What were the objections to the forming of a police force?

Some people believed that if the people wanted one they should do it themselves, not have the government do it for them.

It was also feared that the police force would be used to arrest opponents of the government, stop protests and destroy free speech. It was thought that the idea of a police force belonged in a foreign country.

How did it come about?

Robert Peel became the Tory Home Secretary in 1822. The Metropolitan Police Act of 1829 set up an organised police force for London, with 17 divisions, each with 4 inspectors and 144 constables. It was to be controlled from Scotland Yard, and answerable to the Home Secretary.

What were the early police like?

They became known as ‘Peelers’ and ‘Bobbies’ after their founder, and wore a dark blue longcoat and a tall hat which they could use to stand on and look over walls. Blue was chosen because it was the colour of the popular Royal Navy rather than red which was the army’s colour and struck fear into the people because of the way soldiers had been used to smash protests. The only weapon was a truncheon.

How did the public react?

They hated the Peelers. Many were poor quality – drunks and bullies. Of the first 2,800 new policemen, only 600 kept their jobs. The first policeman, given the number 1, was sacked after only FOUR HOURS! (He was legless)

In 1833 PC Robert Culley was stabbed to death after the police broke up a political meeting. The jury acquitted the man who killed him, and a newspaper awarded the jurors medals! JPs were also angry that they had no control of the police.

Eventually however the impact upon crime, particularly organised crime led to an acceptance, if not approval, of the Bobbies.

So that’s London – what about

the rest of the country?

1835 178 new borough councils were set up under the Metropolitan Corporation Act, allowing them to form their own police forces
1839 The Rural Constabulary Act meant that County Police Forces could be set up in any of the 54 counties of England.

This was all still optional. By 1850 only 36 counties had done so.

1842 Detective Department set up by the Met.
1856 County Borough Police Act now forced the whole of the country to set up police forces. 239 forces were set up – but only half of these were found to be efficient.
1869 National Criminal Record set up to make use of the new telegraph communications between forces.
1877 CID (Criminal Investigations Department) formed with 200 detectives, and later 600 more in 1883.
1883 Special (Irish) Branch set up to deal with the Irish nationalist fighters known as Fenians. The Special Branch now deals with all ‘enemies of the state’.

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