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The regionalization of the Bedford, Dartmouth, Halifax and Halifax County areas brought three municipal police departments with distinct histories together to form Halifax Regional Police. The area has been policed from 1749. The Halifax Police Department was formally established on October 28, 1864, while Dartmouth was incorporated in 1873, with their police department being established a year later. Bedford didn't have its own town police until 1982.

The History of Policing in the Region

Less than one month after the city was founded, on July 18, 1749, the area's 2,532 settlers elected one constable from each of the ship's companies to be sworn in as peace officers. Back then, penalties were swift and harsh. There is record of a Thomas Munroe being sentenced to death for being found in possession of stolen clothing. Less than a year later, in April of 1750, three men were convicted and sentenced to death for stealing a cow. The sentence was later reprieved.

Judgements were not only harsh, but courts took ingenious measures to identify criminals. Since there were no formal "criminal records", people convicted of certain crimes were branded. In 1754, three men were convicted of manslaughter. The Magistrate ordered the men to have the letter "M" burned into their left hands so if the men appeared in court again, the judge would know they had been convicted of manslaughter before.

May 1765 marked the first and only hangings held in Dartmouth. Two men were convicted of murdering a man and woman from Halifax, and four other men were convicted of a housebreak. All six were hanged. After that, all public hangings took place at the Halifax Commons.

In January 1799, the "Night Patrol" was formed to address a number of break and enters that hit the area in the previous year. The Night Watch became a permanent fixture of the Halifax Police Department in 1846.

Then, in July 1813, a short-lived "Militia Patrol" was established because of rioting in the city. It was disbanded in February 1814, but quickly re-instated less than a month later because rioting returned.

In October 1864 the Day Watch and Night Watch in Halifax merged to form the Halifax Police Department under City Marshall Garrett Cotter.  Six divisions were formed with five men assigned to each Sergeant.

Police Station Factoids

The first police station built in Halifax was burnt to the ground in a riot in 1793.

It wasn't until the spring of 1840 that it was declared the police station must remain open every day of the week.

In 1869, the police station was located in the basement of City Hall, at the foot of George Street and the corner of Upper Water Street. It was in such disrepair, police chose to sit outside the station rather than go in. Then Mayor James MacKintosh wrote in his annual report, "The Police Station is a disgrace to the City of Halifax. It is a perfect pest hole, saturated with sewage, ill ventilated and unhealthy in the extreme ... no one could remain for an hour in the Police Station without great danger."


In May 1890, a new Police Station was opened at the corner of Duke and Barrington Streets, close to where the current headquarters building now stands.

By 1897, the Dartmouth Police Station had electronic lighting installed.  Modernization came to the force with new regulations being put in place, including officers carrying police batons.

Horse, Bikes and Cars

In 1885, police added a horse-drawn wagon to their beat. The officer in charge of the wagon attended an accident at Buckingham Street one morning where a horse was killed. He couldn't spell Buckingham, so he dragged the horse to Duke Street to do his report. The same story appears in the annals of Dartmouth history with an officer dragging a horse from Ochterloney Street to King Street.


Halifax Police established a mounted unit in 1869, but it was abolished soon after. In 1903, the Chief considered a new mounted unit, but decided he would rather have five or six more men, rather than horses that could only be used six months of the year. The unit was re-established in 1905. Dartmouth established its mounted unit in 1925.


In addition to horses, the first motorized vehicle -- a motorcycle -- was added to the Halifax Police Department in 1912. Dartmouth added motorcycles to its Department in 1936.

"Firsts" in Policing History

October 7, 1793 - Canada's first traffic violation was issued to George Weiss of Halifax for "disorderly riding in the streets." He was given the option of paying a fine of 10 shillings, working on the highway for four days, or being sent to the House of Correction to receive "10 stripes" then discharged.

In 1862, Halifax Police received the first telegram to a police department that helped warn them of criminals headed their way. The telegram came from Horton, Nova Scotia and warned of two horse thieves heading to town. The two were arrested when they arrived. It's the first known case of using a telegram to combat crime.

October 9, 1934 - Halifax became the first city in Canada to introduce radio patrol cars to their fleet. The transmitter was set up October 6, and the first car went on patrol at 4 p.m. October 9.

Local "Firsts"

1873 - Halifax hired its first detective, his yearly salary was $500.

1900 - first revolver purchased for Dartmouth Police at a cost of $7.50. There is no record of firearms purchases for Halifax Police until 1934.

1916 - the first full-time traffic constable was assigned duties at the corner of Spring Garden Road and Barrington Streets in Halifax.


1960 - in August, Halifax Police recorded their first use of tear gas shells

1964 - Halifax Police began to use walkie-talkies

1982 - Bedford Town Police took over policing of the Town of Bedford, and became the first police service to implement the 9-1-1 emergency phone system in Nova Scotia.


Historical Cases in HRP Records

November, 1872 - People arriving at the ports complained about the steep hill and stone steps that carried them up North Street. Cab drivers fought for passengers. One fight led to William Connolly being charged with assault against another cabbie, William Conlon. The case was settled before the Magistrate and Connolly paid a one cent fine plus costs -- the smallest fine ever recorded in Police Court.

August 1, 1876 - Halifax's first recorded bank robbery took place at the Bank of Nova Scotia where a man of "decent appearance" asked a janitor if he could go into the bank to look for something he had lost. While staff were on the front steps of the bank watching a Barnam Circus parade, the bandit made off with $29,571.51. Three men were later arrested in Bedford, but all were released. No one was ever charged with the robbery.

November 5, 1909 - Two men from New England held up the Ropeworks messenger for the payroll. The messenger was shot in the mouth. Police were not needed as the staff of Ropeworks cornered the bandits in a farmhouse near Big Albro Lake. The men were brought to trial and got eight years in Dorchester Penitentiary.


Halifax Regional Police transferred its historical records to the Municipal Archives in 2006 and 2007. Along with charge books, court record books and Chiefs' records, there is a wonderful series of over 700 photographs dating from 1864-2004.  To view these photographs or other police records contact the Archives.

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