When the Municipality of Oak Bay was first incorporated on the 2nd of July 1906, one police officer was deemed sufficient for the maintenance of law and order in the fledgling community. He was Constable Steele. There was no police station in those days, nor for some six years afterwards. The constable’s headquarters and living accommodation was combined in an 8 x 10 foot room built within the municipal stable on Granite Street. There is no evidence that he was supplied with any form of heating for his quarters and an early Council minute book refers to his having complained about the cold due to expanded cracks in the walls of his room.
In August 1909, Steele resigned and E. F. Dawson was hired to replace him. The constable had to cover the district on a bicycle in the early years, a dirty and difficult task on the muddy roads in winter. Some of the very early residents recall that Dawson was a “tough guy” with youths who misbehaved, but they admit that it was helpful to them in developing a sound character in the later years.
There is no record of events for the next three years, indicating that the constable had matters well in hand during that time.
In May 1912, trouble developed among the workers at the construction camp of Naylor and Company on the waterfront at McNeill Bay. This company had the contract for the construction of the northeast sewer through Oak Bay. At that time, two special constables were hired to maintain law and order among the rowdy workmen.
The new municipal hall at the corner of Oak Bay Avenue and Hampshire Road was opened on August 10, 1912. The police station was housed in the same building, with living quarters overhead and cells in the basement area. The two special constables’ services had been dispensed with prior to that date. W. H. Handley, formerly with the provincial police, was appointed Chief Constable and Dawson was retained in his former position. Three additional constables were hired, they being; John Syme, Frank Suckling and John Kirby.
Apparently, at that date there was no provision in the Municipal Clauses Act (later, the Municipal Act) for a separate body either elected or appointed as a Police Commission — the Council was the responsible body. Whatever may have been the actual reason, Council decided in October 1913 that the police force was too large for the district and Chief Handley was asked to resign. In the following month, John Syme was made Chief Constable. In April 1914, Constable Dawson resigned and Samuel Nesbit was appointed as a replacement.
At that time, the constables had to get about the territory on foot or by bicycle. Chief Syme used his own automobile, being granted an allowance for maintenance.
In those early years there was very little crime in the area, with the exception of the annual Fair Week and horse racing in September, at which time the small force was kept on the jump. Criminals made a habit of following the carnival people from one town to another and the crowds at the races provided a bonanza for pickpockets. There were many cases of breaking and entering that had to be dealt with during those two weeks of the year. Another task for the police in those days was the rounding up of stray cattle whose owners permitted them to wander at large all over the district. Dogs were also a problem to be dealt with.
Personnel of the police department remained unchanged until June 21, 1913 when Constable John Kirby resigned and William Paterson was appointed as a replacement. He resigned in March 1917 and H. C. F. Reston was appointed on probation to fill the vacancy. Later in that some year, the members of the force were covered for superannuation under the Superannuation Act.