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The history of police in Lviv
For the 225th anniversary of the creation of a police force
The Lviv police force, in the modern sense, appeared on 27 November 1785 on the day when its first director, Daniel Halam von Hitkhin, was appointed by Emperor’s decree. The police personnel originally consisted of a director, a secretary, a clerk and 4 inspectors.
The Lviv police agency is one of the oldest such agencies in the world. For instance, the famous Paris Sûreté générale started to work in 1810 and Scotland Yard only in 1829.
Before the introduction of modern police officers, order in Lviv was maintained by 15 city watchmen .They were supervised by a night burgomeister (town mayor) who had keys from all the gates in the city. The city watchmen and the night burgomeister were accountable only to the Magistrate (City Council). After the appointment of the police director, the city watchmen were withdrawn and their armaments were given to the Arsenal museum.
The Austrian authorities liquidated the city council's right to appoint police officers. Besides that, the city watchmen worked only on the territory of the city and the closest villages that belonged to the city, so criminals or scammers could continue to do what they did as the city watchmen didn’t know anything about their former deeds. That all changed with the new centralized police system's introduction in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. "Circulars" with descriptions of all criminals were sent to all police administrations.
The police structure was extending very quickly. Commissioners and district supervisors appeared. The military police guards consisted of 70 people. It is worth noting that for the Jewish quarter, Jewish police officers were installed. But all the police officials were appointed by the Emperor.
In general, the police were doing their job very skillfully. When the archduke Franz-Karol was visiting Lviv there were no thefts in the city despite the fact that for such an event many thieves came to Lviv. Nothing happened because the police director decided to lock up all the thieves and suspected thieves in prison. What a great fortune that the police knew all the thieves and didn’t even miss one!
However, history records different opinions; for instance, that there is no need to have bars on windows in Vienna because all the thieves had relocated to Lviv. But we think the truth was always somewhere in the middle. It is a pity that none of police directors left any memories. That’s why we know so little about them.
Maybe the brightest personality among all of the police directors was Sacher-Masoch, the father of the infamous writer. Masoch was trying to show himself as a smart and gifted person. He was head of a Galician musical association and was interested in entomology. As Polish was the dominating nation of Lviv he helped Ukrainians a lot, but that wasn’t because he liked them but rather from the principle “divide the land and rule there”. The political supervision as a task belonged to the police functions as well. That is what he mostly did but in the same way he neglected the criminal aspect of his job. That’s why after the revolution in 1848 he had to escape from Lviv with all his family. Which is why the city of Lviv plays such a small role in the works of Masoch's better known son.
After Masoch's escape the magistrate was given back the right to form the police authorities. The municipal guard consisted of 120 persons. After the revolution (and also due to the abolition of serfdom) the Lviv police started to function as it had before.
The police situation and personnel didn’t change in the times of the Napoleonic wars while there were Polish and Russian troops in the city. The police force grew with the expansion of the city, especially with the appearance of the railway station. The methods employed were also being improved. For instance, in 1902 the anthropometric office was opened and in 1904 the method of fingerprinting employed.
In the 19th century the rapid growth of the city caused the rapid rise of crime. As police officers had formerly relied on visual memory and professional intuition they started to make more mistakes in identifying criminals as jailbirds being put behind bars once again could later simply call themselves by different names. The police world was rescued by the secretary of the French police, Alfonse Bertillon, who introduced the method of identifying a person and systematizing police card files. This method was adopted by the United States, England, Germany and Austria.
But the downside was that this method called for a high level of accuracy in measurements which is why it was replaced by the simpler and more accurate method of fingerprinting.
In 1902 the mounted police unit was introduced. It consisted of 30 policemen and 49 horses. The first police dog Prinse appeared in 1919 which caused panic among criminals and sensation among journalists.
This is a short history of Lviv police – not always loved but so important!
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