Goodbye horses and hello helicopters '“ looking back at 50 years of Sussex Police

From the first female mounted officer to cutting edge forensic technology, policing has changed since 1968.

With 2019 upon us, Sussex Police is saying goodbye to a fascinating year of celebrating its 50th anniversary.

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Over the course of 2018, the force looked back at how things had changed over the past five decades, from cars and technology to uniform and dogs – and policing culture itself.

Chief Constable Giles York

‘Core aspects’ of policing have not changed

However, despite the many changes, Chief Constable Giles York praised the force’s commitment to ‘core aspects’ of policing that have endured.

Mr York, who joined the force six years ago, said: “What a great year it’s been remembering 50 years of being Sussex Police.

“Through this year we’ve reflected on so many things that have changed so much.

“Our uniforms, our cars, our technology, but equally we’ve remembered those core aspects of policing that have, and always will stay the same.

“I’m really grateful to all of the team and all of you who have contributed to recognising and remembering 50 years of Sussex Police.”

1968: the space race and the Kray twins

Before 1968, Sussex had been looked after by several smaller police forces: East Sussex, West Sussex, Hastings, Eastbourne and Brighton.

Police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne

Those forces combined to form the Sussex-wide police force we have today.

Mr York said: “1968 to some people might not seem so long ago, but it was the year that Apollo 8 circled the moon.

“And in dawn raids the Kray twins were arrested.

“I really believe that we forget our history at our peril. We must remember the heritage that has shaped what we are today.

“Things like technology that has been with us for the 50 years, it has evolved to be one of our greatest assets, but remains today still to be one of our greatest challenges as well.

“Our culture has changed over the years, today to be more inclusive as an organisation, recognised as a leader in diversity and equality.”

Making history as the first female mounted officer

During the course of its anniversary year, Sussex Police delved into its history and spoke to current and former officers and staff about their roles.

Among them was Sergeant Jan Lavis, who retired last year after 36 years in the force.

Sgt Lavis said: “My beat in the early days included the station in Brighton, where the mounted branch and its four horses were based.

“The mounted branch was small but they were used for a variety of things such as patrolling, missing person searches and public order. They were regularly deployed at Brighton & Hove Albion’s old Goldstone Ground.

“There had never been a female officer on the mounted branch in Sussex and the inspector in charge of the mounted branch and dog unit made it quite clear that there never would be.

“I find that really funny now when I look at all the female dog handlers.

“Fortunately for me, the Brighton superintendent had a different view and approved my application to do a three-month attachment to the unit, the first by a female officer.”

More stories from the force’s 50-year history, as well as pictures and video, can be found at 

‘I am proud to be Sussex born and bred’

Sussex’s police and crime commissioner has also spoken of the importance of marking such a significant milestone in Sussex Police’s timeline.

Katy Bourne, who has held the position of police commissioner since 2012, said: “It‘s been fascinating to look back at Sussex Police over the past 50 years.

“During that time, crime has evolved in a way nobody would have dreamed of back in 1968, so I’m pleased to see that Sussex Police is continually embracing new technology and best practice to combat these challenging and highly complex types of crime.

“I am proud to be Sussex born and bred.

“I’m also incredibly proud that Sussex Police is recognised for its commitment to diversity and we now have women in so many senior roles – including, of course, our new Deputy Chief Constable.”

What do you think?

What has stood out to you about Sussex Police over the last 50 years?

Do you miss the mounted division or like the classic police cars of days gone by? Email your views to [email protected]