Information taken from “The Saint John Police Story – The Clark Years 1890 – 1915” authored by Gerald F. Wallace, William Higgins and Peter McGahan to be shared with our community through the Saint John Police Museum Inc. (Permission given by late Linda Higgins, widow of William Higgins.)

Here are a few interesting facts:

Initially under the supervision of the police magistrate, the department in 1856 was placed under the control of a chief of police, appointed not locally but by the Governor-in-Council.  At this time Common Council held control over the size and the wages of the department; however, the power to appoint the chief remained within the jurisdiction of the executive council. This was to remain until March 20th, 1913 when the Common Council were given the authority to appoint their own chief as well as have control over the size and wages of members of the department. The arguments presented to the province by council was “The body that pays should have the right to appoint, and that the Legislature should not refuse St. John a right enjoyed by every other city and municipality in the province”. [1]

Chief John. R. Marshall had served as chief since 1862

Chief Marshall was retired in his seventies and in May 23, 1890 and his replacement was William Walker Clark.

Chief Clark had a background of managing large groups of men and left his job as mayor’s clerk to become the chief of police. He traveled to Boston to visit his brother, a Boston policeman, and to view their resources and organization with the thought of using these.

Chief Clark had his own objectives and advised his members on the very day he was sworn in by assembling the men for a roll call and as they passed through his office he shook hands with each one, the inspectors were then introduced to the officers, and Chief Clark addressed the officers.  He first reminded them of their “grave responsibilities,” saying that they were “servants of the public, not of a class or faction.” [2] To remind them of their duties he prepared a manual for them to use. He told them that some of them would be transferred from one station to another, and that a regular drill would be instituted, also that discipline and appearance were important.  Each policeman was to keep a daily log recording therein all matters of importance. Each was to salute a superior officer; he also urged them to carry their batons in their belts, to keep their coats buttoned up and to appear in full uniform when presenting evidence in court.

He told his men that he regretted that the force still did not have a pension in place for all its men.  The hours on each shift were too long.  He hoped to convince the city fathers of the need to increase the size of the force, a matter he would raise repeatedly in subsequent years.  A city of 10 square miles and fifty miles of streets through the 1890s, he reminded those who would listen, required more manpower.

Only several days after assuming office, Clark announced a set of “General Orders,” which embodied the principles he had earlier expressed.  Both Divisions were to parade at their stations before going on duty. The sergeant on night duty was to prepare a report for his counterpart on the next shift.  Any officer making an arrest between 7 pm and 3 am was to be permitted to go home immediately so that he could be alert for his court appearance the next morning.

By the middle of 1890 the department consisted of a total of forty-six men including the chief.  Each Division was divided into a number of beats.  A set of lockups was distributed throughout the city, where the men on the beat could bring those whom they arrested, before their transferal to the central police station on King Street East.  The physical condition of the lockups was not always satisfactory.  Nonetheless, this arrangement was necessary for a non-motorized force.  The introduction of the streetcar to Saint John during the latter part of the 19th century, did however, permit the police to cover more areas of the city.  The only other means for the men to get around was on foot, with the exception of “slovens” used to cart off numerous drunks picked up during the shift.

Chief Clark submitted his resignation in early January 1915 to be succeeded by David Simpson of Edmonton, Alberta.  An era in the history of the city’s policing had come to an end. [3]


[1] Saint John Globe, 11 March 1913
[2] Saint John Globe, 21 May 1890
[3] The Saint John Police Story, The Clark years 1890 -1915

Saint John Police Volkswagen

Police Bug and SJPM Logo
Police Vehicle 117

In 1965 a Volkswagen Beetle was purchased by the Saint John Police Department and was used daily as either a Traffic or Supervisors vehicle. In April of 1998, the Saint John Police Force began plans to recognize their 150th Anniversary occurring in April of 1999. One of the projects for the Anniversary was to bring car 117 back to life because of its unique history with the Saint John Police Force. In early May of 1998, a suitable candidate for restoration was found in Belfast, Maine, USA. It was brought back to Saint John and the restoration process began with the help of local businesses. The restoration took eight months and the newly restored Car 117 was presented to the public at the 150th Ceremony in front of City Hall.

In May of 1999 Car 117 attended the Nation Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C. Car 117 placed second at the Police vehicle show being held at the Memorial. Since its completion, Car 117 has attended several shows, parades, community events and is on display most Cruise Ship days in front of the Saint Police Museum located at 56 Prince William Street in uptown Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.