The Cambridge ‘Bulldogs’

Louise Wallace - Investigations Editor 2 November 2009

Within five miles of Great St Mary’s Church, Cambridge University has its own police force.

Founded in 1825 by the Universities Act, the Cambridge Constabulary is endorsed with full police powers within this area and receives an annual visit by the Police Complaints Commission. Its constables are armed with pikes, halbots, truncheons and buttersticks. Its uniform: top hat and coat tails.

Perhaps unsurprisingly in light of this strange arsenal the Constabulary’s duties are now almost exclusively ceremonial. Constables work with the University’s Proctors, ensuring the smooth operation of graduation ceremonies and important visits. The ‘bulldogs’, as they were once known, act as ushers and as symbols of the university’s strength, age and traditions.

Neither is the Constabulary still responsible for students’ moral purity, though this task has not entirely been abandoned by the colleges. When the Praelector presents a student for their degree, he also vouches for their moral conduct. That said, no students or women of ill repute are taken these days to the university’s old jail – The Spinning House.

Up until the 60s and 70s, the Constabulary was also responsible for student unrest, including riots and protests. Now this assignment is undertaken by University Security. The Constabulary, which has twenty four part time members, does not have the manpower or receive the training to safely and effectively carry out such duties. They do, however, warn or remove hecklers from university events, though, according to Constable Carl Hudson, they choose to do so only when the conduct rather than the content of the complaint is a disturbance.

Neither the Proctors nor the Constabulary have any authority within the colleges and when a Constable enters a college he has to take off his hat.

Louise Wallace – Investigations Editor