The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) is the oldest police force in Canada, which has roots dating to 1729, and was reorganized in 1871 to become the Newfoundland Constabulary. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the prefix “Royal” on the Newfoundland Constabulary in 1979 in recognition of its proud history in this Province. The present day RNC is Newfoundland and Labrador’s Provincial Police Force. Prior to this Province joining Canada in 1949 the RNC was the National Police Force of the Dominion of Newfoundland.
With deplorable working conditions that included no grievance procedure or right to collective bargaining and the lowest pay of any Canadian Police Force (Gross monthly pay for senior constables was $441.67), a five-man elected committee was formed on September 20, 1969. This committee, headed by Constable Tom Fraize, became known as the Police Brotherhood.
The Chief of Police, Edgar Pittman, refused to recognize or meet with the Committee and a meeting was held at the YMCA on the following Tuesday, September 23, 1969 with approximately 130 Members and their solicitor, Robert Wells, who some years later became a Supreme Court Justice.
On February 2, 1970 an NCO in hopes of getting some information on the Brotherhood spied on thirty-two (32) Members of the evening shift. The approximately thirty-two (32) Members that were present wrote a letter to Chief Edgar Pittman. They requested that the NCO be transferred to another Division. The Chief thought the letter was a breach of discipline and he responded by suspending the thirty-two (32) Members for 30 days. The remaining Members, approximately 150 said they would go on strike (which they were not permitted to do) if the others were not reinstated without penalty.
Premier Joseph Smallwood now weighed into the fray. He stated, “Either discipline has to be restored to the Constabulary or it must be disbanded” The 150 Members responded to the Premiers threat by walking off the job and thirty-five (35) NC’s joined them.
At first the Premier did not give into their demands but the Members knew their position was just and right and they had public support. The Premier relented. The Members were re-instated without penalty. They received a higher pay scale and as a result the Newfoundland Constabulary Police Brotherhood was formed. Chief Edgar Pittman resigned over this issue. The Brotherhood, now known as the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association changed its name when the first female Members were sworn in on December 15, 1980.