, Douglas assumed responsibility for maintaining law and order on the Mainland of British Columbia, and established a small police force at the diggings. This force was not an organized police force in the modern sense, but rather a
more » ... e, but rather a modified form of the English system of police offices composed of stipendiary magistrates and paid constables established in London in 1792. In British Columbia, the gold fields were divided into administrative districts each in charge of a gold commissioner armed with magisterial powers. These officials, who were under the orders of and directly responsible to the Governor, were referred to both as stipendiary magistrates and as gold commissioners. One of their main functions was to put down lawlessness in their districts. For this reason, each magistrate was authorized to appoint a staff of not more than six constables. Since the constables were also employed as the magistrates' clerks, recorders, collectors and postmasters, they became integrated with the administrative system of the Colony. The suddenness of the Fraser River gold rush found Douglas without competent men to appoint to the important office of stipendiary magistrate. He hesitated until June, then appointed a staff chosen from the gold mining population. Without exception the men whom he appointed proved incompetent. The constables also were selected from among the miners, and with few exceptions their service was unsatisfactory. Before any of the appointments were made, the miners had taken the law into their own hands. They treated the magistrates and constables with neither fear nor respect. At the end of the year there was a breakdown in law and order in the goldfieids, culminating in a dispute between two of the magistrates, [...]
doi:10.14288/1.0106820 fatcat:mozyrolhczajrfm7opr5lljmou