On 1st June 1967, after a series of major mergers that began in 1943, all of the peninsula’s forces came together to form the Devon and Cornwall Police we know today. In 2017, the police force will be running a series of celebrations to mark our 50th anniversary.
The history of the police dates back to 1836 when 22 borough police forces were formed across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Each force had its own Chief Constable holding the rank of Superintendent (for larger constabularies) and Head Constable (for smaller ones.) The governing body of these early constabularies was a Police Watch Committee; the equivalent of today’s Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC). Of these, three were “city forces;” Exeter (from its inception in 1836,) Truro (granted city status in 1877) and Plymouth (granted city status in 1928.) The borough police directly replaced the archaic system of elected Parish Constables that had existed in England and Wales since the passing of the Statute of Winchester in the year 1285.
Cornwall Constabulary and the Devon Constabulary
In 1857, the Cornwall Constabulary and the Devon Constabulary were formed out of a desire to both support the borough forces of the 1830s, and to “fill in the gaps” where towns were not permitted to adopt the borough system under statute. The first county Chief Constables were Gerald de Courcy Hamilton (Devon) and Walter Raleigh Gilbert (Cornwall.) The county constabularies brought a new professionalism to the policing of the peninsula, and were instrumental in dealing with major incidents throughout Devon and Cornwall’s history, such as the Newlyn Fish Riots of 1896, the Dartmoor Prison Mutiny of 1932 and the Lynmouth Flood Disaster of 1952.
Civil defence organisations
All of Devon and Cornwall’s police forces are proudly associated with the men and women of the civil defence organisations of both world wars, including the Air Raid Precautions (A.R.P.) the Auxiliary Fire Service (A.F.S.) and the Home Guard, and our officers worked closely with them to ensure the streets of the Westcountry were kept safe in wartime. Dozens of our officers resigned their posts and joined the colours during World War One, some tragically never returning.