T. M. Roberts - Mayor;A. J. Balment - Alderman;C. J. Little - Alderman; F. J. Scott - Alderman

T. M. Roberts - Mayor;A. J. Balment - Alderman;C. J. Little - Alderman; F. J. Scott - Alderman

The Long Arm of the Law: Part II

Why did the mayor resign? The great Cranbrook Police Debate of 1931.

Jim Cameron

HEADLINE CRANBROOK HERALD FEB. 12, 1931: MAYOR AND THREE ALDERMEN RESIGN FROM MUNICIPAL SEATS. Climax Came at Special Meeting Held on Thurs. Evening Last. Alderman Attridge Charges Every Bootlegger In City On Petition – Mayor Roberts, Aldermen Balment, Little and Scott Hand in Their Resignations.

And what, you ask, was the cause of such an event?

From 1898 to 1905, Cranbrook was policed by one or two B.C. Provincial Police constables in conjunction with the (Royal) North West Mounted Police and the Canadian Pacific Railway police. Things generally worked well enough and Cranbrook enjoyed a lengthy period of peace and order.

Cranbrook incorporated in November, 1905, at which time it was decided to form a local city police force consisting of a Chief Constable, one patrolman, a jailer and a police magistrate, all overseen by a police commission consisting of the mayor and two aldermen. The provincial and mounted police continued to maintain a presence, due chiefly to Cranbrook’s growing importance as a district centre. The city police system continued in much the same manner as the former provincial system; the crime rate was comparable to other cities of the same size and the townsfolk seemingly content.

Police Chief Baron, appointed in 1905, gave way (perhaps grudgingly) to Cory Dow in 1907. Chief Dow led the force until 1913 when he was replaced by Percy Adams who appointed Constables Herrigan and Venus (who soon thereafter implemented a criminal fingerprinting and photograph system) as his assistants.

A police report for the year 1914 gives some idea of the general affairs of the time:  164 white male prisoners, 32 white female, 4 negro male, 3 negro female, 3 Indian male, 1 half-breed male, 2 Hindoo male, 7 Chinese male, 1 Japanese male, 6,269 meals served. The prisoners cleaned the creeks running through the city, maintained Baker Street, weeded and cleaned the cemetery and pulled numerous stumps on the emerging byways of the town.

Obviously, Cranbrook was by no means free of crime. Prostitution, gambling, drugs, illegal liquor, violence, and robbery were ongoing problems but they were problems that tended to stay on their own side of the fence, so to speak. In 1916, Chief Adams enlisted in the army and was replaced (until his return two years later) by Chief Hersey. It was a somewhat different situation in which Chief Adams found himself upon his return. The country was in the throes of prohibition and the brewing and sale of illegal alcohol was big business. Too big for Chief Adams to handle, apparently, as he was relieved from duty in 1920, reinstated the same year, and once again relieved in 1921. He was replaced by David Halcrow, a veteran of the Edinburgh police and, it was hoped, the man to “clean up” the ever-increasing bootlegging and gambling problems. Throughout the next decade the city police attempted — or were seen to attempt at any rate — to rid the town of vice, spurred on by occasional warnings from the provincial government. One such warning took the form of a letter from Attorney-general Pooley received by council in November, 1930, and it was this missive that invariably led to the resignation of council-members three months later.

The provincial-powers-that-be stated that conditions in Cranbrook were not satisfactory and that a change in the police force was needed or else the provincial police would take charge and present the city with the bill. Money talks and the city fathers listened.

The simplest solution appeared to be to permanently disband the city police and replace them with a provincial force, saving a degree of salary expenses in the bargain. So saying, in January, 1931, city council discussed the situation and voted unanimously to make the change on a one-year trial basis.

A group of local ratepayers soon protested and council agreed to reconsider the matter. A motion was passed to postpone the change until such time as a referendum could be held.

It all came to a head the following week during a council meeting attended by nearly 100 citizens. Long-time Police Commissioner Shankland passed along a petition containing over 300 signatures — which included a large percentage of ratepayers — asking that council reconsider the entire matter. Commissioner Shankland indicated that he interpreted the petition as meaning that the council should either carry out the wishes of the property owners or the council should resign. Mayor Roberts rose and stated that he agreed with the interpretation and promptly quit. He was immediately followed by Alderman Balment who declared the petition a vote of non-confidence in the council.   Alderman Flowers took control of what was left of the council and accepted the petition. Alderman Attridge bluntly stated that the city police spent too much time hunting and fishing and noted that nearly every hotel pub owner and bootlegger in the city was on the petition. The resignations caused a rift in the community and a notable stir throughout the province. It was, in short, a bad night for City Hall, made worse by the resignation of Aldermen Scott and Little the next day.

Still, somewhat miraculously, the entire council sat down together the following week and voted 5 to 2 in favour of resolution No. 369, which called for the policing of the city by provincial police. The petition was returned and the council moved on to regular business.

It was not, by the way, the first time that a Cranbrook mayor and councilmen resigned their positions en masse. As to it being the last, well, that belongs to a history as yet unwritten.


Just Posted

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Ryan McKenzie of the Kimberley Trails Society made an in-depth presentation to City Council describing the initial steps of the Electrify the Mountains eBike trails project. This is a look at the project one map.
Kimberley City Council hears details on Electrify the Mountain project

At the meeting of City Council on Tuesday, June 8 Ryan McKenzie… Continue reading

The Kimberley Public Library invites kids of all ages to join the 2021 BC Summer Reading Club. Kimberley Public Library file
Kimberley kids invited to join summer reading club at Public Library

The Kimberley Public Library invites kids of all ages to join the… Continue reading

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen collapses during game against Finland

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

Most Read