Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter XIII page 4

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Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir

(full text transcription)

As regards the constable, his position I regarded very seriously. He had failed in his trust, and he appeared to me to be the arch-offender. He was sent back to barracks under arrest, and was brought before the Superintendent next morning, when the case was adjourned for a week; and at the end of the week was again adjourned. I spoke privately to the Superintendent and pointed out the danger of his proceeding and of the affair becoming public. ‘Oh d----- Mrs Grundy; I am not going to interfere with the amusements of the men,’ was his reply. The case still stands adjourned.


Some retired members of the force who have taken to hotel keeping have conducted their places in a very shady manner. Such men do much harm to younger members of the police, and occasionally to older men who should know better. There was one inn known in the early days as The Horse and Jockey in Little Lonsdale Street when it was kept by the late George Watson. In later years, under a different name, it came under the management of a retired policeman. Sergeant W-----, who was a great favourite of the Superintendent, was in charge of that section of the City. He was in favour with the new licensee too, though I did not know it at the time.

One night, accompanied by Sergeant W-----, I was going my rounds, when we noticed some disturbance close to the inn. As we approached, some men scattered into the side lanes. One man whom we intercepted told us there had been a robbery in the house, and that there was a constable inside who he thought had some trouble on his hands. Sergeant W----- asked me not to go in—it was not a fit place for an officer, and so on, but of course I went in, and while speaking to the licensee I heard loud voices in an adjoining room, and presently recognised the voice of Constable Peter Martin. I knocked, and, as soon as Martin heard my voice, he opened the door, saying: ‘Thank God! You are just in time, or these fellows would have killed me.’ There were several men in the room whom Martin had been keeping at bay, his back to the door, with baton and handcuffs ready to defend himself. We soon had the handcuffs on the man charged with robbery. He was the licensee’s brother!

The worst feature in this business was - Martin became a marked man amongst the licensee’s friends inside the force. Sergeant W----- was sent to another section, but some ‘bad hats’ in the barracks gave Martin no peace, and as he would not reveal their names it was very difficult to protect him.


Frank Hare used to tell of a very unpleasant incident of another kind that occurred about this time. On his rounds one night, he had occasion to stop and speak to a constable in Swanson Street . They were both in uniform, and both were remarkably tall. While they were speaking together a half-drunken man lurched in between them. The constable pushed the man aside, when he stumbled and fell, and lay insensible in the channel. Hare sent the constable to fetch a cab, and stood beside the man as he lay. The streets were not very well lighted, and several men, who were standing on the opposite side of the street, rushed across and accused Hare of throwing the man down. Explanation was vain; they had seen the man thrown down by a policeman, and Hare was the only policeman there, and they were quite prepared to swear that if the man were dead it was Hare who killed him. Fortunately the man recovered, or there might have been some unpleasantness before the coroner.


It is a police rule that a watch-house keeper may, at his discretion, refuse to accept an accusation by one person against another, if the charge seems to him an improper one. It is of course expected that the watch-house keeper will use reasonable judgment; and in all cases he must record the circumstances in a book kept for the purpose.

There was at the time of which I write a rather fussy Mayor of the City. He was not quite satisfied at the way in which the police did their duty, so he resolved to attempt some amateur work on his own account. He was found by a constable one night kicking violently at the door of a not-too-respectable house in Flinders Street . As the constable approached, he saw the Mayor take hold of another man, a private citizen who had been attracted by the noise. The Mayor insisted on this man being taken to the watch-house.

The watch-house keeper, a senior constable named Coleman, knew his business and refused the charge. The explanation put on record could scarcely have been expressed in fewer words - ‘Charge refused, Mayor drunk.’

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