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Shanghai Municipal Police




The SMP was founded in 1854 (and will continue to enforce the law in the International Settlement until 1943). The SMP's headquarters are at the Central Police Station, 239 Hankow Road. The Commissioner of Police is Ivo Barrett, a Briton, who took over the post in late 1925. (Frederick Wernham Gerrard arrives to replace in him in May 1929, is appointed Commissioner in October and serves until 1938.)

The SMP is not really representative of the Settlement's demographics, but it is very international. Its officers include Chinese, Britons, Japanese, Russians and Sikhs (roughly in that order in terms of numbers), as well as a number of Westerners of other nationalities. Britons (including, at this time, the Irish) dominate the upper ranks. In later years the number of Japanese officers increases, but never to the degree that represents the actual proportion of civilian inhabitants (up until about 1940, when things start going rather differently).



The SMP faces an unusual task in terms of law enforcement. It is difficult to uphold the law when there is no particular law on the books – the system the SMP has to work with is the policy of extraterritoriality, meaning that citizens of favoured nations have to be tried before a consular judge of their own country, under their home country's laws. Chinese, and foreigners not subject to extraterritoriality (such as White Russians), are brought before the International Mixed Court.




The SMP is patterned after the Hong Kong Police, which was in turn very much influenced by the Metropolitan Police in London. At the top is the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner. Reporting to them are the Director of Criminal Investigation and the Assistant Commissioners for Chinese, Sikhs, the Foreign Branch (i.e. almost all officers not Chinese or Sikh), the Gaol Branch and the Mounted Branch. The Intelligence Office, which monitors Bolshevism, arms smuggling, local Chinese activity and political intelligence, reports to the Director of Criminal Investigation. Both the detectives and uniformed officers have great problems with infiltration by spies for Chinese organised crime groups and the Japanese military.




Ranks of the SMP:

Commissioner of Police

Deputy Commissioner

Assistant Commissioner


Chief Inspector





(Note: ranks Inspector-Constable also have Detective equivalents, which simply prefix “Detective” to the rank title.)



A new constable may progress to the rank of sergeant after 18 months, contingent on passing an exam and demonstrating sufficient progress with the Chinese language. After a further three years one may sit an examination to be promoted to sub-inspector, but after that must wait for promotion based on seniority. There are yearly pay increases. Transfers to the detective branch are dependent on vacancies.



Recruitment and Training


New recruits spend their first month at the Gordon Road training depot, after which they take up their posts as police constables. Men are trained in police procedures, local regulations, Chinese geography, arithmetic and the use of weapons. Senior officers take courses for colonial and dominions police officials run by the Metropolitan Police. The SMP also has close ties with the Royal Irish Constabulary. Cadets are often sent to the RIC for several months' training, and men are recruited directly from the RIC and Dublin Municipal Police as well as from other British and colonial forces.



Language issues


Studying Chinese is compulsory for new recruits, and passing further examinations gives SMP men a cash bonus or pay rise, and is a requirement for promotion. The SMP recognises three levels of ability: Temporary – 'ability to communicate with a native on a subject of the candidate's choice'; Basic – having mastered the lessons of a set textbook, translation of non-technical passages and simple police-related conversation; Higher – fluency. The emphasis is on spoken Shanghainese rather than written Chinese. After obtaining the Higher level, men may go on to study Mandarin, China's new official national language.



Uniformed Officers


The majority of the SMP are the uniformed officers who walk the beat. Most of these patrolmen are Chinese, but the rank-and-file foreign recruits also start out here. In general, western street cops outrank their Chinese counterparts. From his first day on the beat, a foreign policeman is placed in charge of Sikh and Chinese constables.



Above: SMP motorcycle patrol





The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) are plain clothes detectives and are the only officers permitted to carry their service pistols at all times. There are around forty foreign and 120 Chinese policemen in the department. Chinese detectives run networks of informants, as does the Intelligence Office (latterly called the Special Branch). The chief of the CID is Irishman W.G. Clarke, a 22-year veteran of the Lahore Police.




Sikh Policemen


One of the most distinctive Shanghai sights is that of an orange-turbaned Sikh officer on patrol or directing traffic, or on horseback as part of the Mounted Branch. Tall and imposing, the Sikhs are often thought to be more reliable than the Chinese, and form a useful military reserve. There are nearly 400 Sikh officers in the SMP. The first Sikh recruits joined the force in 1884. The SMP often liaises with the British Indian army's military experts and recruiters. However, despite recruiting with the army's advice, the SMP still finds trouble with Indian nationalism.

The Special Branch has an Indian Section which collaborates with Indian government agents in keeping tabs on Indian nationalist activity. Another characteristic of the SMP's Sikh officers is that many moonlight as moneylenders – a white officer with expensive tastes can always get a loan from his Sikh subordinates, though he runs the risk of dismissal if he is found out.



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