• A superintendent defined

    Are you or were you a superintendent of police? If so, do you know that the role of superintendent benefitted from a Job Description as early as the 1800s? Read on and see whether you match the description given in T.A. Critchley’s wonderful book “A history of police in England and Wales 900 – 1966.”

    The jurisdiction of superintendent was originally defined in the County Police Act of 1839 as a petty sessional division; however by 1840 it was determined as any area that justices determined.

    Lord Normanby’s rules lay down that the superintendent must ‘be a man of general intelligence, able to read and write well, and to keep accounts.’ The superintendent was to be paid between £75 and £150 per year.

    From the start the post was recognised as a key one and was regarded as the ‘one great binding link in the police system.’ From the start the superintendent had a ‘pretty firm hold on his appointment (cue Frankie Howerd) and he may occasionally rise to the post of Chief Constable,’ although as a rule superintendents did not apply for these ‘prizes of the service’ being content with ‘the comforts and respectability of the position they had attained…Their love for the service, matured through many years, usually induces them to hold on to the verge of their own disability .’ 1.

    At this point a vivid description of a superintendent is offered and is worthy of comparison to those who are currently serving or have retired from this rank.

    The superintended is painted as awell to do man who kept his horses, cows and pigs, and on market days he was always found trading. He was a little over fifty years of age, rotund, and when standing at attention he could not see his feet, and had not done so for years. He had a short thick neck, bullet head, low brow, fox terrier eyes, rubicund nose, ruddy complexion and mop like hair.’

    Apart from the trading of pigs, cattle and keeping horses I can recall one or two former superintendents who match the above description!

    However, in modern times, with the introduction of gyms, public order training and all manner of exercise routines, not to mention the demands on a modern day police superintendent, we would not find anyone who matches that description……would we?

    1. (Police! By Clarkson and Richardson 1989 pp 145-6)

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