3 / 8/1882
... part of the KellyGang story
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THE POLICE COMMISSION
At the sitting of the Police Commission yesterday. Mr Beck with, the farrier of the police force, gave evidence as to how the horses for the mounted troopers were bought, broken in, and distributed. His examination lasted the whole forenoon. In the afternoon Inspector Secretan, the officer in charge of the detective force was recalled, and was further examined in presence of detectives Foster, Mackay, Rorke, and Kidney. Mr Secretan protested against being cross examined in presence of his subordinates, and indeed by them, for a large number of the questions he was asked were put by them through the chairman. The commission, however, overruled his objection. Mr, Secretan had also asked for permission to indict Detectives Foster and Rorke for perjury in connexion with some evidence they had given on a former occasion, and the commission questioned the propriety of this application, considering it was calculated to intimidate witnesses. After some personal matters had been inquired into, ex detective W H Mainwaring was called and examined as to how things were managed in the detective office, in which until December, 1880, he had acted as resident clerk.
One of his duties when in office was to enter in a book the hours a which the detective reported themselves at headquarter. All the detectives had to call at the office at 5 minutes to 9 o'clock every morning. One of them was frequently late, but he was seldom called to account for his unpunctuality. Another happened to be two minutes late one morning, and was spoken to severely on the subject. He was in fact charged with being late. He refused to plead, and this was regarded as an act of insubordination, and he had to resign. Witness was unable to say why the detective first alluded to was specially favoured, but he noticed that he was more leniently dealt with after the Weiberg affair than before. Witness was called upon to retire from the service in December, 1880, on the ground of retrenchment, but he had no doubt that the real cause of his enforced retirement was to be found in the fact that he gave certain evidence before the Weiberg Board. At all events there was a marked change in the treatment he received from Mr Secretan after that inquiry. What he told the Weiberg Board was that he cautioned Mr Secretan not to take the prisoner to Gipps Land, as he (the prisoner) had given sure indications of an intention to escape, but that his advice was treated with contempt, and that Weiberg's escape cost the country £2,000. Mr Secretan was appointed to his present position by Mr Nicolson, and had since been propped up by the same gentleman, and directly Mr Nicolson was made chief commissioner, he (witness) had to leave the service on a pretence of retrenchment. Detectives reported each other, but not frequently. Sometimes they withdrew the charges they made against each other, but they were all made in writing, and ought to be found in the archives of the office.
At a former sitting of the commission, Mr, Mainwaring deposed that when resident clerk he was second in charge of the detective office, and Mr Secretan's deputy. He was originally connected with the London police, from which he volunteered into the commissariat department of the army, with which he served in the Crimea . He then carne out to this colony and joined the local police force. The detective force was not so efficient now as it was some years ago. In former years better men were obtainable than those who now offered themselves. Only two or three good men had joined during the last few years, the rest were ordinary men, fit only for routine duties.
Another cause of the deterioration of the force was, in his opinion, the promotion of Mr Secretan from the position of resident clerk to that of officer in charge. There were at the time two or three men who were superior to him, who were more fitted for managing the force, and who had a prior claim to the promotion. There were, for instance, Detective Eason, of Ballarat, one of the best detectives in the world; Detective Hudson, resigned, and the late Detective Jennings. The police force as a whole should be under one chief commissioner, but the detective force required a practical detective at its head. It would not do to bring a man out from home. Experience of colonial life was most essential in an officer who had charge of our detectives, and it would be a blunder to bring one out from England. The proposal to manage the police force by a board of three would, he thought, be unworkable. The force, like a military body, should have but one head, and he should have the authority of a colonel of a regiment. Promotions, punishments, and dismissals, however, might be dealt with by a board advantageously. No "put up" case had ever come under his notice.
Such cases were not liked by the detectives. If a man used any means for capturing a criminal other than what was a fair trap, he was unmercifully "chaffed" in the muster room. He thought the pay of the detectives was sufficient, but that a man who displayed special abilities should get a guinea a day. When detectives paid money for information they were generally refunded, and they expected to get whatever rewards might be offered (if they earned them) provided the sanction of the chief commissioner was obtained. A better plan would be to have a secret service fund, and to pay all the rewards given by persons for the detection of crimes into the consolidated revenue. Plain-clothes policemen did very good service, and they should receive third-class detectives' pay, viz, 9s. a day. There were not so many skilled criminals in the colony now as there were in former years, and the consequence was that the serious offences committed nowadays consisted merely of burglaries, cattle steeling, and bushranging exploits. Judging from the tendency of colonial crime, there would be more violence and murders as the population increased, and for these offences detectives of a superior character would be required. For 15 years yet the colony would be also open to visits from convicts from Western Australia , and they were men of a dangerous stamp. It would be well, he thought, if the different colonies exchanged a detective or two for a few years at a time.
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