Reserve History

Bermuda Reserve Police


History of the Reserve Police

Though the idea of creating a Reserve Police Constabulary in Bermuda had been suggested as far back as the 1930's, it was not until the Second World War (1935-1945) that the local Legislature and people of these Islands saw the real need to establish an auxiliary Police Force. During the war situations often arose which saw the regular Police Force stretched to breaking point and the necessity to have a dedicated, properly trained, local body of reserve Police officers was plain for all to see.

Following the cessation of hostilities in 1945, Bermuda gradually began to return to normal and the idea of creating a Reserve Police Force was temporarily placed on the back burner. However, those who believed in the concept continued to press ahead with their proposal, and their perseverance was rewarded when the Bermuda Reserve Constabulary was eventually formed on 1st February 1950. The following year, on 21st July 1951, the Legislature passed the Act which officially established the Reserve Constabulary.

Recruiting began in earnest and the new Force soon boasted a compliment of fifty six (56) volunteer officers, who were drawn from all walks of life. The new Reserve officers were even issued with their own distinctive grey uniforms, to distinguish them from regular Police officers. The Unit initially consisted of a Commandant, a Deputy Commandant, four Assistant Commandants, a Chief Inspector, three Sergeants and forty six Constables.

The first Commandant of the Reserve Constabulary was Captain Ross Winter, who served in that post for a record eighteen years. During his tenure as Commandant he saw many changes both in Bermuda and in the development of the regular Police Force. Such changes included the establishment of a Police Training School, a Marine Section, a Policewomen's Department and a Narcotics Unit.

For the Reserves, the 50's, 60's and 70's were very much formative years, and it would be remiss not to mention some of the dedicated individuals, who unselfishly and without financial compensation, gave of their time and ability to serve Bermuda in those early post war decades. They included Chief Inspector Lawson Fisher, Inspector Roy Butler, Sergeant Kathy Brangman, Deputy Commandant Cal Hollis, Sergeant Eddy Everetts, Sergeant Michael Fox, Sergeant Loudrey Holder, Constable Rosemarie Hansey, Constable Belinda Vickers, Constable Kenny Pitcher, Constable Teddy Pitman, Inspector Bessie Barton Inspector Kirk Brangman and many others, too numerous to mention.

During those first decades, the Reserves were largely utilized to assist their full time colleagues in beat duties, beach patrols, static guard duties and crowd control, at events such as the Floral Pageant, the Queen's Birthday Parade and Cup Match Cricket Classic. They mainly performed their duties at weekends, and, since they were never given instruction, were not allowed to drive Police cars! In addition, the Reserves were given two annual 'Take Over' days, when Reserve officers would assume the roles of their full-time counterparts in the three Divisions - Eastern, Western and Central.

However, it was the events of the late sixties and early seventies, which truly brought home the worth of the Reserves to the regular Police Force and to the people of Bermuda. Firstly, Reserve officers lent very valuable assistance to their full time colleagues in the investigation of several murders in Warwick Parish, and then they provided property protection for two solid months, following a series of deliberate fires, which had been set at the Bermudiana and Hamilton hotels.

In the wake of the Belco riots in February 1965, the Reserve Constabulary was embodied with all members instructed to report for duty for an unspecified length of time. They were again embodied in the aftermath of the murder of the Governor, Sir Richard Sharples, in March 1973, and yet again after the riots, which followed the executions of Erskine 'Buck' Burrows and Larry Tacklyn in December 1977.

More recently the Reserves have been embodied following the devastating destruction brought by Hurricane Emily (1987), for the visit of Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh to Bermuda (1994), and after the September 11th (2001) terrorist attacks on the United States.

During the nineteen seventies, firstly under the stewardship of Commandant Bill McPhee, and afterwards under Commandant Ralph Ferguson, the Reserves began to break out of their staid mould. One group of officers attended an overseas training course in Canada and several years later another group toured Barbados. At the end of the decade (1979), Reserve officers joined forces with their regular colleagues to mount a major exhibition, which celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Bermuda Police Force.

Commandant John Moore assumed command of the Reserve Constabulary in 1987. He had a broad vision of the role which Reserve officers should perform, and with the approval of the then Commissioner of Police, Mr. Frederick Bean, he established a Reserve Executive Committee. That Committee then held a two day brainstorming session, out of which plans emerged for future Reserve recruits to attend a new sixteen week basic training course. Other proposals called for Reserve officers to attend driving, radio and station duty courses. Plans for a change of name and uniform and the introduction of a bounty payment, however, were not approved at that time.

The granting of the bounty finally came about in 1991, when for the very first time; Reserve Police Officers received a lump sum payment in recognition of their services to the community. The bounty is now paid twice annually to officers who complete a minimum number of hours service in a given six month period.

Following the March 1995 appointment of Mr. Colin Coxall as Commissioner of Police, the Reserve Executive Committee made a fresh appeal to the new Commissioner for a change of name, to which he agreed. The Reserves also adopted a new uniform, which is practically identical to that worn by their full time counterparts. Henceforth they would no longer be known as the Reserve Constabulary, but as the Bermuda Reserve Police. Interestingly at the same time, the regular Force changed their name from the Bermuda Police Force to the Bermuda Police Service. Also that same year (1995), the Reserve Headquarters building at Prospect was substantially upgraded, and officers were granted permission to drive Police vehicles for the first time, after having successfully completed Police driving courses.

Firstly under Commissioner Coxall, the training courses on offer to Reserve Police officers were significantly improved. Then under his successors, Commissioners Jean-Jacques LeMay and Jonathan Smith, the courses and their content were further greatly expanded.

In September 1999, Mr. Eugene Vickers was appointed as the fifth Commandant of the Bermuda Reserve Police. He is the first born Bermudian Commandant and the first man of colour to take change of the Unit. Mr. Vickers is also the longest serving member of either the regular Police Service or the Reserves.

He is the first to acknowledge that the role of the Reserves has changed dramatically over the years. They have now been integrated into almost every facet of police work in Bermuda. They have their own radios, security assignments and operational vehicles, and the Commandant himself has recently participated on Senior Management Committees.

In 2001 the Bermuda Reserve Police celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their establishment by Act of Parliament. They have indeed come a long way from their humble beginnings in the aftermath of World War Two. Bermuda today is a far better place in which to live because of the dedication of such countless men and women, who have been proud over the years to wear the uniform of the Bermuda Reserves and to serve this community to the best of their ability.

In October 2002, the Commandant, Mr. Vickers, proudly hosted the Reserve Police Commandants' World Conference in Bermuda. The conference was an outstanding success and a testament to the esteem which the Bermuda Reserve Police now enjoy in our community and in Police circles abroad.

Historical text: Sergeant Chris Wilcox, Bermuda Police Service. (October, 2002)

In October 2004 Commandant Vickers retired after 40 years of service. The incoming Commandant Mr. Huw Lewis, commented that "this kind of committed service to a voluntary organization is most remarkable. Forty years in any organization is a very long time but Commandant Vickers was no ordinary member. He gave his all to the Bermuda Reserve Police for four decades and I'm sure he will continue to have a close relationship with us." This is in fact true, as Mr. Vickers is heading a fund raising effort to send Bermuda Reserve Police officers to the Bahamas to assist Police officers there to make repairs to their homes following extensive hurricane damage in 2004.

The Change of Command Ceremony was a major landmark in the Bermuda Reserve Police history. Two bands were present for the parade, presided over by the Deputy Governor Mr. Nick Carter and Commissioner of Police Mr. Jonathan Smith. The event was further distinguished by delegations from the South Wales Special Constabulary, the City of London Special Constabulary, the Royal Bahamas Reserve Police as well as Reserve Police units from Oakland County Michigan U.S.A. In all, there were 36 overseas visitors headed by their senior officers. The fact that these officers traveled so far at their own expense to be at the Change of Command Ceremony showed the very high regard in which the Bermuda Reserve Police is held by these organizations. This show of strength reinforced the very close ties forged by the Reserves overseas.

In June 2010 Commandant Huw Lewis retired after 31 years of service. New Commandant Jerry Robinson, who has served with the Bermuda Reserve Police for over 20 years, officially assumed command at a Change of Command Ceremony on Saturday, June 19th 2010 at Police Headquarters in Prospect.

The ceremony was attended by the Governor Sir Richard Gozney, Minister of Labour, Home Affairs & Housing Senator the Hon. Lt. Col. David Burch, Acting Premier Paula Cox, Commissioner of Police Michael DeSilva, Opposition Leader Kim Swan, Bermuda Democratic Alliance Leader Craig Cannonier and Minister Walter Roban, as well as a representative from the U. S. Customs and Border Patrol.

On parade were members of the Bermuda Regiment Band and Bermuda Pipe Band as well as Reserve Police officers.

Commandant Robinson pledged that with the assistance of his Senior Command Team (pictured below right) the Reserves would continue to assist the Bermuda Police Service with policing duties whenever necessary and that the training of the Reserves would be brought into line with career officers.

Almost four years later, at a 5pm Swearing In Ceremony on Thursday, March 6th 2014 held in the Prospect Police Recreation Club hall at Police Headquarters Devonshire, Commandant Designate Cannoth Roberts and Deputy Commandant Designate Ron-Michel Davis were officially sworn in as Commandant and Deputy Commandant of the Bermuda Reserve Police respectively.

Mr. Roberts was formerly Deputy Commandant while Mr. Davis was formerly a Reserve Police Chief Inspector.

Dignitaries present at the ceremony included His Excellency the Governor Mr. George Fergusson, Minister of National Security the Hon. Michael Dunkley, Minister of Home Affairs Senator the Hon. Michael Fahy, Commissioner of Police Michael DeSilva, Deputy Commissioner Mike Jackman, Assistant Commissioners Paul Wright and Antoine Daniels, as well as numerous family, friends and colleagues.

2015 Reserve Senior Command Team

For more information about the Bermuda Reserve Police, please contact telephone number 247-1787 or e-mail reservemail@bps.bm.