Ottoman Uniforms
Ottoman Uniforms

1826 TILL 1918 OTTOMAN POLICE UNIFORMS

1826 Establishment of Ottoman Police

In 1826, the Ottoman Imperial Army, played a significant role in the policing of the Ottoman state, and Imperial Capital, Constantinople inherited from the Aga of the Janissaries, whom had been responsible for public security, police duties, fire-fighting, and the like, in the capital.

  • The police function came to be of increasing importance, and the maintenance and extension of the police system one of the chief duties of the SERASKER:
  • Husrev Pasha, was SERASKER at various times between 1827 and 1837, was particularly successful in this part of his work.

In the areas outside Constantinople, there were the SUBASILAR, who were under the command:

  • Mirliva (Army Generals) or Sancak Beyleri in the Sanjaks;
  • Mir-i Miran or Beylerbeyi in the provinces; and,
  • KADI in the towns;

These fulfilled the security and public order duties together with soldiers under their command.

The security and public order services were performed by the military organizations which were called:

  • “Asakir-i Muntazama-i Mansuri”;
  • “Asakir-i Muntazama-i Hassa”;
  • “Asakir-i Redife” (founded in 1834), were established in some provinces of Anatolia and Rumelia.

The proclamation of Administrative Reforms on 3 November 1839, establisded the duty of protecting the right to life and property of the people, and was assigned to officers who worked under the authority of provincial or sanjak governorates.

After 1847, local police forces were established in every district, and these forces were responsible from escorting the collection of taxes and providing the necessary means for security of the population, travellers, roads and bridges.

  • The need for more order and uniformity in the provinces, along with the need for an instrument against domestic-security threats before resorting to the use of regular troops led to decision to create gendarmerie regiments and battalions, and the police were taken from the jurisdiction of the Serasker and placed under a separate Zabtiye Müşiriyeti in 1845.

1845-6 Establishment of Ottoman Police

The first police organization was established during the Ottoman Empire on 10th of April, 1845.

  • This period started with the foundation of Legitimate Police in order to unite the security forces in the country.
  • Afterwards, Police regiments were organized firstly in Constantinople and then in the countryside.

Ottoman Police Force Era (1846-1855)

On 16 February 1846, “Zaptiye Musirligi” was established and Umur-u Zaptiye services in provinces and sanjaks were directly subordinated to this authority.

  • This period was also named as “Tevhid-i Zabıta” (integration of law enforcement services) period. Zaptiye Musirligi was subordinated to “Seraskerlik” which was a higher-level military authority.
  • Thus, a new military law enforcement branch emerged for the main purpose of ensuring internal security and public order and it was conducted by one center.

Initially Constantinople developed its own special police structure.

  • It was manned by 150 professional policemen and 500 irregulars (Bekci) stationed in the main quarters of the city, which served not only to house the men and officers but also the police courts.
  • This organisation became the basis for the first separate police force to be established in the Ottoman Empire.

Serving as a permanent guard whenever the army corps had to leave its appointed location, the Police force was divided into brigades, each 'Eylayet' (Prior to 1864, the 'Eyalets' were a former primary administrative division of the Ottoman Empire, the term is sometimes translated province or governorate):

  • One brigade was under the command of a senior officer.
  • Constantinople had three brigades.

In each brigade there were as many companies as there were provinces in the respective Eylayet, each commanded by captains.

  • Each company had a number of sergeants equal to that of the departments varying from ten to thirty constables, according to the population.
  • They were mounted and well-armed. There were an additional 40 cavalrymen attached to each large conurbation, for servicing the surrounding countryside, amounting to some 10,000 men in total.
  • The regular constabulary comprised of approximately 20,000 men, and a body of 30,000 organised as a military force.

Contemporary western sources give various definitions for individual roles within the Police:

  • The old Bikci term - 'Kavass', as a Foot Police Officer;
  • 'Seymens': Mounted  Police Officer (often quoted as simply irregulars);
  • 'Soubachis': Rural Police Officer (this phrase meant ‘chief of patrol’ to whom policing of the town and rural areas was entrusted).

1858-1876 Period Ottoman Police

The “Asakir-i Zaptiye Nizamnamesi”, which was the first regulation of the organization, entered into force on 14 June 1869. In accordance with these laws:

  • A Zaptiye (Police) Regiment was established in each province.
  • Its personnel were composed of infantry and cavalry.
  • Furthermore, the organizational structures of regiment, battalion, company and platoon were established.

Right - The 'Chef du Police' in 1870. Wearing his court uniform to the Sultan's Palace. This is likely to be the Mudir-i-umumi (Police Director-General).

In the British 1916 Handbook on the Turkish Army (pg. 103), under the Chief of the Department of Public Safety, there are six ranks of police recorded:

  • Mudir-i-umumi (Police Director-General of the three towns of Constantinople)
  • Mudir (Police Director)
  • Merkez Mamuri
  • Commissaire
  • Commissaire Muavini
  • Policeman

It appears in all the early illustrations of police uniforms that there are six-equivalent 'ranks' used.

Police Ministry Era (1879-1909)

Marine Police (1899-1908)

Right - Originally, Police Ministry was established to provide security in Istanbul but it was expanded to the security of all country in 1885. Moreover, undercover police, police inspectorships and mounted police troops were established in 1898 and Marine Police was started to serve in 1899. Police Ministry was abolished after the II. Constitution was declared (1908-1909).

  • Pictured in 1900, the Marine Police were distinguished by a gorget.

Right - This British pre-WW1 Grenadier Cigarettes card illustrates a Marine Police wearing the post-1900 service jacket with fly cover over the buttons, with red piping (which is actually the red lining of the button fly). The uniform colours, are green tunic with red collar and cuffs piped white. The gorget in silver metal. While the aiguillette is red.

1913 Ottoman Police Uniforms

Post-1914 Ottoman Police Uniforms

Right - WW1 (1918) war-time workshop made solid Cast Brass (Small-Medium) Orta and Star One-Piece Badge (3.1 cm across x 3.5 cm high). 1832 Order of Orta (long-horn crescent type). Cast in one piece with star badge. A. 1918-period the Agal, or M1909 kalpak badge.

Below/Right - Extracted from photograph of members of the Turkish Gendarmerie present when the Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, General Sir Edmund Allenby accepted the formal surrender of Jerusalem on 11 December 1917; this officer wears a police/civil official's wool cap with a similar badge.

Below - Owned by Peter Suciu  illustrates three features that show this to be for government service:

  • The silver tape used on the top (silver is for non-combatants);
  • Silver star and Order of Orta, crescent badges; and,
  • The grey top.

Normally, light gray represents the cavalry, and darker grey the infantry. However, in this case grey was also the basic uniform colour for the police. This one also incorporates a more classical button-spike, with a small ball final.

Right - Discribed as "Turkish Gendarme's epaulettes", worn by members of the Turkish Gendarmerie present when the Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, General Sir Edmund Allenby accepted the formal surrender of Jerusalem on 11 December 1917. This is in the Imperial War Museum collection. The Ottoman script indicates 'Jerusalem'. This is for the rank of Onbasi (Corporal). However, these are for an Ottoman Police officer.

Right - 1909 White cloth and cotton tape dress epaulette for a police officer (identical to the Palace Guard Soldiers' dress epaulette).

WW1 Ottoman Police Mounted Equipment

Right - A WW1 war-time workshop made solid cast brass cast medium-sized (4.5 cm across) 1832 Order of Orta (long-horn crescent type) and star badges. Same as the Agal, or M1909 kalpak badges. However, attached to horses’ blinder.

Inseted for comparason is the photograph of a member of the Turkish Gendarmerie present when the Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, General Sir Edmund Allenby accepted the formal surrender of Jerusalem on 11 December 1917; this officer wears a police/civil official's wool cap with an identical badge.

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