Chief Constables Questionnaires

1920s-1930s

During the 1920s and 30s a number of chief constables circulated questionnaires amongst their colleagues to try to determine whether or not they employed policewomen, and, if so, the duties on which they were employed and their pay and conditions of service.  The chief constables of both Brighton Borough and Hastings Borough forces are known to have done so, but unfortunately the documents have not survived.  One that has, however, and is now in the archives of the North East Police History Society, contains the replies of those four Sussex forces that did respond.  It was circulated in 1924 by the then chief constable of Rochdale Borough Police, Henry Howarth.

Brighton Borough

Brighton Borough reported that in 1919 there were 3 policewomen in that force, but in 1920 the establishment was reduced to 2, one of whom was a sergeant. One left in May 1921 and was not replaced, the one remaining left in September 1921. There were now no policewomen left in the force and no plan to recruit any.

Eastbourne Borough

Eastbourne Borough had appointed one policewoman in May 1921, and another in 1922. They were trained by the Women Patrol organisation at their training school, and were formally sworn as constables in October 1923. They were issued with uniform and held the rank of Constable. Their pay was  60/- weekly rising over 10 years to 80/-, but their pay wasn’t pensionable. Their duty shifts were 7 hours daily with 1 weekly rest day and 13 days annual leave. Their duties included  patrol work, work with women and children, especially “preventative work” and accompanying Detective officers on enquiries involving women and children. They were reported to have a “cordial” working relationship with the male officers, and overall the chief constable believed they had been “quite a success”.

Hove Borough

Hove Borough had appointed 2 policewomen in June 1919, but they were not sworn as constables. Both had been trained by the Women Police Service. Though unsworn they wore police uniform and held the rank of Constable. They were paid pay of 60/- weekly and were entitled to a pension. Their duties were 8 hours daily, with one weekly rest day and 12 days annual leave. They were reported to have “real value in rescue and preventative work amongst women and children”

West Sussex

West Sussex recruited a single  policewoman appointed in November 1919, and she was sworn as a constable and trained, it was said, by Divisional Superintendent. She held the rank of Constable and was paid 60/- weekly rising by 2/- a year to 70/-. Her duty day was  7 hours , and rest days and annual leave were the same as for male constables. According to the chief constable “One or two in a force are a great asset”.

The chief constables and police authorities of both East Sussex and Hastings Borough forces were, at this time, firmly opposed to the idea of women police, which may well account for there being no responses from them.

But perhaps most remarkable was the return sent from one, unidentified chief constable who, in answer to the question: “What, in your opinion, are the most suitable branches of work for policewomen” was “Attending to household duties”.

I am grateful to Mr Harry Wynne, chairman of the North East Police History Society for identifying this questionnaire and for providing scans of the response from the unknown chief constable.

Derek Oakensen

 

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