Meeting Minutes - Ed Butts,Crime Fighters Through History - March 30, 2017
President John Proctor opened the meeting at 9:55 am with 47 members present and welcomed a new guest, Geoff Pantling. He also welcomed our guest presenter, Mr. Ed Butts.
Special recognition was made to Bruce Folkard and his Guelph curling group for winning the Ontario Stick Championship in March.
Kerry Gennings introduced today’s guest speaker, Ed Butts. Author Ed Butts is a writer and editor with a special interest in Canadian history. He lived for several years in the Dominican Republic, where he taught English and social studies and wrote regularly for local magazines. He has published several books of fiction and non-fiction and has written for numerous publications in Canada and the United States. Ed Butts lives in Guelph, and has presented to the RCMC on at least two previous occasions and has been well received on each time. Today’s presentation focuses on his book; Behind the Badge: Crimefighters Thorough History.
Ed Butts Since he was speaking about the history of police Ed began his presentation by showing us a large black baton that he was given many years ago from an antique shop in England. It is engraved with the letters: “King William IV” who was the King of England in the 1830’s. Ed felt sure this “billy-club” must have cracked a few heads in its time.
In Ed’s words he said that for most of us the familiar image of a cop brings forward the image of a police officer handing out traffic tickets or walking the beat downtown. However the job the officer does has been evolving over thousands of years. In societies all over the world there have been rules and people involved in the task of enforcing those rules.
For instance in some of North America’s First Nations were certain young men would be a type of camp police. They would make sure that nobody broke any of the rules of the community and if somebody did there would be consequences. Shamans were employed to help identify thieves. Inca and Aztec civilizations had constabularies as their own form of police.
In the ancient world that gave birth to our civilization the earliest stages of law and order were priests and soldiers. Superstitious people believed that the gods were watching them all the time and the priest spoke to the gods and would know everything that everybody was up to. So people behaved themselves if they didn’t want to bring the wrath of the gods down on themselves. The soldiers dealt with anyone who wasn’t superstitious. Punishments usually involved chopping off various body parts.
The first place that had a body that could be called police was ancient Greece and they had a group of men that were called “Scythian Archers,” who served as a police force, keeping order in public gatherings and perhaps authorized to use force against citizens under certain circumstances. They had been captured and brought into Athens as slaves. Since the Greeks didn’t like the thought of Greeks arresting fellow Greeks they turned the Archers into a police force thus using foreigners to do this task. They were the first group to be mentioned in documents as “police.” However they were really more of a security force since they didn’t investigate crime. They would patrol the marketplace to keep it clear of drunks and rowdies as well as patrol the streets at night to watch for anybody who was up to no-good. If you believed a crime had been committed against you, you had to investigate it yourself. If you had a suspect, you would go to the Athenian Assembly and say: “I accuse so-and-so” and if the accused didn’t respond the Scythian Archers would go and get the accused.
In ancient Rome the streets were patrolled in the daytime by a body of soldiers called the “urban cohorts” whose job was to catch thieves and runaway slaves. At night men called the “Vigiles” watched not only for criminals but also for fires. These Vigiles patrolled the streets at night and if there was a fire they had buckets to use to pour water on the fires. There was also a very elite body called the Pretorian Guard whose principal job was to guard the emperor’s palace.
In medieval England the country was divided into shires under the authority of a reeve. The term for the person who was the shire reeve eventually became “sheriff.” The shire reeve was a very important person who had to make sure that streams were kept clear of debris; that local tavern owners weren’t watering down their ale; he would fine butchers who were throwing animal parts into streets; he made sure you paid your taxes; if there was a call to arms, he made sure you joined the king’s army. He was also responsible for maintaining the peace of the realm and enforcing crimes against the law like robbery and murder. He had deputies called bailiffs to assist him. If necessary he could call on men and boys to form a posse to chase down a fugitive.
During the 15th century in the Ottoman Empire the Sultan had gardeners called bostanci or bostandji who had the additional duties of being the Sultan’s guards and police force and executioners.
Ever society around the world has make contributions to the evolution of policing. Hundreds of years ago the Chinese were the first to have detectives and they used forensics to solve crimes. In Japan, samurai warriors chased down criminals. Paris became known as the “city of lights” because it was the first city to install streetlights to deter crime and the first city with what we would identify as a modern police department who broke up criminal gangs that terrorized streets.
The British police system which Canada inherited, began in 17th century with “the Watch.” They were men who patrolled the streets at night looking for “footpads” and “draw-latches” which we would call “muggers” and “burglars.” They also watched to see that people had their fires properly banked at night and the word “curfew” comes from a French word meaning to lower the fire. In the 18th century Henry Fielding founded the Bow Street Runners. The Bow Street Runners have been called London's first professional police force. The force, originally numbering six men, was founded in 1749 by the magistrate Henry Fielding. They didn’t patrol the streets but they were sent all over the country to track down and arrest wanted fugitives. They were the forerunner of Scotland Yard.
King Charles II ordered a police force to do something about crime-ridden London. Constables were called the “Charlies” after him but they weren’t very good policemen. Rather than spend their time in London’s crime infested streets they preferred to spend their time in the pub and so, were soon disbanded. Then in 1829 Sir Robert Peel founded the first professional uniformed police department and the first constables eventually became known as “Bobbys.” They marked a revolutionary change in the concept of policing and were the first police that ordinary people could look upon as friendly cops and an essential part of the neighbourhood. The first use of the word "police" recorded in government documents in the United Kingdom was the appointment of Commissioners of Police for Scotland in 1714. The “bobby” was the pioneer for the policemen we have today. In early Victorian England they initially carried a “rattle” which was later replaced by the "billy-club.”
In the American Old West, towns were policed by gunfighters like Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickok. In the old west, towns usually had bylaws against carrying guns in town. A cowboy coming into town usually had to go to the sheriff’s office and drop off his gun then pick it up when he left town. For the average frontier town the most dangerous job for the sheriff or marshal was disarming drunks.
Ed provided several examples of some of the work that detectives had to do in the early 20th century in Canada. At that time police work often involved cross border detective work and Canada, United States and Great Britain had extradition treaties to assist one another.
Ed responded to questions from the membership following his main presentation. Ed mentioned that he is currently working on a book about what was going on here in Guelph during the First World War. The current working title is: Wartime and Ed hopes to have it published by November 11th.
Julian Sale thanked Ed Butts for his interesting presentation and presented him with a token of our appreciation.
Activities – Ken Dick - There are 38 people signed up for the Annual Luncheon on Thursday, April 13th and the luncheon is beef bourguignon along with salad and fresh bread with squares for dessert. Coffee will be at 10:00 with the presentation at 10:30 am. - The speaker will be Ed Herold speaking about Female Tourists and Beachboys: Romance or Sex Tourism.
Coffee Groups – Gary Luck - Meeting places are the Airpark Café and the Boathouse next Thurs. April 6th @ 10:00 am.
Reminders: - Annual Membership dues are now due. - Board Meeting on Tues. April 4th @ 9:15 am