In 1796, Governor Hunter reorganised the night watch that had been established in 1789 to maintain law and order in the colony. The new structure of the 'civil police' was more formal than that of the night watch, with each region under the control of local magistrates. Police officers were initially still selected from the best behaved former convicts however. The number of regions was increased at the same time, enabling police jurisdiction to be extended as far as Toongabbie, the Hawkesbury and Parramatta.
In January 1811 the organisation was again restructured with the introduction by Macquarie of the new role of Police Superintendent. Often referred to in secondary sources as the Sydney Foot Police in order to differentiate it from the other specialist police forces that developed like the Mounted Police and Water Police, this does not appear to have ever been an official title of the department. The separate forces were united in 1862 with the Police Regulation Act of 1862 and the establishment of the New South Wales Police Force.