Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter XXI page 4
Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir
THE LONGMORE POLICE COMMISSION
The Police Commission, with Mr Francis Longmore as Chairman, opened its inquiries in March, 1881. I have already had occasion to refer to the work of the Commission. I am disposed to think that this Commission had all the faults of other like bodies that our short history has brought into being. The characteristics of its Chairman were peculiar. Mr Longmore was eminently honest and conscientious, but he went relentlessly for scalps.
Mr (afterwards Chief Justice) Higinbotham was, some twenty years before, a member of a similar tribunal, and he found that its methods generally were altogether repugnant to all ideas of justice and fair play. This precisely is what may be said of the Longmore Commission. Accusations were received against officers and men behind their backs, while all opportunity of cross-examining witnesses was curtly denied. One officer heard, by mere chance, that at a secret meeting of the Commission some very slanderous accusations were made affecting him, and when he demanded, and with difficulty obtained, the right to reply, the commissioners were so ashamed of the whole proceeding they ordered the evidence to be struck out of the records. But it was not struck out of the minds of the commissioners, as their report manifestly proved. Every decent member of the service felt that he was under a veritable reign of terror. Foolish or disaffected witnesses were free to make any statements they chose, and the more extravagant these statement were, the more they appeared to suit the taste of Mr Longmore and his fellow commissioners. To make matters worse, the press seemed to take no notice of these unfair methods.
AN EDITOR INTERVIEWED
I remember discussing the situation at the time with both Nicolson and Hare. They were dismayed at the turn things had taken, and were ready to throw up the sponge altogether, but this I felt should not be, and I determined on seeking an interview with the Editor of The Argus.
I began my interview with Mr Hadden somewhat maladroitly, by questioning the competency of the Argus reporter, but we soon got on to firmer ground. I was an entire stranger to the Editor, and he was not altogether disposed to accept my representation without proof. This was easy to find, and, when I saw him again on the following night, we discussed the whole business from 11 pm to 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. Then followed a series of articles on the work of the Commission. I wrote several letters, pointing out fresh items of complaint, which brought a formal explanation from the Secretary to the Commissioners. This was left to me for reply. The Secretary, through inadvertence probably, gave incorrect references to the evidence and offered some very lame excuses for the exclusion from the proceedings of the officers concerned. This offered an easy opportunity for effective reply, and was made the occasion for some remarks on the personal conduct of the Secretary.
While this controversy was going on, I was called late one night by a messenger from The Argus office, to come to see the Editor. I had used a nom de plume in signing my letters, and when I reached the Editor’s room he handed me a lawyer’s letter demanding the real name of the writer. This was rather a staggerer, for, in the time of the Berry regime, any public officer who made any complaint to the press might expect but a short shrift. The Editor, however, had already refused to give up my name, and nothing further was heard of the matter.
The campaign thus opened by The Argus was soon taken by other newspapers, with the result that the report of the Commission became a discredited thing that no one gave heed to. It is true that Nicolson and Hare were called upon to retire from the police service, not perhaps an unwise proceeding, seeing how strained were their relations, but they were at the same time appointed to the higher office of Police Magistrate. It is due to Nicolson to say, that it was not he who was responsible for the unhappy relations between these two brother officers.
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