The concept of the daily Police Gazette was introduced in the Annual Police Report for the Town and Island of Bombay for the year 1910, compiled under the leadership of the then commissioner of Police S M Edwardes.
Three issues of the gazette were to appear everyday, which would then be served to each police station by four orderlies on bicycles and two sowars, a rank used to describe an enforcement officer on a horse, with the post office used occasionally, reads the report.
The system of delivering paper reports was actually adopted from a procedure followed in London, to ensure steady flow of policing information in real time and to enable officers across the city to be familiar with the day’s crimes and respond better.
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In later years, the document came to be called a Police Notice, with all information collated at one point and disbursed through printed literature.
Nearly 106 years after it was first implemented, the Police Notice finally went digital this month.
The Mumbai Police, striving towards a paperless system, sent the notice online to all police stations this month, doing away with the century-old colonial tradition.
In the 1900s, the annual report suggests, when a theft would take place, the inspector would write 32 to 40 notices to other stations, which were then delivered by hand.
“It’s on record that under this new system it took two days for a division report to reach Mahim, to say nothing of the delay which occurred before the Sectional Inspector could visit the scene of the crime,” the report says.
Here are texts from a few Police Notices dating back to the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.
July 27, 1924
The notice signed by then Commissioner D Healy starts with general policing orders for Muharram, asking all European officers to be present at their respective police stations. Most notices focused on law and order protocols for important dates.
Notices often quoted appreciation for the police — and it was always verbatim.
In this notice, a remark passed by Hon’ble Justice Pratt on a particular case of dacoity detected by Bombay Police was highlighted.
“In Bombay as in all great cities there is an under world of Criminals that are only kept under by the police. This case shows that in Bombay this under world has leaders, a complete organisation and concealed arms. If there is any relaxation under the vigilance of the police, such as must occur when there are strikes or labour trouble, peaceful citizens are liable to be stopped in the streets and robbed at the point of the revolver as in the case of the fish merchant or their house raided at nights by armed gangs and their women stripped of their ornaments as in the case of Ram Ratton. But I am glad to say this case also shows the careful watch which the Bombay Police maintain over this underworld of crime.”
June 1, 1939
Traffic duties were always specific to the location. In most notices, the maximum crowd is showed in areas that had theatres. Like this notice signed by then Commissioner N P A Smith:
“Head office Esplanade Police Station will depute an officer for traffic duty at the Metro Cinema on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for the end of 6.30 and 10 pm shows.” The same order was repeated for Regal Cinema to Colaba Police station. While a Naik and two constables were assigned for two shifts at these theatres, the notice also reads, “The Traffic department officers and men will control traffic at Eros, Empire and Excelsior Cinemas daily if necessary, and at the Regal Cinema on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursdays.”
September 4, 1940
A Ganpati Festival security notice has separate listings for law and order and traffic arrangements.
Along with instructions for pedestrian flow and bus services, it also has instructions for the city’s lost icon — the tram service.
“Trams proceeding along Sandhurst Road from East to West will not be permitted beyond the junction of Sandhurst Road and Charni Road between 10 am and 8.30 pm. Trams running on Lower Duncan Road and CP Tank Road should be stopped between the hours of 3 pm and 6 pm if and when required by the Police on duty.”
Of all the notices, a Ganpati Festival security protocol was the most watched during the pre-independence era. A separate section showed the emphasis on the placement of officers from the Intelligence wing.
December 4, 1941
The Police Notice had VIP movements listed for the Governor and all his movements were written along with his scheduled appointments. Of all the security arrangements, a special note ran for the Governor, considered a special post. A good amount of police shifts focused on his movement across the city.
“Their excellencies will leave Government House to Lunch with HH, the Maharaja of Idar at the Race Course,” reads the notice, giving the exact number of men deployed at different roads the convoy would cross.
April 11, 1945
Strikes were most common during the early decades under Bombay Police. One such Strike notice explains the level of security maintained.
A Police Notice during the BEST Company’s Employees Strike orders, signed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police A E Caffin, reads, “ Supdt X Dn will provide 2 officers and 50 men with Lathis to Supdt A Dn at Colaba Police Station.
The same number to Supdt E Dn at Dadar Depot. The same number to supdt D Dn for use at Byculla and Tardeo Depots. Supdts. A E and D Dns may use these men as escorts on buses at one per bus or for general bandobast at their discretion according to the situation prevailing. Escorts on trams will not be necessary.”