History of New South Wales Police Pt 1


Today I am going to talk a little about the police force here in New South Wales which is of course the state of Australia that I live in and have always lived in, why this topic today well I am sitting here watching the TV show Cops so thought I would find out a bit about the cops of NSW.

Over the next few weeks I will talk about the New South Wales Police Force during the ages starting at the start of course.

The NSW Police Force is one of the largest police organisations in the English speaking world, not it the whole world as some (Tim) thought, common sense told me that would be the case as China has a bloody large police force, just saying.


NSW Police Force began as the first civilian police force in Australia, it was known as the Night Watch and was formed by Governor Phillip way back in 1789 to guard Sydney Town. It was in 1862 that all Watch Teams were combined under the Police Regulation Act of 1862 to form the NSW Police Force, that act was replaced in 1899.

When the first fleet arrived in Sydney Cove in 1788, the job of policing the colony was in the hands of the Royal Navy Marines, however, the Marines didn’t desire the job and so Governor Phillip soon appointed John Smith a free settler to the position of Constable, even though he didn’t remain in the office long he was the first recorded police officer in Australia.


The following year the Night Watch and the Row Boat Guard was appointed by the governor, these men were drawn from the ranks of the best behaved convicts. In 1790 the Night Watch was replaced by the Sydney Foot Police and continued as an organised force till 1862 with the amalgamation of the NSW colonial police forces. The Row Boat Guard was both an independent Water Police and part of the Sydney Police and was the forerunner of what is now known as the Marine Area Command.

Initially in rural areas police officers were appointed by the local Justices of the Peace and became known as Bench Police Officers or “benchers”.

It was in 1825 that the Military Mounted Police were formed following clashes between Aboriginals and settlers but they were disbanded in 1850 in favour of a civilian Mounted Police, also known as the Mounted Road Patrol, they were the forerunners of today’s Mounted Police.

There were other colonial police forces including the Board Police which was around between 1939-1846 and there was the Mounted Native Police which was around between 1848-1859 these various mounted troopers were colloquially known as “traps”.


It was in 1850 that the Parliament in Sydney legislated to amalgamate all the various colonial police forces into one force under the superintendence of and Inspector General of Police. A solicitor by the name of William Spain was appointed as the first Inspector General.

After the discovery of gold the Gold Escort was formed in 1851, it was also in that year that the Parliament in London disallowed the 1850 colonial legislation to amalgamate colonial police forces. This meant the various forces remaining as separate entities, it was during this period that police from the United Kingdom were offered free passage to NSW in return for three years service as colonial police. It was also during these years that saw the rise of bushrangers.

In 1862 there were riots on the Goldfields at Lambing Flat and the military had to be deployed to restore peace this lead to a new push for more effective policing in the colony. Also in 1862 the Police Regulation Act was passed by the colonial Parliament and on the 1st March 1862 all existing police forces were amalgamated to establish the NSW Police Force under former Army Captain John McLerie as Inspector General.


The Police Force had its headquarters in Phillip Street Sydney, and the colony was divided into districts and sub-districts at the time there were 800 Policemen at the ranks of Superintendent, Inspector, Sub-Inspector, Sergeant, Senior Constable and Constable. The Force was divided into Foot Police, Mounted Police, Water Police and a Detective Force.

Police in Sydney at the time were not routinely armed although they had access to firearms from the Police Depot, however, police in country areas did carry firearms.



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