As Edmonton has grown as a city, so have its policing needs. Today, the Edmonton Police Service is known as one of the most modern and progressive police organizations in North America, employing approximately 1,400 police officers and 500 civilian members.
The Early Years
In 1892, Edmonton’s first constable pledged to protect the lives and property of the citizens of Edmonton as Town Constable for the Edmonton Police Department (EPD).
In the first decade, the EPD consisted of two constables, a bicycle, and two whistles. Like modern day, an increase in change and growth meant an increase in crime and the need for policing. Throughout the second decade, from 1902 - 1912, the EPD expanded to Chief Constable, Inspector, two Captains, five Detectives, six Sergeants, and 52 Constables.
In 1911, EPD hired Alex Decoteau, who became the first Aboriginal to be hired by a police department in Canada. He went on to become a household name after becoming an Olympic runner. You can learn more about Alex Decoteau in our Legacy of Heroes comic book.
Around Edmonton, the smaller districts were growing. The two cities of Edmonton and Strathcona amalgamated on February 01, 1912. The district of Beverly was formed in 1913 and stayed independent until it became a part of Edmonton in 1961. In 1917, community-based policing was introduced to Edmonton in the Calder area.
In 1919, Constable William Nixon was shot and killed in the line of duty. The shooter fled to Mountain Park and a manhunt ensued - except this time, the Edmonton Police Department pursued the shooter by an airplane! EPD was the first Canadian police service to use an airplane in a criminal pursuit. You can learn more about the first use of an aircraft in a police pursuit in our Legacy of Heroes comic book.
In February of 1932, a brand new Police Headquarters building was officially opened at 9720 – 102 Avenue.
In 1939, the Department was working out their transportation needs. In south Edmonton, the Ford vehicle had too many kilometres on it, and the motorcycle and sidecar they were using in the North end was nine years old. After some pushing, two 1939 Chevrolet cars were ordered. Also in 1939, two-way radio came to the EPD.
Policing Changes in Edmonton
During the sixth decade of policing, 1942 – 1952, the Edmonton Police Department was growing again and working out issues arising from the Depression and the war years.
In 1943, members of the Edmonton Police Department were issued a cloth shoulder badge with the words City Police, Edmonton printed in red and blue.
In 1943, there were many Americans in Edmonton. So, the Good Neighbourhood Police Force was seen on Edmonton streets, consisting of an American Military Policeman paired with and Edmonton Police officer to patrol the downtown area. It continued for about 18 months and was discontinued when there was no longer a need for it.
In 1945, a new cap badge was introduced, which had City of Edmonton Police encircled by a wreath of maple leaves. This was the third time a new badge was designed. Moving with changing times, the uniform was also modernized. A new badge was designed with a laurel wreath with police in metal lettering across the middle.
In 1947, some formal training was introduced into the department. Prior to this, new recruits were put on the beat with minimal instruction. In the spring of 1949, there was a graduation for 15 officers who completed the six-month training.
In 1950, a dark green panel delivery truck became the new patrol wagon, complete with a siren, flashing lights, and a running board. Five new motorcycles were also added, bringing the fleet to 13.
THE EPD continued to struggle with recruitment demands and in 1951, the Department recruited in Scotland and Ireland.
In 1953, the province of Alberta passed the Police Act, which provided for collective bargaining by police officers and the Edmonton Police Association came into being. (It was first organized in 1919 and, at that time, was known as the Police Association.)
Basic Training Class number one graduated in 1955 with 28 members completing the course.
The Edmonton Police Pipe Band actually began in 1914 and halted because of the war. It began again in 1959 and became the most visible public relations tool.
A Bigger City
1961 marked the amalgamation of the town of Beverly and Edmonton. In 1964, the Jasper Place Police Department became a part of the Edmonton Police Department, adding the Jasper Place population to Edmonton.
A new employee, Sarge. joined the Department in 1963. Sarge was the first official dog of the department. Sarge’s owner, Val Vallevand had been encouraging the use of dogs for years. The Dog Squad expanded and a kennel building and training ground was opened by the municipal airport in 1974. To this day, the location is still by the municipal airport and is named after Vallevand.
Police Headquarters was moved to its current location at 9620 – 103A Avenue in 1982. Crime Stoppers came to Edmonton in 1983, and has received over 31,000 tips since that time.
CALEA was formed in 1979 and by 1988, Edmonton received its first CALEA accreditation. Edmonton was the first Canadian police service in Canada to receive this.
In 1989, the Edmonton Police Department was renamed the Edmonton Police Service.