Halifax Regional Police was formed in April 1996 when the police departments of Halifax, Dartmouth, and Bedford were dissolved and merged into one police service with the creation of the Halifax Regional Municipality.
The organization has a long and proud history of serving the citizens of Halifax, dating back to 1864 when the Halifax Police Department was formally established, although the area has had some form of policing since it was first settled in 1749.
Halifax Regional Police historical records
Halifax Regional Police’s historical records are held by the Municipal Archives. Along with charge books, court record books and police chiefs’ records, there is a wonderful series of over 700 photographs dating from 1864–2004. Some of these photos are available as an online exhibit, or you can see the whole collection at the Municipal Archives.
Officers who lost their lives in the line of duty
The following officers are forever remembered for losing their lives in the line of duty.
Constable Matthew Gardner
Halifax Police Day Watch
(no photo available)
Killed in the line of duty on November 5, 1861, at the age of 45.
Cst. Gardner was Halifax's first police officer killed in the line of duty. He was fatally stabbed aboard the schooner “Shooting Star” while trying to apprehend a suspect.
Constable Charles R. Fulton
Halifax Police Department
Killed in the line of duty on July 14, 1924, at the age of 28.
Cst. Fulton was Halifax Police Department's first police officer killed in the line of duty. He was shot while trying to apprehend a suspect.
Constable John William McNutt
Halifax Police Department
Died in the line of duty on November 29, 1962.
Cst. McNutt went to a large disturbance and attempted to make an arrest, but a fight broke out and Cst. McNutt suffered a heart attacked and died.
Constable Roy Gilbert Jennex
Halifax Police Department
Killed in the line of duty on November 29, 1963, at the age of 50.
Cst. Jennex was directing traffic on Quinpool Road when he was struck by a vehicle and thrown into the path of an oncoming truck.
Corporal Eric Wallace Spicer
Killed in the line of duty on December 23, 1975, at the age of 28.
Cpl. Eric Spicer was shot to death in an incident that also involved the shooting death of a Dartmouth taxi driver. Evidence suggests Cpl. Spicer was involved in a scuffle with the perpetrator before being assaulted and shot.
The Dartmouth Police Department dedicated its police station in the name of Eric Spicer shortly after his death.
Constable Sigurd "Ziggy" Holtan
Halifax Regional Police
Died in the line of duty on October 14, 2000, at the age of 46.
Cst. Holtan was assisting in an investigation of a stolen auto in a wooded area. Cst. Holtan suffered a heart attack while escorting two prisoners out of the woods. Valiant efforts by officers at the scene were to no avail.
In recognition of giving the ultimate sacrifice, their names have been inscribed on the Nova Scotia Fallen Peace Officers' Monument located in Grand Parade Square in front of City Hall, 1841 Argyle Street, Halifax and they are commemorated each year at the Nova Scotia Fallen Peace Officers Memorial Service.
Notable historical facts about policing in Halifax
In the beginning
- July, 18, 1749: Less than one month after the city was founded, the area's 2,532 settlers elected one constable from each of the ship's companies to be sworn in as peace officers. Penalties were swift and harsh:
- There is a record of a Thomas Munroe being sentenced to death for being found in possession of stolen clothing in 1749.
- 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 previously convicted of manslaughter.
- 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.
- January 1799: A night patrol was formed to address a number of break and enters that hit the area in the previous year. Renamed the Night Watch, it became a permanent fixture in 1846.
- 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.
- October 1864: The Day Watch and Night Watch in Halifax merged to form the Halifax Police Department under Garrett Cotter, the first Chief of the Halifax Police Department. Six divisions were formed with five men assigned to each sergeant. Chief Cotter is remembered as one of the bravest and most honourable men ever to have patrolled Halifax. Halifax Regional Police named its harbour patrol vessel after Cotter and the incoming Chief of Halifax Regional Police is presented with a walking stick that once belonged Chief Cotter by the outgoing Chief. The stick signifies the profound responsibilities of the Office of the Chief of Police.
- 1869: The Halifax Police Department established a mounted unit but it was abolished soon after. In 1903, the Chief considered forming 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.
- 1874: The Dartmouth Police Department was formed.
- 1885: Halifax Police Department 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.
- 1982: The Bedford Town Police was formed.
- 1873: Halifax hired its first detective; his yearly salary was $500.
- 1876: On August 1, 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 the employees 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.
- 1900: The Dartmouth Police Department purchased its first revolver at a cost of $7.50. There is no record of firearms purchases for the Halifax Police until 1934.
- 1916: The first full-time traffic constable was assigned duties at the corner of Spring Garden Road and Barrington Street in Halifax.
- 1912: The first motorized vehicle – a motorcycle – was added to the Halifax Police Department. The Dartmouth Police Department added motorcycles to its fleet in 1936.
- 1960: The Halifax Police Department recorded their first use of tear gas shells.
- 1964: The Halifax Police Department began to use walkie-talkies.
A tradition of being on the leading edge
- First traffic violation:On October 7, 1793 George Weiss of Halifax was issued a traffic violation 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.
- First electronic crime bulletin: In 1862, the Halifax Watch received the first telegram to a police organization to 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.
- First patrol cars: On 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. on October 9.
- First 911 system: In 1982, the Bedford Town Police became the first police service to implement the 911 emergency phone system in Nova Scotia.
Police Station Factoids
- The first police station in Halifax was burnt to the ground in a riot in 1793.
- It wasn't until the spring of 1840 that the police station was required to 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 officers 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 Halifax Regional Police Headquarters now stands at 1975 Gottingen Street.