Expressions of professionalism, urban administration, and the Saint John Police Force, 1910–1920

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University of New Brunswick


In the early 20th century, police forces across North America began to reassess the nature of their role. As an immature profession, policing was dominated by a managerial class of police leaders that intended to establish occupational culture on their terms through positive action such as the establishment of professional bodies like the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). In addition, politicians and civic innovators sought to mould police forces in their vision, usually with a keen eye on fiscal restraint and inhibiting the autonomy of the chief. As a result, rank and file police were confined to an ancillary role where their activities were essential, but their identity largely denuded. The unionization of rank and file police officers as an expression of professional identity was a response to these conditions. This report analyzes how this process unfolded for the Saint John Police Force between 1910 and 1920.