On this day in 1919…
Following the order of Sen. Robertson, the City of Winnipeg issues a notice to the Winnipeg Police Service, requiring all officers to sign a loyalty oath, renouncing their right to strike or lend support to any authority other than the municipal government.
Although the police service previously agreed to help keep order should a strike arise in Winnipeg, many formed their own unions alongside the city’s firefighters. Others voted to join the strike and walked off the job weeks prior.
The police commission, like the Citizens’ Committee of 1000, refuse to recognize or deal with the police unions in any form. As a result, the majority of officers object to signing the anti-union oath.
Keeping good on their promise to dismiss any active officer who refuses to swear their allegiance, city council fires police officers en masse. Only 22 officers agree to return to work and sign the oath. The other 252 officers are dismissed.
In an attempt to reassert authority over the city, Mayor Charles Gray orders for the open police positions to be filled immediately. In the following days, the Manitoba Free Press prints advertisements, asking for physically fit, educated men under the age of 30 to apply to the Winnipeg Police Service. The ads promise monthly pay ranging from $110 – $140 to those who are selected.
From May 29 to June 10, approximately 1800 men throughout Winnipeg apply to the Winnipeg Police Service’s “special constables” unit and are sworn in. Many of the men have little to no experience working in law enforcement, but join because of their anti-strike and anti-socialist views.