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Indian Police Services

These pages provide guidance to family historians on how to use sources from the India Office Records such as occupational descriptions or types of documents (wills, pensions or ecclesiastical records for example).

The Indian Police Services belong to the Special Civil Service of India. India Act 13 of 1856 reformed the municipal police administration in the three Presidency capitals (Calcutta, Madras, Bombay). They were each placed under a Commissioner who was responsible directly to the Governor of the Province. India Act 5 of 1861 established a uniform system of police administration throughout British India with an Inspector General at the head of the police in each province. 

The Superior Police Services, later known as the Indian (Imperial) Police, consisted of an Inspector General, Deputy Inspectors General, District Superintendents and Assistant District Superintendents. The Subordinate Police Service in each province consisted of Inspectors, Sub-Inspectors, Head Constables and Constables. The rank of Sergeant (equivalent to Head Constable) also existed but was mainly confined to Europeans or Eurasians who served in the City forces or in cantonments.

The Indian Police (Superior) Service in its earlier days included many European officers of the Indian Army. Before 1893 appointments to all senior grades (i.e. Assistant District Superintendent and above) were made locally in India. From 1893 most new entrants to the top échelon were appointed by examination or selection in the UK. In the lower branch, the Subordinate Services were mainly constituted of Indians with some Europeans and Eurasians in the higher ranks. The Indian Police structure was again changed in 1905 when the rank of Deputy Superintendent with four grades was created within the subordinate services. The term 'Provincial Service' was used to refer to these four grades.

Appointment papers

Application papers for mainly the top échelon of the Indian Police Services include information as to parentage, education etc, testimonials, tables of marks and copies of exam papers.

  • Pre 1893, records of the appointment for mainly superior grades may appear in the Proceedings (P) of the relevant province.
  • 1893-1923 Indian Imperial Police (top échelon), see L/PJ/6 (Public and Judicial Department papers)
  • 1924-1941 Indian Imperial Police, see L/SG/6 (Services and General Department records)
  • Agreements made on appointment between probationers and the Secretary of State, 1893-1937, are to be found in O/1/164-195 (Biographical Series), indexes Z/O/1/3-4.

Service records

The main sources of career information for mainly upper and some lower grades can be found in:

  • L/F/10, Uncovenanted Servants 1818-1900, mainly Superior Services and Upper Subordinate Services.
  • V/13, Civil Lists 1840-1957, mainly Imperial Services until 1905, and Provincial Service after that.
  • V/12, Histories of Service 1875-1955, mainly Imperial and Provincial Services.
  • L/SG/11, Services and General Department Records c.1907-1955, mainly Imperial and Provincial Services.
  • L/AG/20/1/6-151, Civil Leave Pay Books 1860-1963, mainly Imperial and Provincial Services.
  • L/AG/34/14A, Deaths in the Uncovenanted Service in India 1870-1949, for all (European) grades.

Pension records and Family information

Service Pensions

  • UK: 1860-1972: L/AG/21/9, L/AG/28, L/AG/33.
  • Overseas: 1860-1970: L/AG/21/43-44.

Two types of family pension funds are applicable to the Indian Police:

  • The Bengal and Madras Family Pension Fund, 1920-1967: IOR:L/AG/21/9/151-157.
  • The Superior Services (India) Family Pension Fund, 1928-1955. Family registers: IOR:/L/AG/23/26/1-3. Payments in the UK: IOR:L/AG/21/33-34. Payments overseas: IOR:L/AG/21/43-44.

Medals and awards

King's Police Medal (KPM). Instituted in July 1909 as an award for gallantry or distinguished service in the UK / Empire. The citations for such awards can be found in the Gazette of India, 1909-1947 (IOR:V/11. Microfilm available: IOR Neg 3310). An index to the citations can be found in the Private Papers Collections (IOR: MSS Eur E358/1).

Indian Police Medal (IPM). Instituted in 1932 as an alternative to the KPM, for meritorious service in the Indian Police Services and Fire Brigades. Citations were published in the Gazette of India and /or Provincial Gazettes [V/11]. Xerox copies of IPM citations in the Gazettes are to be found in MSS Eur E 358/2.