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Archives In Brief 20 - Police service records

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Provides a brief overview of the major sources held by State Records that relate to police officers in New South Wales. Other records may be identified in Archives Investigator, and Short Guide 10: Professions and Occupations.

Historical Background

Barraba Police Station, n.d.; NRS 4346, Photographs of public buildings in NSW, 1880-1940; Digital ID: 4346_a020_a020000019.jpg

In August 1789, Arthur Phillip established a night-watch which came under civil control. It consisted of eight of the best-behaved convicts in the Colony. This was the first Police force in the country.

The force was re-organised along English lines by Governor Hunter in 1796, with constables being placed under the control of local magistrates. It remained this way, until Governor Macquarie's time, when a certain degree of centralised control was achieved in January 1811 with the appointment of a Police Superintendent.

As the Colony expanded and the population grew a number of specialised forces were established. These included a Water Police force which was set up in Sydney c.1832, abolished in 1843 and re-established with the appointment of a Water Police Magistrate in 1847; the Native Police corps which operated mainly in northern New South Wales from 1848; and the Border Police, who were responsible to the Commissioners of Crown Lands for policing the land regulations in the remote Squatting Districts.

The most important of these specialised forces was the Mounted Police, which had the responsibility of protecting settlers in outlying areas as well as goods in transit on the roads. It was abolished in 1850. A Gold Escort was formed a year later in 1851 to provide safe passage for gold being transported from the diggings to Sydney.

Unification of the Police force did not come about until the Police Regulation Act of 1862. This Act placed the responsibility of the whole Police force into the hands of the Inspector General and it was organised largely along the lines of its present day basis.

Image details: Barraba Police Station, n.d.; NRS 4346, Photographs of public buildings in NSW, 1880-1940; Digital ID: 4346_a020_a020000019.jpg

A select list of sources

This list is not exhaustive. Researchers should also consult:

To locate the early records of the Police Service consult the index under the term 'Police'. Correspondence relating to appointments, reports, applications, pay lists and other general police information from the early years of the Colony is listed. Researchers should also consult the index under the name of the individual.

Colonial Secretary

These records contain the names of police officers working in both Sydney and country areas. In some instances numbers rather than names of constables are given.

NRS 906, Special bundles
* Blue Books: NSW Civil Establishment, Police, 1825, 1831 [4/7419]
* Blue Books: NSW Civil Establishment, Returns of Police 1833-35, 1837-43 [4/7385-87, 4/7389-95] Reel 1720; 1844-49 [4/7396-401] Reel 1721; 1850-53 [4/7402-05] Reel 1722; 1854-56 [4/7406-08] Reel 1723
These are arranged chronologically and then alphabetically by districts. Police were under the control of local justices of the peace or police magistrates. Not all ranks are named in these returns.

Index to the Colonial Secretary's Correspondence, Convicts and Others, 1826-94
Fiche 5557-5559, 5736-5738, 5907-5909, 5955-5957, 5966-5968, 6069-6074, 6127-6129, 6433-6435, 6448-6450, 6453-6455 
This indexes Colonial Secretary: Main series of letters received, 1826-88, NRS 905. The index, compiled by Joan Reese, may be of use to researchers interested in policemen serving in the years 1826 to 1894.

NSW Police Service

It is important to note that records of the NSW Police Service do not generally provide the details of a particular police station where a police officer was working. Records will provide the name of the district in which a policeman was working.

NRS 10946, Police salary registers, 1838-1915
[11/16332-37, 3/2988-95] Reels 1970-1974
These registers provide the following: register number, name, rank, salary details and remarks (this column usually notes promotions, dismissals or resignations).

NRS 10943, Registers of police appointments, c.1857-1913
[8/3251-53] Reel 3043
This series is arranged alphabetically by surname and provides: service number, name, mounted or foot, date of birth, physical description, native place, marital status, calling, district, date of appointment and date and cause of leaving the force. Search the online index.

NRS 10945, Registers of police, 1862-1904 *ARK
[7/6213], Reels 2657 and 1974, Fiche 846-850
* 1866-May 1913 [8/3255-58]
Reels 3044-3047
These registers provide details such as: date of appointment, age, physical description, marital status, native country, religion, education, previous occupation and where stationed. They also include demotions, discharges, deaths, and superannuation.

NRS 10944, Registers of pensions, Nov 1851-Jan 1907
[11/16339] Reel 3048, [7/6219] Reel 2658
Information provided includes: name, rank, district, gratuity or pension, and amount.

NRS 10942, Register of appointments, promotions, dismissals and retirements, 1855-61
[7/6362] Reel 2657
Details include: name, physical description, marital status, trade/calling, date of appointments and previous Colonial government service.

Police service cards, 1913-c.1986 [AK724]
This series provides details such as: name, date of birth, physical description, previous calling, marital status, examinations and qualifications, district and station, duty, and cause and date of leaving the force.

NRS 10950, Police service registers 1927-80 [11/11767-77, 6/20576-609]   
These registers relate specifically to those officers who left the Police Department between the years 1966-80 (some joining the Force as early as 1927).
Details provided include: appointment and promotions, personal descriptions, previous calling, examinations, medical history, uniforms and equipment issued, duties, misconducts and commendations, and special abilities and qualifications. They relate not only to police officers but also to Junior Trainees, Cadets, Special Constables, Trackers, Matrons, and Parking Police.

NRS 10956, Cadet registers, 1950-1977
Entries record: registered number; name of cadet; date of birth; height; weight; eye and hair colour; complexion; native place; religion; level of education; where stationed; date of appointment and remarks (which record whether the cadet was accepted into the force). Entries are arranged by the date of entry into the cadetship.
Police cadets trained at Redfern known as the Police Depot (to December 1954) and the Police Training Centre (December 1954 to 1983). The Police College (later Academy) at Goulburn opened in 1984.

Mounted Police

Colonial Secretary

NRS 906, Returns of Mounted Police, 1837-50 [4/7420, 4/7205]

NRS 906, Returns of the Gold Escort, 1851-56 [4/7423]

NSW Police Service

NRS 10998, Record of offences by members of the Mounted Police Corps, 1839-50
Reels 2901, 3041

NRS 10999, Nominal Roll of the Mounted Police Corps, 1848
Reels 2901, 3041

NRS 11000, Orders to Mounted Troops, Jul 1841-Sep 1850
Reel 2901

NRS 11001, Mounted Police Adjutant's Office Sydney: Copies of letters sent, Jan 1842-Sep 1846
Reel 2901

Water Police

Colonial Secretary

NRS 906, Special bundles
* Returns of Water Police, 1841-44, 1847-56 [4/7425, 2/8022, 2/8028]

Border Police

Colonial Secretary

NRS 906, Special bundles
* Border Police: reports on conduct and employment, 1842 [4/1132]
* Commissioners of Crown Lands. Reports and returns of Border Police — Portland Bay, New England and Clarence River districts, 1843-46 [4/1139.1]
* Commissioners of Crown Lands. Reports and returns of Border Police — Darling Downs and McLeay River districts, 1843-46 [4/1138.1]
* Commissioner of Crown Lands, Bligh District. Reports re Border Police, 1843-47 [4/7204]
* Commissioners of Crown Lands. Reports on Border Police in the various districts, 1843-47 [4/1141.1]
* Returns of Border Police, 1845-46 [4/7321]

Aboriginal Trackers

Trackers protected rural industries by pursuing cattle sheep and horse thieves. Trackers went on patrol with other police in their districts. Trackers were often skilled horsemen and one of their duties was to train hoses and maintain the stables.

NRS 10946, Police salary registers, 1838-1915 [11/16332-37, 3/2988-95] Reels 1970-1974

NRS 10958, Police Gazettes

Diary of duties and occurrences
Kept by individual police stations. Use a simple search in Archives Investigator with the keywords 'Diary of duty and occurrences'.

NRS 10950, Police Service Registers, [11/11767-77, 6/20576-609]

Police Reward and Superannuation Funds

NRS 12045, Treasurer - Orders on Police Fund, 16 Dec 1821-14 Mar 1825 [4/1250-51]
This series includes rewards paid to constables and others for the capture of runaways and bushrangers.

NRS 11013, Minutes of proceedings of the Police Reward and Superannuation Funds Board, 5 Sep 1871-4 Apr 1946 [7/6218, 11/16341-16342]
The minute books record the names of the Board members present, the cases under consideration, and the Board’s recommendation. There are indexes in the front of the volumes.

NRS 11014, Printed balance sheets for the Police Superannuation and Reward Funds, 1852-1960 [7/6220, 11/16343]

NRS 10954, Record of pensions subsequently granted to police who were in active service at commencement of the Police Regulation (Superannuation) Act of 1906, Feb 1907-c.31 Dec 1946 [11/16344],Reel 3048
This volume includes: name of pensioner; rank on retirement; station or district of last service; age on retirement; date of retirement; the relevant section of the 1906 pension act; date of commencement of pension; address; date of death and remarks.

NRS 10955, Record of gratuities awarded under the Police Regulation  (Superannuation) Act of 1906, 1907-1955 [11/16347], Reel 3049
Includes: name of person receiving gratuity (police or next of kin); station or district at time of death or retirement; section of act gratuity granted under; nature of injury causing death or disablement, or nature of illness causing death or incapacity; amount awarded; date of approval of gratuity; date of appointment; date of death or retirement; and circumstances under which gratuity awarded. Between 1907 and 1917 the number of relevant Chief Secretary’s correspondence is noted in the last column.

Police Gazettes

Information relating to policemen may also be located in the publication NRS 10958 Police Gazettes.

This is a printed publication issued on a regular basis to Police stations. Its purpose is to provide a means of communication between the members of the police force and it contains information such as wanted criminals, crimes committed, missing persons and criminals who have been apprehended.

Police Gazettes also contain information relating to Police officers. There are several supplements to the Police Gazettes. Supplement A provides information about Police officers such as vacant positions, appointments, promotions, and administrative arrangements. The years 1862-99 are copied onto Reels 3129-3143 and 1900-1930 are on reels 3594-3606. Police Gazettes are also held by the State Library NSW.

Further information

For further reading see:

  • Brian F. Inman, "Service in Two Uniforms" The War Years 1939-1945, New South Wales Police Personnel. The Author, 2010
  • Daniel P Webster, Beyond courage: the circumstances of New South Wales police officers who have lost their lives. 3rd ed. Sydney: New South Wales Police Association, 2012.


Researchers should consult the Register of Access Directions to confirm the public availability of records. State Records' staff can advise you on the availability of records if they are not listed on the register.

*ARK signifies that a copy of the record or guide is part of the Archives Resources Kit and is held by the community access points.

© State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority, 2003.
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