History of Vancouver Police 1825-1900

Circa 1900

The Hudson’s Bay Company was established at Fort Vancouver in 1825. Prior to this time, the only law enforcement in this area consisted of tribal and military laws. The Hudson's Bay Company was only allowed legal jurisdiction over British subjects. While officers and other gentlemen who committed crimes were confined to their quarters, soldiers and common people were tied to the cannons and whipped for crimes such as theft, drunkenness, and desertion. Occupants of the Hudson's Bay Company jail were generally land claim jumpers, deserters, and conspirators against the Company officers. The most common crime at this time was soldiers stealing fruit from the orchards.

In 1843, Dr. John McLoughlin, Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, built a jail inside the fort to house the suspects of his son’s murder. This jail, which measured 20’ x 20 ‘, was used until 1860. Prisoners were given only bread and water. The only other jail nearby was located in Oregon City until 1849, when the U.S. Army built the Vancouver Barracks and guardhouse.

The first Vancouver constable was Moses Kitchner, hired in 1853. The constable was essentially a volunteer police officer appointed by the City Council to serve a one-year term.

In 1858, Vancouver hired its first City Marshal, Nicholas Bateman. City Marshals were selected by the City Council to serve one-year terms. The position of City Marshal was initially equivalent to today's rank of Police Chief.

A second constable was added to the police force in 1867, bringing the department total to three men strong (1 Marshal, 2 Constables).

In 1882, the first beats were developed, with one constable patrolling east Vancouver and one patrolling west Vancouver.

VPD circa 1900The city jail was completed on June 14, 1883.

December 3, 1883, was the date of the first reading to establish a city police force. Mayor Smith made himself the unofficial Chief of Police on December 17, 1883.

In 1889, the wooden courthouse/jail building was involved in a major fire that destroyed much of downtown Vancouver.

New street lights eliminated the need for night patrols in February 1896.

The city started electing City Marshals in January 1899. A.J. Harrington was the first Marshal elected by the citizens of Vancouver on January 16, 1899.