History of the Brighton Police 1838-1967

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Captain W.J.Hutchinson
Copyright County Borough of Brighton Police
During its Centenary year, a year before the outbreak of the Second World War, the Brighton Police football team played a German Police team.
Sussex Police Photo Archive 1938

Inspector Gerald W Baines of the Brighton Police compiled this history

The Thirties

The demands of road traffic and the need for greater mobility continued to increase and in January 1931 three motor cycles were purchased for the force – but crime was also increasing and in the same year a fingerprint bureau was established as part of the expansion of the Criminal Investigation Department. As the duties of the force became more complex the need for better training became more apparent, and in 1932 it was decided that recruits needed more detailed instruction than was available from local resources and it was arranged that all new recruits should be sent to the Birmingham City Police Training School.

Wireless receivers

One of the greatest barriers to efficient policing at this time was the inability to pass information quickly to men on patrol and for some time Mr Griffin had been keenly interested in perfecting a scheme for providing patrols with a pocket wireless set. After experiments over a lengthy period an adequate standard was achieved, and on [4 September 1933 police history was made when a transmitter was set up on the top of the Town Hall and 30 wireless receivers were issued to patrols.

Brighton was the first police force in the world to use wireless in this way and it constituted a major advance in police efficiency. Mr Griffin retired shortly afterwards and by the time his successor, Captain W. ]. Hutchinson, had been in office for twelve months, the pocket wireless was established as a practical working proposition, and good results were being obtained through the swift circulation of information on such matters as stolen vehicles and wanted persons.

Criminal Investigation Department

By 1934 the Criminal Investigation Department had increased to one Inspector, four Sergeants and 12 Constables, and this year saw the pro- vision of the first car for their exclusive use. This was also the year of the notorious ‘Trunk Crimes’ and the comment in the Chief Constable’s report that ‘the detective department had a difficult time’ is probably a masterpiece of understatement. Road traffic was occupying an increasing proportion of police time, but the change from semaphore signals to automatic traffic lights which started in 1933 began to release some officers for other duties and the changeover was completed by 1935, when 14 sets of traffic lights had been installed. Parking was also becoming more of  problem and in 1934 the first unilateral waiting system in the town was introduced in East Street. The force showed an awareness of the needs of the times by purchasing a second hand car on which 163 members of the force passed a driving test in two years. By 1937 the fleet of vehicles had increased to ten, including two ambulances, one van, five cars and two motor cycles. In the same year the police accommodation at Preston Circus was closed due to the building of the new fire station, and new recreation rooms were opened at 88 Preston Road.


The Centenary of the force in 1938 was celebrated by a ceremonial parade and a celebration dinner. There had been an increasing enthusiasm in the force for first-aid work and the first-aid team provided an additional cause for celebration in the centenary year by winning a number of trophies, including the coveted ‘Pim’ trophy in a police competition open to all forces in England and Wales. Road safety was also attracting a good deal of attention and in the field of crime prevention Captain Hutchinson was to prove himself a notable pioneer, particularly in the immediate post-war period. In 100 years the force had grown from a watch-keeping body of 3I men to an efficient and up-to-date police force, very much aware of current needs and trends – a force that was held in high regard by the community it served and by other police forces throughout the country.

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