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Home » About the VPD » History

History

History2021-08-13T14:14:46-07:00

The Vancouver Police Department was formed in the spring of 1886, when Vancouver was just a small village of 500 residents known as Granville.

From the Department’s humble beginnings as a one-man operation in 1886, to our current strength of more than 1,700 civilian and sworn members, our diversity now reflects the many communities that make up Vancouver.

We have continued to adapt and evolve with the passing years, dedicated to our tradition of going above and beyond, and pursuing innovative approaches to policing, training, and crime prevention.

Vancouver Police Fallen Officers
VPD Officers Killed in War
VPD Dog Memorial
Service Dogs Killed in the Line of Duty

Timeline

1886: Vancouver’s First Chief Constable is Appointed

John Stewart is sworn in as Vancouver’s first police chief and only police officer on May 10, 1886.

Just one month later, the Great Fire of 1886 destroys the city. Stewart is joined by Jackson Abray, V.W. Haywood, and John McLaren, to form the fledgling Vancouver Police Department, and they work from a tent at the foot of Carrall Street as Vancouver is rebuilt from ashes.

1904

1904 – New police building

The police department’s 31 officers move into a new police building at Cordova and Main, which includes a police court and cells, and a separate women’s jail.

1906

1906 – Call boxes introduced

Call boxes are introduced in the city, freeing officers to patrol their areas and be summoned by phone when needed. Officers no longer stand at intersections waiting for people to find them if they needed help.

1908

1908 – VPD Mounted Squad is formed

The Vancouver Police Mounted Squad is formed, with 11 officers and 12 horses. A year later, the first patrolman on horseback is assigned to patrol Stanley Park.

1911

1911: VPD Marine Unit created

The VPD Marine Unit is created to help deter theft from boats and waterfront properties, and arrest the criminals responsible. Officers also deal with opium smugglers.

1912

1912: First female police officers hired

Vancouver is the first police department in Canada – and third in the world – to hire female officers. Lurancy Harris and Minnie Miller act as matrons in the jail, escort women prisoners, and make regular patrols of pool halls, cabarets, dances and other places where young people congregate.

1912: First VPD officer killed in the line of duty

Lewis Byers is the first VPD officer killed in the line of duty. He is shot by a suspect who had earlier threatened liquor store employees with a gun. Read more about his story and the stories of all 16 officers who have been killed in the line of duty.

1914

1914: John Vancouver starts

John Vance is a City of Vancouver health analyst when he is called to take blood samples at the scene of a murder. His forensic skills prove to be exceptional, and he is given a crime lab later the same year. He becomes known as the “Sherlock Holmes of Canada,” and is so good at his job that there are several attempts on his life.

1914: VPD Pipe band begins

The VPD Pipe Band begins with 16 police officers. It is the third police pipe band in the world, along with Edinburgh and Glasgow, and is still in existence today.

1922

1922: VPD Traffic Division formed

The VPD’s first traffic enforcement officers begin patrolling in 1918 after the Department purchased three Indian motorcycles, but it is 1922 when the first Traffic Division is formed. Right from the start, officers are committed to road safety, and balance education with enforcement.

1929

1929: Point Grey and South Vancouver join Vancouver

The municipalities of Point Grey and South Vancouver join Vancouver and police sub-stations are opened in each area.

1932

1932: First VPD forensic lab

The first VPD forensic lab opens at 238 E. Cordova, next door to the police station. It is one of the most advanced forensic facilities in North America, even rivalling the FBI crime lab that opens the same year.

1937

1937: Statistical Bureau created

In a first for Canadian Police forces, the Statistical Bureau is created, equipped with Hollerith Tabulating machines, to keep track of crime trends and information on suspects.

1938

1938: First police radios in VPD police cars

The first police radios are installed in VPD police cars.

1950

1950s: Drunkometer and radar guns are introduced

The “Drunkometer” – a device used to detect a driver’s level of impairment – and radar guns, to determine a vehicle’s speed of travel, are introduced, enabling officers to save countless lives, as they reduce the number of impaired and dangerous drivers.

1953

1953: New police headquarters

New police headquarters at 312 Main Street opens.

1954

1954: Motorcycle Drill Team is formed

The Vancouver Police Motorcycle Drill team is formed by Sergeant “Cookie” Ryan. The team has performed their high-speed maneuvers and other skills for thousands of spectators since.

1957

1957: VPD Canine Unit created

The Vancouver Police Canine Unit is created, the oldest municipal police dog unit in Canada. In 1959, Chief Constable George Archer wrote about the unit: “It is my considered opinion, based on our experience to date, that the four dogs now on duty are each equal to a second police constable and, in some instances, better.”

1957: Female officers are granted pay equity

Female officers are granted pay equity with the male co-workers.

1962

1962: Molony 4-Finger System for Print Search developed

Sergeant Basil Molony devises a system to quickly identify a single fingerprint found at a crime scene, known as the Molony 4-Finger System for Print Search, and it is adopted by police agencies throughout North America. The Crime Detection Laboratory, the Fingerprint Section, and the Document Examination Section are highly respected by other experts in their fields.

1968

1968: First Chinese VPD officer

Eugene Wai Kin Ko becomes the first Chinese VPD officer, previously working as a police inspector in Hong Kong. He resigned the following year to join the RCMP as a security officer.

1969

1969: First Black VPD officer

The VPD’s first black officer was hired. Arthur “Bruce” Clarke went on to a policing career that spanned over 30 years.

1972

1972: School Liaison Unit begins

The VPD School Liaison Unit begins at Killarney Secondary School, which would expand to include all elementary and high schools in the city. The goals of the program are to eliminate barriers between youth and police by providing support and mentorship, to provide safety and crime prevention education, and to investigate crime.

1976

1976: Communications Centre opens

A new and ultra-modern Communications Centre opens, and the 9-1-1 system is implemented.

1978

1978: Car 87 program begins

The Car 87 Program begins, which teams a Vancouver Police officer with a mental health professional. They provide on-site assessments and intervention for people living with mental illness. It is the first program of its kind in the world, and police agencies throughout the world adopt it.

1979

1979: Mobile computers installed in police cars

The computer age arrives and VPD is the first Canadian department to install mobile computers in police cars, giving officers immediate access to information and allowing them to communicate directly and securely with the Communication Centre.

1981

1981: First VPD Indigenous liaison officers

VPD’s first Indigenous liaison officers are assigned

1985

1985: VPD Ceremonial Unit formed

The VPD Ceremonial Unit begins at the Sea Festival Parade. Members continue to represent the VPD today, marching in parades and taking part in events and functions, including performing honour guard duties.

1986

1986: Police Museum opens

The Vancouver Police Museum opens in time for the centennial anniversary of the VPD, dedicated to the gathering and sharing of historical information of the VPD, the City Coroner’s Services, and the City Analyst Laboratory. Run by the Vancouver Police Historical Society, and a registered charity, the Museum is located in the old Coroner’s Court building at 238 Cordova.

1991

1991: VPD Bike program starts

Police officers were patrolling on bicycles as early as 1899, but the VPD Bike Program officially begins in 1991, providing a mix of community outreach, neighbourhood policing, and crime-fighting. In just over 10 years, it would grow to one of the largest bike programs in North America.

1994

1994: Headquarters moves to 2120 Cambie Street

After more than 40 years, VPD headquarters moves from 312 Main Street to 2120 Cambie. Many sections remain in the Main Street building, as the Department is split between two main buildings.

1996

1996: VPD launched website

The VPD launches its first website, one of only a handful of police websites worldwide.

1997

1997: VPD Chief Constable walks in Pride Parade

VPD Chief Constable Bruce Chambers is the first police chief in Canada to walk in a Pride Parade.

2000

2000: First female VPD Deputy Chief Constable

Carolyn Daley becomes the VPD’s first female Deputy Chief Constable, 25 years after joining the Department.

2006

2006: Susan Point gives VPD Thunderbird artwork

The Musqueam Band gives the VPD artwork by Susan Point of a Thunderbird, a guardian spirit greatly respected as the hero in many Coast Salish legends. Symbolizing strength, principle, and courage, the artwork is showcased on all police vehicles and becomes part of the Department’s identity.

2007

2007: Jim Chu becomes first non-white chief constable

Jim Chu, of Chinese ancestry, becomes the first non-white VPD Chief Constable.

2007: First VPD canoe

The first VPD canoe is launched, named NCH’7MUT (pronounced In-CHOTE-Mote), which means “One Heart, One Mind.” VPD paddlers and Indigenous Youth use the canoe in the annual Pulling Together Canoe Journey.

2010

2010: Second police building at 3585 Graveley Street

The Department moves into 3585 Graveley Street, as the second main police building to 2120 Cambie Street headquarters.

2010: VPD joins Twitter

The VPD joins Twitter, fully embracing social media as a communications and engagement method.

2015

2015: VPD Pipe Band plays for the Queen

To crown their centennial year, the VPD Pipe Band travels to England to perform in the Changing of the Guard in front of her majesty, the Queen. The longest, continually-serving police pipe band in the world, they are the first non-military pipe band to perform in the ceremony’s 350-year history.

2017

2017: Two fully electric motorcycles join VPD fleet

The Department adds two fully-electric motorcycles to the VPD fleet of vehicles, becoming one of the first police agencies in Canada to use pure electric motorcycles for police operations. In 2018, an additional 20 electric vehicles replace gas-powered cars in the fleet, which are used by investigative and administrative staff.

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