Liverpool City Police

Liverpool’s First Senior Police Officer was Michael James Whitty. He was was born in Nicharee, Duncormick, County Wexford in 1795, son of a farmer and Shipowner.

The Reform Act of 1832 had been enacted to curb what was known as the “Rotten Boroughs” The act provided that Borough’s over a certain population should establish a Police or Constabulary Force. In 1836, the Liverpool Watch Committee offered the post of Head Constable of Constabulary Force for Liverpool to Michael Whitty. Liverpool at this time had three police groups The Night Watch, the Day Police and the Dock Police. Michael Whitty had been the Superintendent in charge of the Night Watch.

Michael Whitty was a man of immense power and also very courageous. Whilst Superintendent of the Night Watch he found the Vauxhall Bridewell under attack from the local Irish Community trying to release one of their friends. The Bridewell Keeper had been grievously assaulted as he tried to keep the premises secure. Michael Whitty rescued the Bridewell Keeper and with the assistance of the Insurance Company Fireman was able to restore peace forcing away the intruders. See Orange Riots 1835

Liverpool’s first Head (in the 1920’s the post was renamed Chief Constable) also had responsibility for establishing a Fire Brigade in Liverpool. Up to this point fire fighting was provided by various Insurance companies own fire brigades. As Head Constable he was regarded as the first full-time senior permanent official of the Corporation, and the police force itself was the first large body of municipal employees. The new Force was created on February 29, 1836, and consisted of 290 men, 24 inspectors and four superintendents, plus 40 fire-police men, bridewell keepers and indoor officers. It is suggested that the Town Police and Night Watch were amalgamated. However adverts were placed throughout the town to attract new volunteers to the Force. About twelve months later the dock police had been the most efficient of the three forms groups was subsumed with the new Force.
Michael Whitty held the post of Head Constable for eleven years leaving on the 22nd January 1847. He had been a Journalist before he became Head of the Night Watch. With money given to him by the grateful people of Liverpool he was able to return to Journalism. In 1848 Michael went on to purchase the ‘Liverpool Journal’. He was a strong believer in the abolition of the stamp duty on newspapers. In giving evidence, before a Parliamentary Committee, Whitty said that if they were repelled he would publish a daily paper priced at one penny, instead of prices which ranged from three-pence to sixpence. On the repeal of these taxes, in 1855, he started publication of the Liverpool Daily Post, the first penny daily paper published in the United Kingdom

Shaun R. Rothwell (Retired Inspector)

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Michael died at his home in Prince’s Park, Liverpool on 10th June 1873, and was buried in Anfield Cemetery.

Grave of Head Constable Whitty - click to enlarge

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