Changes on the ground

In 1956, the police station at Haddington was re-located to Court Street with a new cells complex added. Elsewhere, other police stations were upgraded or rebuilt, and county policing continued operating mainly on the principle of the village policeman living in a single-manned, village station, as part of community life. East Lothian had village police stations at Elphinstone, Ormiston, Cockenzie, Longniddry, Aberlady, Gullane, East Linton, Belhaven, Gifford, Garvald, East Saltoun, Pencaitland, and Macmerry. In the section of Midlothian now annexed to East Lothian District since regionalisation, there were police stations at Wallyford, Levenhall, Inveresk, Fisherrow, Old Craighall, and Smeaton.

As society itself moved forward, communities became less self-contained and insular. Increasingly, everyone could access more systems of communication and had greater mobility. More importantly, the role of women changed, placing them on an equal footing with men. In many respects, it was these factors that brought about the demise of the village policeman – that (invariably) married, male officer whose spouse fulfilled the role of housewife, cleaner, and unpaid station assistant. She even, in the absence of women police officers, assisted her husband in police matters that particularly necessitated the attention of a woman.

County police officers themselves became more mobile and bicycles gave way to motor scooters, motorcycles and minivans. Then, during the late 1960s when there was a shortage of police manpower, Unit Beat Policing (U.B.P) was seen to be the way forward. This system operated on the premise that improved communication and mobility would permit a smaller number of police officers to provide a more efficient policing response, – i.e. personal radios and panda cars would offset any shortage of manpower.

So, in 1968, the Lothians and Peebles Constabulary adopted the system of Unit Beat Policing, thereby introducing personal radios and panda cars to East Lothian.

The arrival of the highly visible, ubiquitous panda car, on the road 24 hours a day, crewed by police officers working full rotating shifts from a main police station, and communicating with each other by personal radio, heralded a new era that would see the passing of the village policeman and the single-manned police station. By 1970, all the villages stations listed above had been closed.

On a national level, technological changes – especially computerisation – improved things further. The Police National Computer arrived in 1974, a vehicle database that was later extended to include personal details; in 1989 a Command & Control system improved retrieval of records and statistics; and the Automatic Fingerprint Retrieval System reduced time-consuming manual trawls through records. DNA profiling gave hope that the World’s End Murders of 1977 would eventually be solved.