The Historic Collections of Devon & Cornwall Constabulary remain one of the most complete collections in the UK. The collection began in the 1970s as a result of police mergers in the late 1960s, and a desire to protect the history of the police forces that had come before. Earliest items date from the 1810s and the collection contains archives, photographs, artworks, uniforms and equipment, as well as an extensive library relating to criminology and law enforcement. It also represents a rapidly disappearing genre – a complete collection of a profession – and the organisational memory of a large, regional police force, but which in the past included smaller borough forces and two county forces.
To date, the earliest material known to be in the Collection date from the 1810s, but as much of the Collection remains uncatalogued in detail, there may even be earlier material. What is known is that the Collection currently consists of:
- Archives, including photographs and an amount of printed material relating to the police
- Uniforms and accessories
The Collection is housed in secure store rooms at Okehampton Police station. In 2008 a major cataloguing programme was implemented and there are now over 15,000 records on the Collections Management database (estimated to be approximately one-fifth of the total Collection as it currently stands). Despite being little publicised, the Collection continues to receive enquiries requesting research services from genealogists, local historians and writers for books, TV, film and radio. In addition it receives requests for access to the Collection from university students, schools, societies and local history groups. It does the best it can, with its current limited resources.