28th May 1853
Guernsey’s first paid constables were hired
Guernsey has had “constables” since the 13th century. Yet, it wasn’t until 1853 that it started paying them. Four men were appointed to the position in St Peter Port and the posts have been maintained ever since. It could even be said that this, technically, marked the official start of the Guernsey Police force.
Police on trial
Although the constables were hired on 28 May, they didn’t actually begin performing their duties until 1 June. A budget of £160 had been approved for a year’s trial by a vote in the States of Deliberation. However, almost a third of the Deputies had been against the move. The vote was passed by a margin of 45 to 22.
At the end of a successful first year, the four constables were hired on a permanent basis. Although it’s impossible to know for sure, their success in convicting John Tapner for the murder of Elizabeth Sujon likely played a part in the renewal. Tapner was the last person ever to be executed in Guernsey.
An expanding team
The force grew slowly over the next few years. In 1881 a further two paid constables were hired, and the number increased again – to 12 – in 1902.
A dozen constables might not sound like many, but it should be remembered that in the early days the force was still a local affair covering only St Peter Port.
The States of Guernsey Police Service proper was established in 1915. Again, it had been brought into existance following a vote in the States of Deliberation. It had an inspector, two sergeants, two corporals and eleven constables. Six further constables were transferred from the St Peter Port force to perform island-wide duties.