From Camels to Commodores: Evolution Of Queensland Police On Our Roads

May 6, 2019


Road Safety


Pauline Morrissey

From camels to Commodores, a lot has changed in how Queensland Police have patrolled our sunny state. With all the talk about driverless cars and state of the art car technologies, we thought we would rewind the clock, by taking you for a drive down memory lane.

Here's a quick evolution of Queensland police on our roads:


Police detectives and trackers water their horses in Blackfellow's Creek after returning from investigations into murders near Gatton. Photo: Queensland Police

The relationship between humans and horses have helped build civilizations for thousands of years, so it's only natural that these trusty steeds would be integral in the formation of our country's police forces. Since the Queensland Police Force was established in 1864, horses were the main form of transport for police in traversing this wide, brown land, and still continue to be in use today with the mounted police unit.


Police camel
Cop on a camel. Photo: Queensland Police

With most Australians living along the coast, it's sometimes hard to imagine that most of the country is covered by vast sandy deserts and rugged, rocky landscapes. Often inhospitable terrains, not exactly well suited to horses or vehicles. Thankfully for the Queensland Police, the camel proved to be an extremely useful mode of transportation, particularly in the west of the state. The Birdsville Police Station received 6 camels directly from India, sometime in the 1890's and continued to use them well into the 1930's.


Studio portrait of Constable Duffy riding a police bicycle (make unknown). Photo: Queensland Police Museum

In cities and towns, Queensland police all walked “the beat” until bicycles were issued in 1896, with a slow distribution rolled out across the state. The bicycle allowed officers to patrol a wider area and respond quicker than when on foot. At the time, a bicycle cost £13 which was actually more expensive than a horse.


Vintage Harley Davidson police motorbike with sidecar in Brisbane
1927 Harley Davidson motorcycle and side car, photograph taken in the grounds of the Petrie Terrace Depot, Brisbane. Photo: Queensland Police Museum

Along with a healthy supply of horses, several camels, and a fleet of bicycles, the Queensland Police then finally became motorised with the purchase of three Harley Davidson motorcycles with attached sidecars in 1925. The motorcycles were used to great advantage by detectives to get to places not served by public transport.


Vintage Ford V8 police cars in Australia
Two police motor vehicles, a Ford V8 Convertible Sedan at left, and Ford V8 5 Window Coupe. Photo: Queensland Police Museum.

With the proliferation of motor vehicles around the world throughout the 1920's, many hopeful salespeople tried to convince the Commissioner of Police, Patrick Short, to purchase a vehicle for use by the Force — all were politely refused with a hand written letter. That was until the early 1930’s, when the then Commissioner, William H. Ryan, embraced motorisation and approved the purchase of motorcycles and vehicles for use across the state.


Cortina police car
Constable Noala Holman takes the wheel of one of the new Cortina traffic cars, with Constable Yvonne Weier as her passenger. Photo: Queensland Police

While women had been working in the police force since 1931, the first uniformed female police officers were sworn in, in March 1965. Along with the modernisation of the workforce, twenty-one new Ford Cortina sedans were purchased for traffic work and many vehicles were fitted with two-way wireless radios.


Ford Falcon Highway Patrol police vehicle
1982 V8 Falcon Highway Patrol Vehicle. Photo: Queensland Police Service

By 1982, a heavy road toll on Queensland's roads brought about the creation of a new American-style highway patrol unit. The police force purchased fifty-three V8 Ford Falcons with long range radios, as well as eighty-four Yamaha road motorcycles, to help patrol the state's highways. The introduction of the iconic Aussie V8 started a decades long relationship for Queensland's and the nation's police forces.


Queensland Police Holden Monaro
One of 10 Monaro CV8 sedans that were purchased by Queensland Police in 2005. Photo: Queensland Police

The epic Ford vs. Holden rivalry also spilled into the choice of police patrol vehicles. With every new vehicle purchase, the question of Commodore or Falcon would inevitably come to the forefront. Queensland Police purchased ten Monaro CV8 Holden sedans with enough power and grunt to keep the roads and highways safe. The modern vehicles would also serve to house the new technologies being developed, such as the mobile automatic number plate recognition cameras.


Queensland Police Service Kia Stinger
Queensland police force has signed off on Kia’s Stinger as its official new highway patrol car. Photo: Supplied

Homegrown Holden and Ford vehicles have patrolled the states roads for decades, but following the shutdown of local manufacturing, Queensland police now have a new highway patrol vehicle, the Kia Stinger. The unlikely new official highway patrol car was rolled out in 2018, with fifty twin-turbocharged V6 Stingers replacing locally-built versions of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon. Apart from additional wiring for police equipment, the vehicle is a standard model but still met the forces' tough criteria.

Pauline Morrissey

Freelance writer based in Sydney and contributor to the Smith's Lawyers blog


We’re ready to help you