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The Story Behind Tom Carter’s Painting of The Vancouver Police Museum

Updated: Jul 6, 2020

Recently, The Vancouver Police Museum was bestowed with a one-of-a-kind custom painting created by celebrated local artist Tom Carter. Depicting a dramatic scene from the Vancouver Police Department’s history back in 1935, the artwork channels a ‘Vancouver Noir’ essence, complete with slick city streets, clandestine black automobiles and haloed lights glowing in the eerie dusk.

The inspiration for the work came from Catherine Rose’s chapter, Street Kings; the dirty ‘30s and Vancouver’s unholy trinity, in the best-selling book: Vancouver Confidential. Here’s what she had to say about the scene:

“Throughout the worst years of the Great Depression, the Vancouver Police Department struggled to maintain order over a city beset with violence, corruption, and ever-increasing numbers of unemployed men travelling west in search of jobs. The early 1930s had seen year-over-year reductions in officers’ pay, and a good many beat cops resorted to taking bribes in order to make ends meet. On a cold day in 1935, the Chief Constable and detective unit were stripped of their badges, and anxiety was high over who might be next to end up on the bread line—or in jail.”

Vancouver artist Tom Carter’s painting of the Coroner’s Court (now the Vancouver Police Museum) and 1915 VPD station depicts a dark day in the history of the VPD, but one that also promises hope. As a West Coast sunset warms the cold January sky, constables gather at the end of their shift to share the news on the latest developments. Change is already underway in the new Chief’s office, and hope is on the horizon.”

A crime analyst with the Vancouver Police Department, Cat Rose is no stranger the Vancouver Police Museum as she also served as a Sins of the City tour guide for many years. While doing this, she had the opportunity to dig through files in our archives and found documents detailing an internal enquiry from 1935.

“There’s a perception in society that “the Thin Blue Line” protects even the most corrupt police officers from facing justice,” she told Author and Historian Eve Lazarus in an interview several years ago. “But I thought it was really interesting to see how corruption was perceived by members of the Vancouver police themselves back in the 1930s and how many officers were willing to rat out their brothers to try and put a stop to it.”

With a fascination for all things Vancouver, artist Tom Carter took the evocative elements from this period in Vancouver’s history and brought it to life in a stunning acrylic painting that now hangs in the museum for visitors to enjoy. “It was such a lot of fun to do and I love knowing it’ll be seen by many visitors to the Police Museum,” says Carter, whose work can also be found in many corporate and private collections throughout the Pacific Northwest, including BMO Harris Private Banking, TD Waterhouse, Harper Grey LLP among many others.

Generously, Carter has also allowed reproduced prints of his painting which are now on sale at The Vancouver Police Museum. Those who wish to have a slice of Vancouver history in their home can purchase the paintings online, or order them by phone or in-house at The Vancouver Police Museum. All purchases directly support The Vancouver Police Museum and its mission to preserve and illuminate the history of the city.


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