Crime and policing

Edward McMillan

In this essay:

Over this period, the police service responded to changes both in the nature of crimes being committed, and to changes in society itself. Initially, societal changes were gradual, but the rate of change increased over the period. As a result, the police service was to be transformed, both nationally and in East Lothian.

Organisational Changes

East Lothian Constabulary: 1832-1950

In many respects, pre-war policing of the county had continued largely unchanged since the establishment of the Haddingtonshire Constabulary in 1832. The name Haddingtonshire had given way to East Lothian, telephones appeared in even the smaller police stations, and the force acquired (often second-hand) typewriters and motor transport. By the end of the 1940s, the days of East Lothian Constabulary were numbered, as government review recommended amalgamations of smaller police forces.

The Lothians and Peebles Constabulary: 1950-1975

On 15 May 1950, the separate county police forces of East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian and Peebles were amalgamated to form the Lothians and Peebles Constabulary under the new Chief Constable, William Merrilees. The county of East Lothian became the Eastern Division of the new force with the police buildings at Haddington changed to a divisional headquarters under the command of a police superintendent. For the ordinary policeman there was not a lot of change. He was given a new collar number with a new L.P.C. shoulder insignia, and of course a new Chief Constable who now reported back to a new, and less parochial, Police Board.

The Lothian and Borders Police: 1975-2000

On 16th May 1975, the regionalisation programme was implemented. It reformed local government and forced further police amalgamations that left Scotland with only eight police forces. On Regionalisation Day, the Lothians and Peebles Constabulary, Berwick, Roxburgh and Selkirk Constabulary, and The City of Edinburgh Police were amalgamated to form the Lothian and Borders Police, the second largest police force in Scotland. East Lothian District (now comprising the former county together with a substantial section of land from Midlothian – including Musselburgh, Wallyford and Whitecraig) became a police sub-division under the charge of a Chief Inspector.

Post War 1945-1950

Although the effects of war were still evident for several years, life gradually returned to normal, and the police service resumed its familiar role. The force Headquarters was in Haddington, and police stations were located in the main towns of Prestonpans, Tranent, North Berwick and Dunbar. Single-manned stations were dotted in villages and hamlets.

Rationing continued to 1954, accompanied by a certain amount of black-market crime; consumer shortages led to general pilfering from stock-piled government and military supplies, and forgery and fiddles with ration books. Shortages of materials and funds affected the police in other ways too. East Lothian Constabulary had to issue recruits (recently de-mobbed from war service) with second-hand uniforms re-distributed from other serving officers. Remarkably, despite this apparent impoverishment and lack of equipment, the force obtained a Jaguar traffic car.