The merging of three uniquely different police forces could never be an easy task, yet thanks to the goodwill of the men and women of the constituent forces, the fierce political battles that raged behind the scenes, principally over where the headquarters should be, barely reached the notice of the public. A five-year plan to harmonise the force was initiated by the Chief Constable Mr Greenwood, culminating in the construction of the Police Training College at Middlemoor Headquarters in 1973. It was within those five years that Unit Beat Policing, police radios and the advent of the ‘panda’ patrol car became familiar icons in the West Country throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
The new organisation was, and remains, a titan. Extending some 180 miles from the Dorset and Somerset borders and covering some 2.5 million acres, the force serves over 1 million inhabitants, a number that swells to over 11 million in the summer months when the counties receive their most valued customers – tourists. Unbound by any other police force, with over 500 miles of coastline, it is a peninsula force in the truest sense, serving the people of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly with distinction for the past fifty years.
Such a significant change obviously took some months to come into full effect and even longer for the more parochially minded officer to accept. Indeed many years would pass before the uniform of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary would be the sole uniform worn in the West Country: like the alteration from blue shirts to white for constables and sergeants that was to follow in 1979, there was a degree of reluctance to change. Many hurdles were overcome and the current force has adapted and evolved to meet the demands of an ever-changing society.
Adapting to the The Armorial Bearings of The Devon & Cornwall Police Authority.
This combines the elements from the Arms of Devon and Cornwall County Councils with a reference to police work. The waves are common to both arms in reference to the peninsular position. The red lion from the Devon arms is that of Richard Plantagenet, Earl of Cornwall, who bore it within a black border charged with 15 bazants or gold roundels. The black area and the bazants appear in the Cornwall arms. Richard's lion wore a gold crown; this is replaced by a crown vallary i.e. with points resembling the pales of a stockade which, coloured blue, suggests the security afforded by the police authority.
The crown vallary contains a half length figure of one of the gold lions which support the Plymouth arms, furnished with the white and blue barred wings of Exeter's pegasi, and wearing at the neck its blue naval crown recalling the long connections of the area with the Royal Navy.
'For the Assistance of All'. This expresses the role of the police in the community, and is a combination of the Devon motto - 'Auxilio Divino' (Sir Francis Drake's motto - 'With Divine Help') and that of Cornwall - 'One and All'.
The Morris Minor
One of the first unit beat policing vehicles used by the force was the Morris Minor with its distinctive white and blue panda colours. The officer in the image below is wearing the first issue of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary helmets, which was the old Devon county helmet with the new star badge helmet plate.
During the mid-1970s the whole style and ethos of policing the West Country went over to the principles of community policing with the Chief Constable John Alderson being in the forefront of this idea nationally. A community friendship week was organised each year in May and involved various events to bring the public and police closer together.
In the photograph, taken in about 1977 at Falmouth, the Chief Constable is joined by the singer Joe Brown at such an event. On the right is pictured the rather formidable Chief Inspector Gerry Tremelling while woman constable Janet Dolling looks on.
Underwater search unit
Members of the underwater search unit seen on their launch providing security for the Royal Yacht at Dartmouth. Sergeant Dave Ellis is at the helm. (image © Supt. Dave Ellis)
Demonstrations and wet trousers
The 1978 Barbarian Rugby match at Camborne met with a great deal of opposition because of apartheid in South Africa. Demonstrations took place and the rugby match needed a large police presence to keep order. Owing to a lack of available official transport the police officers were paraded in the road outside the police station and marched in a large contingent to the rugby ground. However the heavens opened and this great downpour lasted for most of the match and seemed to reduce any potential aggression. After the match the rather wet police officers were marched back to Camborne police station, where they were issued with dry trousers from Divisional Stores!
Support Unit training
Police Support Unit training in 1978. Following instances of civil unrest and rioting, particularly in the inner cities, training for such disorder took on a more formal nature. This early photograph of training indicates how primitive the equipment was in the initial years. Football shin pads and cricket boxes were the order of the day as opposed to the high-tech equipment available now.
Always keen to enhance community relations, Devon and Cornwall Constabulary was supported by sponsorship from Barclays Bank, who originally funded PC Padlock. He is still a frequent visitor to charitable events and fetes throughout the force area, spreading the community policing word.
The miners' dispute of 1983/84 saw the relationship between the public and the police stretched to the limit. This picture, taken at a Derbyshire colliery, clearly shows the officers of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary in their distinctive yellow reflective coats, which earned them the nickname of 'Daffodils'.
Forces from all over the country provided support to the Derbyshire police, in a similar manner to the assistance given to the Cornwall Constabulary during the clay workers' strikes at St Austell in 1913. The officers of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary acquitted themselves in an exemplary manner throughout this challenging time.
With a force area larger than most and a huge coastline and moorland area to police, the helicopter has become an essential tool in the fight against crime, as well as saving countless lives when called to support the other emergency services in the force area.