Peeling back the history of thin blue liney

THERE were no helicopters, no stab vests and no electronic stun guns.

But although the crime-fighting tools and uniform may have changed, there is still much to connect the police of today with the sepia-tinged bobby of the past.

A newly assembled archive on the history of policing in the East Riding shows how it all began in what is now C Division of Humberside Police.

Beverley Borough Police was formed in 1836, seven years after Sir Robert Peel established the Metropolitan Police at Scotland Yard.

In 1856 East Riding Constabulary was launched, which merged with the borough force in 1928, which in turn became part of Humberside Police in 1974.

The archive contains thousands of records and photographs recording that history, including general orders, details of police vehicles, early road safety campaigns, and records of the Police War Reserves.

Insp Steve Garmston, chairman of Humberside Police Federation, said the principles of policing, and the people wearing today's uniform, were essentially the same as when the service was founded.

"The traditional values of policing still hold good," he said. "Working methods and equipment have obviously changed beyond all recognition, and we now have officers on patrol 24 hours a day that carry firearms, but what's inside that uniform remains the same.

"It's always been a difficult and dangerous profession and I don't think that's changed; if anything we have a more difficult job now.

"There will always be people who will go to any lengths to commit crime and there are more people now prepared to use weapons; that's probably changed with society.

"But the traditional values haven't changed, police officers are members of the community who serve the community as they would like to be served themselves."

Not all developments have been welcomed, however, and some serving senior officers have voiced disquiet at a programme to modernise the force, which in May saw Humberside become the first Yorkshire force to employ more civilian staff than uniformed officers.

Some former officers also believe the force is missing out on lessons it could draw from its past.

Retired sergeant Ken Brooke, who has written a light-hearted book on the East Riding Constabulary, Police Incidents of the Humorous Kind, said: "Once you've retired that's it. A lot of expertise of people like Geoff Ogden (former head of Humberside CID) is just forgotten; nobody calls you to say, 'what do you think?'."

Mr Brooke, 70, recalls his time on the beat fondly and said there was already a sense of nostalgia among older colleagues when he joined in 1965.

"Officers who were retiring then said it will never be the same but by we had some great characters, the job was made for characters," he said.

"One of the main differences now is communication. In our days we went from telephone box to telephone box and if they wanted you they rang you."

He also believes the modern force has lost some of its connection to the community.

"In the East Riding, the policeman in Bridlington or Beverley lived where they worked, whereas now people travel 30 or 40 miles to do their eight hours and come away. They don't live with their problems and that's a great shame."

The archive is available for viewing by appointment at the Treasure House in Champney Road, Beverley, while the catalogue can be seen online at

Collections officer Joanna Larter said: "This collection contains some wonderful photographs recording over 100 years of policing in the area and anyone who has a police officer as an ancestor might find a picture of them here."