Transport

Superintendent Thomas Lee 1912One of the biggest problems confronting a county force is that of distance, and efficient transport is essential. When the force was first formed its members’ chief means of transport were their feet.The chief constable and superintendents were provided with horses and carts, and railways were available for travel to such duty as race meetings. Otherwise, all ranks travelled on foot, and the distances that some officers walked, particularly inspectors in charge of divisions or sub-divisions, can well be imagined, especially as they had to perform nine hours duty seven days a week. The result is reflected in the large number of men who either died in the Service or had to resign before completion of service.

The first mention of mechanical transport in this force (apart from rail) was in 1881 when the magistrates at Coleshill recommended the provision of a tricycle for the use of the police stationed there, but there is no record that such a vehicle was supplied. Without a doubt, the coming of the bicycle was one of the greatest boons ever to befall the police. It appears that by 1890 some members of the force owned bicycles and in some cases small allowances were paid towards the cost of tyres, but it was not until 1896 that bicycles were bought by the police authority. In that year one was provided for use in each division and very strict instructions were given about its use.

Only proficient riders were to be allowed to ride the machine, no learners were permitted, and it was to be ridden in plain clothes only. Gradually more cycles were provided and cycle allowances paid to officers who used their own machines.

Just before the first world war the chief constable made application for a motor car allowance for himself, and this was granted. The first county-owned motor vehicle was a motor cycle combination obtained from the Disposals Board at the end of the 1914-18 war. This was kept at headquarters for use by the Criminal Investigation Department, etc., and was replaced by a car in 1926. Superintendents gradually replaced their horses and carts by cars, but some horse-drawn vehicles continued in use until the early 1920’s. From then onwards small allowances were paid to officers in charge of sub-divisions and sections towards the upkeep of motor vehicles used on duty. In 1935 six cars were purchased for patrol purposes and the numbers were gradually increased. Today there is a fleet of some 120 vehicles of all types, ranging from motor cycles for use on country beats to high-powered wireless patrol cars.