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Queensland's earliest police manuals

By JOL Admin | 23 March 2017

Guest blogger:   Lisa Jones, Queensland Police Museum with Libby Fielding, John Oxley Library.

Back in 1869, the speed limit for Queensland police officers travelling by horse was five miles per hour - unless of course you happened to be pursuing an offender. Standard equipment for a constable on duty included, among other essentials, handcuffs, a carbine with bayonet, a muzzle stopper and scabbard. Citizens could be arrested without warrant for singing an obscene ballad. A police officer needed to have a strong constitution, to “be able to read and write well” and to be supported in his application to join the force by a character reference from a respectable party in the colony. All members of the force required permission from the Police Commissioner before they could get married.

This is a small sample of the wealth of fascinating historical detail to be discovered in the Rules for the general government and discipline of members of the Police Force of Queensland a small, bound manual which State Library recently digitised with the kind support of the Queensland Police Museum. Produced in 1869, this remarkable little publication had the distinction of being the very first manual ever printed for Queensland police officers and we are delighted to be in a position to share its content with State Library’s online audience.

The manual was written so that members of the Police Force “may not be embarrassed in the execution of their several duties from the want of proper instructions”. It instructed an officer in every aspect of his duties - how to feed, water and stable his horse, when to blow his whistle or use his baton, how to conduct himself in the event of a riot.

Such rules, as we see in the account below, were based on the standard of the Victorian Police (which in turn reportedly derived from that of the Irish Constabulary). And as the Police Museum’s Lisa Jones relates here, the subsequent manual, published in 1876, also digitised and available through State Library’s catalogue, was a more expansive and Queensland oriented version. Our thanks to Lisa for the following account which throws some light on the origins and history of Queensland’s first two police manuals:

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Rules for the general government and discipline of members of the Police Force of Queensland, 1869

Rules for the general government and discipline of members of the Police Force of Queensland, 1869

The Queensland Police Force was inaugurated on 1 January 1864 but it took three years before the first Queensland Police Manual was printed. A version of the Victorian Police Manual of the Duties of a Constable was utilised in the intervening years.

In 1869 the thin, 65 page Rules for the General Government and Discipline of members of the Police Force of Queensland, was printed and issued to every serving Queensland police. Although Commissioner Seymour was of the opinion that the rules had not been changed enough from the Victorian example, and that ‘All that was objectionable in the old rules has been retained, and there is in those newly inserted, such an amount of contradiction as to render it very difficult to understand them.’

This manual was, by its own admission, all a police officer needed to undertake his duties within the state. A useful index was provided from which a police officer could discover ‘when to arrest intoxicated persons in the street’ or ‘how to preform despatch duty’ amongst other duties.

Seven years later in 1876, a second Manual of Police Regulations for the Guidance of the Constabulary of Queensland was printed, this more comprehensive volume of 266 pages, is the first ‘truly’ Queensland version. This manual starts with ‘Accidents’ and ends with ‘Weights and Measures, Illegal’ with a whole lot of topics in-between including the dangers of dropped orange peel: ‘The police are to remove pieces of orange peel whenever seen on the pavement. Frequent accidents have occurred through persons slipping down from stepping upon orange peel.’

Lisa Jones - Curator, Queensland Police Museum

Rules for the general government and discipline of members of the Police Force of Queensland (1869)  / Brisbane : James C. Beal, Government Printer.

Manual of police regulations for the guidance of the constabulary of Queensland  (1876) / Brisbane : James C. Beal, Government Printer


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