Police service guide

A brief historical overview and a select list of records for researching police officers in NSW.

Historical Overview

In August 1789, Governor Arthur Phillip established a night-watch which came under civil control. It consisted of eight of the best-behaved convicts in the Colony. This was the first Police force in the country.

The force was re-organised along English lines by Governor Hunter in 1796, with constables being placed under the control of local magistrates. It remained this way until January 1811, when a certain degree of centralised control was achieved by Governor Macquarie's appointment of D'Arcy Wenworth as Police Superintendent.

Records we hold

Please note this list is not exhaustive and researchers should also consult:

  • Our catalogue under Agency No. 9 Inspector General of Police and Agency No. 12 NSW Police Service - records described include police service records, correspondence, and publications. Records of police stations are listed individually.
  • Index to Colonial Secretary's papers, 1788-1825 - to locate the early records of the Police Service consult the index under the term 'Police'. Correspondence relating to appointments, reports, applications, pay lists and other general police information from the early years of the Colony is listed. Researchers should also consult the index under the name of the individual.

Auditor General

  • NRS 389 Register of police appointments, 1827

Colonial Secretary

These are all listed in the published Index to the Papers of the New South Wales Colonial Secretary, 1788-1825

Search the index

Colonial Secretary's Papers 1788-1825

Arranged by name and subject this is the most comprehensive index of early NSW settlement

Pay lists of constables at Sydney and vicinity, and returns of allowances of rations, 1822-25. Reels 6029-30, 2277

Item List

21 Dec 1822-20 Jun 1823
6029, 2277
21 Dec 1822-20 Jun 1823, Duplicates
6029, 2277
21 Dec 1823-25 Dec 1824
6029, 2277
26 Dec 1824-24 Nov 1825
6030, 2277

Pay lists of constables at Parramatta, 20 Dec 1823-24 Sep 1825, and neighbourhood of Parramatta and South Creek, 30 Oct 1824-24 Sep 1825; and returns of constables' wives and children entitled to the commutation in lieu of rations, 20 Dec 1823-24 Sep 1825. Reels 6030, 2277

Item List

20 Dec 1823-24 Dec 1824
6030, 2277
25 Dec 1824-24 Sep 1825
6030, 2277

Returns of police, Sydney and country districts, 1825-56 (ARK for 1825 only). Reels 1720-23, 2282; Fiche 3302

The returns are arranged alphabetically by district and include detailed lists of police officers. In some instances, numbers rather than names of constables are given. This is particularly the case after the late 1840s, and for some of the larger districts such as Sydney. The return for 1825 is indexed in the Colonial Secretary's papers, 1788-1825.

NRS 906, Special bundles

  • Blue Books: NSW Civil Establishment, Police, 1825, 1831 [4/7419]
  • Blue Books: NSW Civil Establishment, Returns of Police 1833-35, 1837-43 [4/7385-87, 4/7389-95] Reel 1720; 1844-49 [4/7396-401] Reel 1721; 1850-53 [4/7402-05] Reel 1722; 1854-56 [4/7406-08] Reel 1723
  • NSW Civil Establishment - Returns of police, Sydney and country districts, 1830-31. Reel 2282. The returns are detailed lists of constables in the various districts. They are arranged chronologically and then alphabetically by districts. Police were under the control of local justices of the peace or police magistrates. Not all ranks are named in these returns.
    • Returns of mounted police, 1837-50 [4/7420, 4/7205]
    • Returns of water police, 1841-44, 1847-56 [4/7425]
    • Border police - returns and covering letters, 1843-46 [4/1139.1]
    • Returns of border police, 1845-46 [4/7321]
    • Returns of police, Sydney, 1852-56 [4/7421]
    • Returns of the gold escort, 1851-56 [4/7423]
    • Returns of the police, Western and Southern Roads, 1851-56 [4/7424]
    • Returns of the Civil Establishment: Native Police 1854-57, Police 1856-57 [4/720.1]
    • Returns of the Civil Establishment: Police Muswellbrook, Jun 1858 [4/725.3]

Search the item lists in the catalogue

Index to Colonial Secretary Letters Received, 1826-1896

This indexes Colonial Secretary: NRS 905, Main series of letters received, 1826-96. The index, compiled by Joan Reese, may be of use to those researching policemen who served during the years 1826 to 1896.

NSW Police Service

It is important to note that records of the NSW Police Service do not generally provide the details of a particular police station where a police officer was working. Records will provide the name of the district in which a policeman was working.

  • NRS 10939 Registers of Sydney Police Establishment ,1838-1851, 1853-1856
    (Reel 2657)
  • NRS 10946 Police salary registers, 1838-1915
    [11/16332-16337, 3/2988-2995], Reels 1970-1974

These registers provide the following: register number, name, rank, salary details and remarks (this column usually notes promotions, dismissals or resignations).

  • NRS 10947 Register of promotions, reductions, recommendations for promotion, transfers, discharges, resignations, dismissals, deaths and supernumeraries, 1891-Sep 1907, 1905-1913
    (Reel 2658)
  • NRS 10943 Registers of police appointments, c.1857-1913
    [8/3251-53], Reel 3043

This series is arranged alphabetically by surname and provides: service number, name, mounted or foot, date of birth, physical description, native place, marital status, calling, district, date of appointment and date and cause of leaving the force.

Search the online index

Registration Nos.
46-9700 (approx.)
  • NRS 10945 Registers of police, 1862-15 Sep 1969 (1862-1904 *ARK)
    (Reels 2657, 1974, 3044-3047; Fiche 846-850)

For each officer: rank; date of appointment; age; physical description; marital status; country; religion; education; previous occupation; and where stationed are recorded. Other relevant information such as demotion, discharge, death, superannuation, transfer or issue of supplies, as appropriate, is also provided.

Item List

* [8/3261] is unindexed, however [8/3265] (Police appointment and equipment book, NRS 10951) can be used to obtain the registered number of the police officer.

1A-52A Index
Reels 2657, 1974; Fiche 846
Fiche 846
Fiche 847
Fiche 848
Fiche 849
Fiche 850
Reel 3044
Reel 3045
Reel 3046
Reel 3047
  • NRS 10944 Registers of pensions, Nov 1851-Jan 1907
    [11/16339], Reel 3048
    [7/6219], Reel 2658

Information provided includes: name, rank, district, gratuity or pension, and amount.

  • NRS 10940 General Register for New South Wales Police c.1852-59
    (Reels 1974, 3042)
  • NRS 10941 Returns of Sydney and Brisbane Constabulary 1 Jan-30 Jun 1852, 25 Dec 1853-31 Dec 1854
    (Reel 2657)
  • NRS 10942 Register of appointments, promotions, dismissals and retirements, 1855-61
    [7/6362], Reel 2657

Details include: name, physical description, marital status, trade/calling, date of appointments and previous Colonial government service.

This series provides details such as: name, date of birth, physical description, previous calling, marital status, examinations and qualifications, district and station, duty, and cause and date of leaving the force.

  • NRS 10948 Register of special constables enrolled, 8 Aug 1917-1921. Reel 2658
  • NRS 10949 Salaries account register (Southern District), 22 Jul 1921-6 Jan 1922
  • NRS 10950 Police service registers, 1927-80
    [11/11767-1177, 6/20576-20609]

These registers relate specifically to those officers who left the Police Department between the years 1966-80 (some joining the Force as early as 1927).

Details provided include: appointment and promotions, personal descriptions, previous calling, examinations, medical history, uniforms and equipment issued, duties, misconducts and commendations, and special abilities and qualifications. They relate not only to police officers but also to Junior Trainees, Cadets, Special Constables, Trackers, Matrons, and Parking Police.

Item List

Ray-Smith, H
Smith, H-Vivian
  • NRS 10951 Police appointment and equipment
    4 Jan 1939-4 Jan 1955
  • NRS 10952 Registers of appointments confirmed, discharges, trainees and probationary constables, police cadets, promotions, resignations, vacancies for promotion and police strength, 14 Jul 1947-29 May 1961

Item List

14 Jul 1947-7 Jan 1955
3 Dec 1954-29 May 1961

Entries record: registered number; name of cadet; date of birth; height; weight; eye and hair colour; complexion; native place; religion; level of education; where stationed; date of appointment and remarks (which record whether the cadet was accepted into the force). Entries are arranged by the date of entry into the cadetship.

Police cadets trained at Redfern, known as the Police Depot until December 1954 and the Police Training Centre from December 1954 to 1983). The Police College (later the Police Academy) at Goulburn opened in 1984.

Access note: these records are closed to public access for 100 years. To apply for access, please contact:

NSW Police Force Infolink Unit
Locked Bag 5102
Parramatta NSW 2124
Telephone: 8835 6888
E-mail Address: gipa@police.nsw.gov.au

Mounted Police

Colonial Secretary

  • NRS 906 Special bundles, 1826-1982
    • Returns of Mounted Police, 1837-50 [4/7420, 4/7205]
    • Returns of the Gold Escort, 1851-56 [4/7423]

Search the items in NRS 906 in our catalogue.

NSW Police Service

NRS 10998(Reels 2901, 3041)
Record of offences by members of the Mounted Police Corps
NRS 10999(Reels 2901, 3041)
Nominal Roll of the Mounted Police Corps
NRS 11000(Reel 2901)
Orders to Mounted Troops 
Jul 1841-Sep 1850
NRS 11001(Reel 2901)
Mounted Police Adjutant's Office Sydney: Copies of letters sent
Jan 1842-Sep 1846

Water Police

Colonial Secretary

Special bundles
Returns of Water Police, 1841-44, 1847-56 [4/7425, 2/8022, 2/8028]Search the items in this series in our catalogue. »

Border Police

Colonial Secretary

Special bundles
Border Police: reports on conduct and employment, 1842 [4/1132]Commissioners of Crown Lands. Reports and returns of Border Police — Portland Bay, New England and Clarence River districts, 1843-46 [4/1139.1]Commissioners of Crown Lands. Reports and returns of Border Police — Darling Downs and McLeay River districts, 1843-46 [4/1138.1]Commissioner of Crown Lands, Bligh District. Reports re Border Police, 1843-47 [4/7204]Commissioners of Crown Lands. Reports on Border Police in the various districts, 1843-47 [4/1141.1]Returns of Border Police, 1845-46 [4/7321]
See the list of items in this series in our catalogue, i

Aboriginal Trackers

Trackers protected rural industries by pursuing cattle, sheep and horse thieves. Trackers went on patrol with other police in their districts. Trackers were often skilled horsemen and one of their duties was to train horses and maintain the stables.

The Pathfinders - The History of Aboriginal Trackers website focuses on the history of Aboriginal trackers between 1862 and 1973.

  • NRS 10946 Police salary registers, 1838-1915
    [11/16332-37, 3/2988-95], Reels 1970-1974

Item List

  • NRS 10953 Registers of men transferred to districts, c.1859-1871
  • NRS 10958 Police Gazettes, 862-1982
  • Diary of duties and occurrences

Kept by individual police stations. See what is available in our catalogue using the search term Diary of duty and occurrences.

  • NRS 10950 Police Service Registers, 1927-1977
    [11/11767-77, 6/20576-609]

Police Reward and Superannuation Funds

  • NRS 12045 Treasurer - Orders on Police Fund, 16 Dec 1821-14 Mar 1825

[4/1250-1251] This series includes rewards paid to constables and others for the capture of runaways and bushrangers.

  • NRS 11013 Minutes of proceedings of the Police Reward and Superannuation Funds Board, 5 Sep 1871-4 Apr 1946

[7/6218, 11/16341-16342] The minute books record the names of the Board members present, the cases under consideration, and the Board’s recommendation. There are indexes in the front of the volumes.

Item List

5 Sep 1871-26 Mar 1912
24 Apr 1912-2 Jul 1929
  • NRS 11014 Printed balance sheets for the Police Superannuation and Reward Funds, 1852-1960

[7/6220, 11/16343]

  • NRS 10954 Record of pensions subsequently granted to police who were in active service at commencement of the Police Regulation (Superannuation) Act of 1906, Feb 1907-c.31 Dec 1946

[11/16344], Reel 3048. This volume includes: name of pensioner; rank on retirement; station or district of last service; age on retirement; date of retirement; the relevant section of the 1906 pension act; date of commencement of pension; address; date of death and remarks.

  • NRS 10955 Record of gratuities awarded under the Police Regulation (Superannuation) Act of 1906, 1907-1955

[11/16347], Reel 3049. Includes: name of person receiving gratuity (police or next of kin); station or district at time of death or retirement; section of act gratuity granted under; nature of injury causing death or disablement, or nature of illness causing death or incapacity; amount awarded; date of approval of gratuity; date of appointment; date of death or retirement; and circumstances under which gratuity awarded. Between 1907 and 1917 the number of relevant Chief Secretary’s correspondence is noted in the last column.

Police Gazettes

Information relating to police officers may also be located in the publication Police Gazettes, NRS 10958.

This was a printed publication issued on a regular basis to all Police stations. Its purpose was to provide a means of communication between the members of the police force and it contained details about wanted criminals, crimes committed, missing persons and criminals who had been apprehended.

Police Gazettes also contain information relating to Police officers. There are several supplements to the Police Gazettes: Supplement A provides information about as vacant positions, appointments, promotions, and administrative arrangements. The years 1862-99 are copied onto Reels 3129-3143 and 1900-1930 are on reels 3594-3606. Police Gazettes are also held by the State Library NSW.

Further reading

  • Brian F. Inman, "Service in Two Uniforms" The War Years 1939-1945, New South Wales Police Personnel. The Author, 2010
  • Daniel P Webster, Beyond courage: the circumstances of New South Wales police officers who have lost their lives. 3rd ed. Sydney: New South Wales Police Association, 2012.