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Victorian Metropolitan Police

The metropolitan police force was established in 1829 with their headquarters in Scotland Yard. With their uniform on, they looked like park keepers instead of looking like soldiers. with swallow tailed coats and top hats they were armed just with truncheons. People did not readily accept them and it took many years for that because there were days of corruption and inefficiency.

Maintenance of Law and Order Before 1839

Before the Metropolitan Police Act was passed, law and order was taken care of by unpaid parish constables. They were elected and then appointed by the local justice of the peace. This was the time when authorities had limited resources to cope with crime, riot and disorder. The old Tudor system was followed where local watch and ward were there to look after the crime along with the parish constables. The Bow Street Runners were formed in 1742 in London and troops were used to maintain order. To deal with local problems, local militias were used and those suspected by disaffection were tracked down by the spies.

The Metropolitan Police During Victorian Era

Even though the metropolitan police force was established in 1829, it was only after the Metropolitan Police Act of 1839 that they got wide powers. Small boys were arrested for knocking at the doors or street musicians were arrested just for playing music, but this helped London to become a quieter and safer place to live. Their powers were further widened in 1869 and they were allowed to raid dens of vices like brothels.

Initially the jurisdiction of the police was limited to the metropolitan London area and even the city of London and other provinces were excluded.

  • The police force was the responsibility of the Home Secretory
  • 1000 men were recruited to support 400 policemen
  • Policeman’s duty was a full-time occupation and they had to be in uniform
  • Careful selection and training was provided by the Commissioners to recruit policemen
  • Fund was generated by the Parish Rate which overseers of poor levied
  • The duty of police was detention and prevention of crime

Some of the duties of watchmen were also expected from the policemen like lighting lamplights, calling out time, watching for fires and providing other public services.

Principles of English Policing

The principles on which the modern English policing works was established with the Metropolitan Act.

  1. The first means of policing was continuous and visible patrolling done by uniformed police officers.
  2. Secondly, the command and control on the officers and their actions was maintained by a centralized, pseudo-military organizational structure.
  3. Charles Rowan, an ex-Colonel and Richard Mayne, a barrister, were the first commissioners. They believed that the main intention of the police force was to prevent crime from happening.
  4. A police officer must be patient, impersonal and professional.
  5. The English constable derived his authority from three sources – the crown, the law as well as the consent and cooperation of the people.

The effect of metropolitan police was seen as the crime rate of London fell, but at the same time that of the nearby areas increased.


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