Constituting authority: Policing workers and the consolidation of police power in Vancouver, 1918-1939

Date created: 
Anti-communist movements – Canada – History – 20th century
Industrial relations – British Columbia – Vancouver – History – 20th century
Labor unions – Police – British Columbia
Police power – Canada
Vancouver (B.C.) – History – 20th century
Vancouver (B.C.). Police Dept. – History
Police – British Columbia – Vancouver – History
General strike
Police power
Police union
Special constables
Vancouver Police Department

Policing in Vancouver was transformed by the labour unrest of the interwar period, culminating in a campaign carried out by a new civic regime that assumed power in response to a general strike threat. Complicating the process was that police workers were considered unreliable for policing labour disputes, especially since they unionized under the threat of a general strike in 1918. The challenge of “constituting authority” was therefore to render the police a reliable instrument against working class unrest. This study traces the development of policing through the postwar spate of waterfront strikes to the 1930s anticommunist campaign that carried the struggle into the political arena. Even as police power was being consolidated in the municipal police institution, rank and file police were undermined by tactics long used against other workers, namely labour spies and police specials. Like other workers, police resisted, modifying the process of change as a result.

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Document type: 
Copyright remains with the author
Senior supervisor: 
Dept. of History - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (M.A.)