When she joined Leeds City Police back in the early 1960s, Sheila Cass-Tingle never wanted to drive the police cars; it was always the scooters for her – although she’d never ridden a Lambretta in her life.
The memories from those days and the passion it created have stayed with her ever since; she even kept hold of one of the original recruitment brochures produced at that time, and in which she featured. Her story has remained untold until 2015 when a chance conversation during a cab ride brought it to the surface. The cab driver was Scarborough scooterist, John Carter, and he passed that information onto Mau, who paid Sheila a visit…
After her recruitment into the police, Sheila jumped at the opportunity to become part of a new scooter mobile unit. As a result, she was sent on a training course consisting of three Lambretta riders and an instructor. She fondly recalls that at that time, there as this was a new venture, there were no set facilities for training scooter riders, so their group ended up riding around a site specifically designed for training car drivers; once they were considered competent, this then progressed to the police instructor taking them out over the moors.
Once fully trained, the scooter mobile unit’s work was divided between six police stations and sub-stations around Leeds, so the area Sheila covered was massive, especially as it included vast expanses of rural areas. Initially, the mobile unit didn’t even have police radios to keep in touch, so they were quite often felt isolated when out in the field. This made keeping in touch with base quite complicated and the contact procedure was to meet at specifically nominated public phone boxes on the hour; here base control would then ring them and allocate any jobs that needed doing. Eventually radios were introduced; they had long whip aerials (not un-similar to what you’d find on a Mod-type scooter) to try and get the best signal available when out in the sometimes isolated areas (apparently these aerials also became as useful as a truncheon during any fracas the officers got involved in).
The bleak rough terrain of the Yorkshire moors and dales did sometimes take its’ toll on the scooters though, and it was quite normal for bit to break or drop off. On many occasions, Sheila returned to base with the windshield tucked between her legs. Mechanically though, the scooters were fairly reliable and Sheila recalls: “We had a lovely garage-man who used to fuel them up for us and give advice on looking after them.
If the weather got really bad, or the scooter wasn’t available for any reason, then you had to catch the local bus! The rural location became a logistical nightmare with or without a scooter; it wasn’t unusual for one job to be up on the moors, and the next down in a village or town.
Sheila served about eight years in police service on the Lambrettas, and of the three allocated to the mobile unit, she managed to write two of them off! They weren’t replaced and police cars were gradually introduced instead – these were shared according to the workload. Sheila moved into CID, but she much preferred her days in uniform. Eventually she got married to Andy, a fellow police officer, and then became pregnant, so there was no way she could continue as a police officer (regulations and procedures were different back in those days). But she has remained in touch with some of her former work colleagues ever since. Andy carried on a bit longer before leaving himself.
Sheila still has a copy of the 1966 brochure that was used to recruit members of the public into the police force at that period of time, and it is the pictures from this that illustrates this article. The pictures for the brochure were posed using real police officers from that period of time – including Sheila, who appears on her Lambretta. Many of the officers pictured rose through the ranks of both uniform and CID, and eventually went on to other things.
LEEDS CITY POLICE was the police force responsible for policing the city of Leeds from its formation in 1836, until 1974; it was then amalgamated under the Local Government Act 1972 with the Bradford City Police and part of the West Yorkshire Constabulary to form the West Yorkshire Police.
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Sheila poses with her Lambretta back in the day