Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Victoria, BC – In honour of our own history as part of Black History Month we proudly acknowledge the efforts of a small group of “Black Constables” that formed one of the first organized efforts to police Victoria. These brave men’s efforts paved the way for our Department’s foundation. A “Black Constable” uniformed in period recreation uniform from the summer of 1858 is on display at Victoria’s City Hall.

VicPD’s Black Constables Display
at Victoria’s City Hall

In late April of 1858, the coastal steamship Commodore brought a group from California that were fleeing the racial injustices of the pre-Civil War United States. Some passengers aboard were from the black community itself in California while many others were racially intolerant gold-seekers.

Members of the black community are thought to have corresponded with Governor James Douglas through the ship’s captain, John Wright, and it is through the Governor’s office that a small number were sworn in as town Constables. Douglas himself was believed to have felt that placing people that had suffered the worst intolerances would likely be the best to police others in a fair and impartial manner.

These officers were uniformed in rough clothing with a red sash to denote their official office and were armed only with a stave, or wooden pole. The constables patrolled the area surrounding the Fort itself and the “Tent City” located near where the Legislative Assembly now stands.

Tragically and through no fault of their own, the racial intolerance of others doomed the appointments and they were removed from office after only a few months. Many remained in the community and at least one went on to police in Songhees territory just across the harbor.

The “Black Constables” are an integral part of our history and we are proud of their groundbreaking work