Being a policeman in 1952

The States of Jersey Police celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2012.

By Julie Whitley

My father, Reg Whitley, joined the force in the summer of 1952. He talks about why policing in Jersey was uncomplicated compared to policing today; the relationship between uniformed police and the Honorary Police, and reminisces about past police operations, uniforms and vehicles.

Policing in Jersey dates back to 1853 when the service came under the control of the Parish of St Helier. In 1952, the States of Jersey took over and policing expanded to include all parishes.

Early in 1952, the new island-wide police force advertised vacancies for constables in the Jersey Evening Post. Potential candidates were asked to attend the Town Police Station (TPS) at the Town Hall to collect an application form. Reg Whitley was 25 years old and working for Boots the Chemist. “I had to take some lost property to the TPS and in a moment of madness I took an application form away with me.”
He applied with one hundred other men, all of whom were interviewed by the new Chief Officer, Mr E H Le Brocq, Staff Sergeant Tommy Cross and Ben Shenton, head of the Criminal Investigation Department. 17 officers were recruited. “I was one of the lucky 17.”

The new recruits brought the total number of officers to 72. They were called the Paid Police to differentiate them from the Honorary Police and the name changed to the States of Jersey Police in the 1960s.

The recruits were trained at the new headquarters, Rouge Bouillon, which had been converted from the Town Arsenal. It was next to the newly-built Fire Service building which had moved from Nelson Street.

Copy Of Town Arsenal C 1952

The Town Arsenal circa 1952

As part of their training, the officers attended lectures given by the various heads of States Departments such as Customs, Immigration and the Prison Service. They also visited the mortuary.

The Chief Officer, Mr Le Brocq had been an officer in the Indian Police Service but returned to Jersey and trained as an advocate. He was then asked to become the new Chief of Police. He instructed the new recruits using his knowledge of local law and his police experience in India. Mr Le Brocq appointed a retired Royal Marine Commando, PC Tom Skinner as the training officer who coached officers in physical fitness and judo.

“I was issued with a police helmet and a red and white striped duty band which I wore on my jacket cuffs. I had to wear my own black suit when I started while my uniform was being tailor-made.”

A UK men’s clothing company made the first batch of uniforms because they had been the cheapest option. It was a false economy. They weren’t military tailors and uniforms were ill fitting and impractical. Mr Briard, a tailor in David Place, made the uniform, which were more suited to policing.

The uniform consisted of a serge tunic with a high neck. Reg had to supply his own shirts until the police jacket changed to an open neck design. He wore a longer serge jacket, which was belted in the middle, during colder weather and for Royal Court appearances. He recalls this being a very old-fashioned jacket that seemed to date back to the previous century. He was also issued with an overcoat, a raincoat, a cape, Wellington boots, ordinary military boots and black leather gloves. He had armlets and white gloves for point duty.

“The rain coat only just reached the top of my Wellingtons” he said. “The rain would drain down my coat and into my boots. I often sloshed around the beat with my wellies full of water.”

Several years after Reg joined the police, white pith helmets and white linen jackets were introduced for the summer months.

Dad White Helmet

Reg Whitley (right) and Graham Carpenter in their summer white uniforms

“It was totally impractical because I’d get very dirty rolling around trying to detain a drunk who didn’t want to be arrested” he recalled, “On one occasion, to impress a visiting delegation invited over by Tourism, I had to wear the white uniform during cold weather. It was perishing, so as a protest, I wore my black cape over my ‘whites’. I was reprimanded by my sergeant, Billy Golding.”

Reg was never allowed to go on duty in just shirt sleeves and never allowed out in public without his helmet. He took his flat cap off in the police car but strictly speaking he wasn’t supposed to do so.

In the first few days of joining, he was issued with a truncheon and “grips”.

“I only ever used my truncheon once during my career to beat Ormers to make them tenderer to eat,” he said. “Grips were an old fashioned form of handcuffs. If misused, they could easily break a man’s arm or wrist.” 

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate was shocked the grips were still used. They had been banned for use in the UK about 100 years beforehand and were outlawed in Jersey soon after.

Early on in Reg’s career, mobile units were fitted with a bulky Motorola radio, but officers on the beat had nothing except a whistle. “I blew mine on one occasion when I was chasing a suspect from New Street into King Street, no-one came and I lost him. I didn’t bother using it again. In those days, if I got into trouble the public were much more helpful and would telephone HQ on my behalf to advise them I needed help.”

The training officer, PC Skinner was in charge of firearms. The police service didn’t purchase any guns; they used weapons handed in by members of the public.

“I remember having a Luger pistol and training up at Fort Regent when it was still a coal dump. I don’t recall an officer ever having used a firearm in the line of duty.”

Reg recalls being on mobile patrol and attending Almorah Crescent with PC Jimmy Clarke because a man was firing a shotgun. He wanted to shoot his girlfriend. “We strolled up to him and asked him to hand the weapon over,” he said. The man did as he was told and was arrested.

On another occasion, an irate man brandishing a carving knife didn’t want Reg to arrest him and was being chased by him around a kitchen table. “I was highly trained in dealing with suspects carrying offensive weapons, so I put my training to the test and decided to change direction and run the other way around the table. I met him half way back around again.” The man was safely arrested and the knife seized.

Reg was paid £6 10 /- a week, which is around £6.50.’ He received a 10 /- rise after one year and another 10 /- rise after two years. 

“Any pay rise after that depended upon how much we could get out of the Defence Committee.” He received a moderately higher salary because he was trained in First Aid.

 Reg was stationed at the TPS but used to go to HQ to collect his weekly wages in cash. Each week an officer would go to the States buildings in the Royal Square and collect cash for the wages from Alf Allchin at the Treasury.

“There would be about twenty of us waiting for our wages envelope so we could buy lunch.  One of my mates was desperate for pay-day so he could buy a light bulb for his lamp at home.”

In those days, police officers were not weighed down with paperwork. They had three reports; a witness statement; a caution statement and a general report which covered everything from a road traffic accident to a murder.  “We also had a pocket note book with no page numbers which wasn’t ideal, for obvious reasons.”

In 1952, there were three Humber Hawk patrol cars and a van. The van was stationed at the TPS and the cars at HQ. “The Humbers were too big, the suspension was soft and they were unstable if you drove at speed,” he said. “I recall on one occasion hearing the message, ‘Humber Green to control, there’s been an accident at Beaumont.’ The control room skipper told them to deal with it, to which the officer replied, ‘Yes but we are the accident,’ they had driven the vehicle at speed up Beaumont Hill and crashed over into the meadow on the left. It was a write-off. As I said, totally unsuitable for driving at speed.”

 The police soon replaced the vehicles with second-hand Jowett Javelins. They were prone to stop when it rained.

“If you went through a deep puddle, the thing chugged, spluttered and then died. I’d arrested two disorderly men at the Sunshine Hotel one night. They were in the back of the car. It had been raining and the car wouldn’t start. We had to get the prisoners to push to bump start it.”

 The Jowetts were replaced with Jaguars. “I remember the Chief coming into the guard room one day to tell us the President of the Defence Committee, Major Troy, had agreed to purchase Jags as our new police vehicles and that we were very lucky to have them. They cost about £1000 each and we were to look after them.”

The cars didn’t have sirens in those days; there was a bell on the front bumper which was operated electronically. “The public could never hear it or if they did, they thought it was an ice-cream van.”  There was one blue revolving light on the roof.  There were no police motorcycles in those days. If an officer needed to escort a dignitary then PC Tardival and PC Le Quellenec used their own motorbikes!

Reg was issued with a torch, which was essential because there were no electric street lamps. The street lighting was gas and went out at midnight. “It was pitch dark unless it was a moonlit night. If my battery ran out then I had to feel my way around my beat. The harbours had their own electric lighting powered from a generator in a tunnel, which ran under Mount Bingham opposite La Folie Inn.”

As a young beat officer, Reg clocked on for duty at the TPS. CID, the mobile unit and administration were at HQ. There was a small police office at the Albert Quay next to the Harbour Office. “It was luxurious at the harbour because there were electric lights and a push bike to use.” All the impounded vehicles were kept at HQ.  “I recall a steam roller being impounded overnight and as I crossed the yard, the Chief told me to report the driver for bald wheels, I had to laugh out of respect for the old chap.”

If Reg dealt with any incident outside of St Helier he had to report it to the Centenier or Constable of the Parish.

The Dog Unit did not exist when Reg first joined the police but they had use of a pet dog. He was a bloodhound and was supposed to be an expert tracker. Reg says he wasn’t. “The poor thing was useless and never successfully tracked a single suspect,” he said. “Sadly, he fell off the end of St Aubin’s Harbour and drowned. We suspected he jumped because he was so disgraced.”

The force eventually bought two police dogs and trained two handlers; PC Dickie Stokes and PC Jock Cowey. Dickie’s dog was called Flash. Reg remembers walking across the yard to his patrol car at HQ and one of the handlers thought it would be fun to send his dog after him from the other side of the yard. “He was kind enough to warn me of the dog’s approach and I managed to sprint into the safety of my patrol car.”

Reg dealt with countless incidents, a few of which stick out in his mind. He was sent to Brighton Road where an old woman was refusing to allow the ambulance service into her home to take away the corpse of her husband. He had died of natural causes. Their doctor had reported the death. Reg had to shout through her letter box to convince her to allow them in. She was adamant her husband was still alive because his watch was still working.

On another occasion, a young man had shot dead his uncle during a drunken argument and buried the body in the sand dunes. A child found a hand protruding from the ground and the police were called. “A probationary officer was first on the scene and managed to get the victim’s blood on him. He therefore used his own handkerchief to clean his hands and then discarded it. CID arrived and bagged and sealed the bloodied handkerchief thinking it was a vital piece of evidence. He eventually had to admit to his mistake. That kind of mistake wouldn’t happen today.”


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