Early Winnipeg & The Police
In its beginning, Winnipeg grew rapidly. According to the Dominion Census, Winnipeg had a population of just 241 people in 1871. When it officially became a city in 1874, it was close to 5,000. Such a huge jump in population meant more crime, and the Winnipeg Police Force had to respond. When the CPR arrived in Winnipeg in 1881 there was another large influx, and the population rose to 7,985. People came from other parts of Canada, and many immigrants came from overseas. In 1911 the population reached 136,035. The city expanded to new suburbs, and was comprised of about 25 square miles.
|Point Douglas under construction in 1875. |
Point Douglas would go on to house a high volume of Winnipeg brothels.
Winnipeg was the last urban city point before the “wild" North-West, and Winnipeg always had some of that “wild” in it. There was a lot of liquor and prostitution, both of which were major issues for the police force.
|An early arrest ledger on display at the Winnipeg Police Museum. |
The first crime listed is: "Drunk on Street: 5:30 pm."
The first Chief of Police, John Ingram, had a reputation as a scrapper. The mayor at the time did not think well of him at all. Ingram also had a well-known weakness for wine – and women. He was reportedly found in a house of ill repute, in a state of undress, by his two constables. After being caught in a compromising position, he was permitted to resign. He was replaced by one of his constables, D.B. Murray. Murray left his position years later amid speculation that he was taking protection money from the Madams. Although a Sergeant was charged with taking money from a Madam, it was never officially linked to Murray himself.
In 1881, John C. McRae joined the ranks of the Winnipeg Police Force. He rose through the ranks to become Chief Constable in 1887. He was known as being one of the most progressive of all Chiefs, causing many improvements to the Force. He changed the rank structure within the force, adding a Sergeant Major to supervise the Sergeants, a Patrol Sergeant to supervise the beat Constables, and even had a Police Surgeon on staff. The first women were hired by the force in 1899 to be matrons, caring for the females arrested. McRae obtained the first mode of transportation for the force, a bicycle, which was used by Patrol Sergeants and Detectives only. He would go on to get the first motor vehicle in 1906, and later in 1910 obtained motorcycles for the Motor Patrol.
|John. C. McRae. As Chief, he brought huge progress to the Winnipeg Police Force.|
McRae understood the challenges the police force faced in Winnipeg at that time. He saw the city increasing in size, and as a transportation hub, saw an increase in the criminal element. Railway lines connected with Chicago for the movement of grain, and many people with criminal intentions made their way north.
In 1909 John McRae opened the Rupert Street Police Station, at the corner of Rupert & Louise. He also saw a need for substations, and in 1909 the city purchased parcels of land designated for these substations.
With A Division being the Rupert Street Station,
B Division (Fort Rouge) Nassau St. & Jessie Ave.
C Division (West End) Arlington St, near Westminster Ave.
D Division (Notre Dame) was located on Notre Dame Ave. & Pearl St.
E Division (North End) Magnus St. & Charles Ave.
F Division (Elmwood) Levis St. & Regent Ave.
|The Rupert Street Police Station.|
The first substations constructed were B & E Divisions, which opened May 23rd ,1911. They were mirror images of each other, with the stables at opposite ends of the building. The stables for the horses made up half of the main floor. Station Duty was at the front of the main floor. The second floor had a recreation room with a pool table, and a suite for the caretaker. Often the caretaker’s wife would also be a matron to look after the female prisoners.
Winnipeg entered in an economic downturn in 1913. The next year, the Great War broke out, which drained the city of many men who went to fight, and cut off any excess spending. As a result, the remaining substations substations were never built. In 1966 the Rupert Street Station closed when the Public Safety Building opened and the two existing substations closed on June 30, 1967.
|Blue prints the subdivision.|
B Division was torn down but the E Division station remained intact, though closed until 1990. Then a developer purchased the building and land, and converted it to an apartment building. It still stands at 200 Charles Street and Magnus Ave.
|Former subdivision E, now an apartment building.|
In 1990, the Winnipeg Police Museum was approached with the idea of recovering artifacts from within. Numerous parts were recovered including one of the 11 jail cells.
|A jail cell from E Division, now on display at the Winnipeg Police Museum.|
|The glamorous interior.|
Visit the Museum
|An exhibit on the "Special Police" from the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. |
Any officers who went on strike were fired, and replaced with "special" constables.
The museum is home to a huge variety of amazing artifacts that were saved over the decades by the Winnipeg Police Service, from the earliest days until the present. The museum even has early memorabilia from individual police organizations prior to Winnipeg's incorporation of a city.
Police officers themselves aren’t the only ones remembered in the museum. Some of Winnipeg’s most infamous criminals have earned spots in the museum, including serial killer Earle Nelson who killed dozens of women across North America before being apprehended in Winnipeg. The gory, yet fascinating details are all available in the museum.
|Infamous serial killer, Earle Nelson. Photograph displayed in the museum.|
|Another story of an infamous criminal displayed at the museum. |
Kerfanko conspired with law enforcement to escape from jail.
The Winnipeg Police Museum is now located inside the police headquarters at 245 Smith Street. It had its grand opening in its new location in June of 2016. Many dignitaries and community leaders attended to see the impressive space and artifacts.
|Shotgun shells fired by the Winnipeg Police.|
Guest Post by Randy James, former Winnipeg Police Officer, and Winnipeg Police Museum volunteer. Edited by Laura Wiens, Marketing & Communications Officer for Heritage Winnipeg.