Date: Tuesday, February 13, 2024
Victoria, BC – In honour 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 in the mid-1800s. These brave men’s efforts paved the way for our Department’s foundation.
In late April of 1858, the coastal steamship Commodore brought a group from California who were fleeing the racial injustices of the pre-Civil War United States.
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 who had suffered the worst intolerances would likely be the best to police others in a fair and impartial manner.
These officers were uniformed in blue wool with a red sash to denote their official office and were armed with a stave, or wooden pole. The constables patrolled the area surrounding Fort Victoria and the tent city near where BC’s 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 few months. Many of the Black Constables remained in the community and at least one went on to police in Songhees territory just across the harbor. These trailblazers were part of the community that helped elect the man who would become the first Black person elected to office in the entire British Empire – Victoria City Councillor Mifflin Gibbs, who served from 1867-1869. Gibbs returned to the United States in 1870, became a lawyer and went on to become the first Black judge elected in the US – in New Orleans.
These Black Constables are an integral part of our history and we are proud of their ground-breaking work.
VicPD’s Commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Part of honouring the past means acknowledging it and allowing it to guide our future. Recognizing the significance of Black History Month is an important part in our process to identify and dismantle systemic barriers and promote an organizational culture where every individual who is part of VicPD, regardless of background, identity, or characteristics, feels a sense of belonging.
This is the mission of VicPD’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee, which provides leadership and oversight for the implementation of anti-racist practices at the department. Recently, the EDI Committee analyzed and made recommendations to adapt VicPD’s career development processes, which we are working towards implementing. Additionally, we continue to be involved in the Greater Victoria Police Diversity Advisory Committee (GVPDAC), which is comprised of community representatives along with police agencies in Greater Victoria, that work towards creating positive relationships between individuals from diverse communities and police officers from local police agencies. To learn more about GVPDAC, visit their website here.
We’re proud of the legacy left by the Black Constables that paved the way for our Department’s foundation, and will continue to honour the rich history of the Black community this month, and beyond.
We are seeking qualified candidates for both police officer and civilian positions. Thinking about a career in public service? VicPD is an equal-opportunity employer. Join VicPD and help us make Victoria and Esquimalt a safer community together.